To outline some of the background, I was a British Army Brat and went to 15 schools in total. Luckily, with hindsight being 20/20 vision, the final four and a half years of my education was spent at a British Boarding school on the North Sea coast in Germany (Wilhelmshaven). Here's an aerial view - it's a photo of my much treasured mouse mat:
The long low white building with a red tiled roof (Raleigh), which is actually along the boundary of the site, housed a lot of the classrooms as did the red brick building tagged on at a right angle. Classes were mixed in the main, apart from sports and more gender specific subjects. A railway line ran along that perimeter of the Main Site and it's where we boarded and alighted from our school trains at the ends/beginnings of each term. Long before J K Rowling even thought of the Hogwarts Express!
Adolf Hitler himself gave an address from the balcony which led from the Headmaster's study in the red brick building and during all the years the school was open that balcony was never used again. Looking down the site there are 'houses' which were occupied by the girls - 60 or so per house, with staff flats at one end of each of the long corridors plus one house for the youngest boys. That was to give the boys time to settle into school life and basically learn to stand up for themselves! We girls mothered the little girls but I doubt if the youngest boys were exactly cuddled to sleep when crying for home in their first weeks. Amazing, we girls all cried our eyes out all over again when the time came to leave the school for good!
Main Site also had the Catholic and C of E churches, a huge building where school assemblies, plays, Saturday cinema shows, social events, dances etc. were held and a very well equipped gymnasium. Also red shingle tennis courts - which I dragged and swept as punishment on more than one occasion - the punishment came from senior girls when I was just a junior and basically it was due to them being too lazy to do it themselves. It certainly taught me to be kind to the younger girls when I was in the 5th and 6th Form for sure!
There was also (to the top left of the photo) a house called Nelson where all the girls trooped for meals - regardless of rain, deep snow - if we wanted to eat then we wrapped up and battled the elements if the weather was bad. In fact, skipping meals wasn't an option - and most of us were skinny as rakes from all the sport we played.
The big field was where we played hockey and practised our athletics - although we were bussed to a huge outdoor swimming pool and athletics ground for the 'serious' competitive stuff. In front of the Raleigh long white block of classrooms there were netball courts - which sometimes were deliberately flooded during the icy Winters so they could be used for ice skating.
So that's a quick potted overview of the school - and during the mere 25 years it was open, literally thousands of us came and went, due to our Dads being posted on quite frequently. Past pupils include Ridley Scott and Mandy Rice-Davies - neither of whom grace our reunions with their presence needless to say!
The School Association was formed in the early 1990's and in 1995 we had our first reunion at Newbury Racecourse - with over 600 ex-pupils plus quite a few former members of staff turning up. Then, two years later we accepted a marvellous invitation by the townsfolk of Wilhelmshaven and hundreds of us returned for a fabulous long weekend to actually wander around the school site and buildings, dance and make merry. By then the buildings were somewhat neglected but it was still very much like returning to a much loved old home. Probably the very best reunion of all needless to say. And, the Headmaster's study was actually open, complete with the doors to that unused balcony being unlocked - needless to say those ex-pupils who smoked in those days 20 years ago hopped out to have a quick ciggie on the balcony in total defiance!
Sadly, little remains of the Main Site buildings now 20 years further down the line - it's a Science Park, but our school is marked by several monuments so that we're not forgotten. Ha, as if they ever could forget the 'orrible little perishers :)
Perhaps this goes a little way to explaining just how precious our reunions are - we're scattered not just over the UK but all around the world. Yet people were there at this latest reunion from Australia, Canada, various European countries and every corner of the UK.
So, what was the Stratford upon Avon weekend like then? Absolutely brilliant!!
Angie and I arrived on Thursday and returned home on Monday - thus adding a day at either side of the reunion itself. We missed our friend Moira very much indeed and drank a toast to her several times needless to say :) It just had to be done.
Here's a few photos - as I say, not many are available and our main photographer opted to take video clips which of course are good if you were there but probably a bit too manic if you weren't :)
We both arrived at the hotel literally at the same time - I trundled up to reception and there was Angie checking in beside me! Needless to say, having driven there, I arrived with the customary bottles of wine and stemmed plastic wine glasses - for pre-dinner drinkies of course!
Some 'early arrival' friends went to the theatre on Thursday evening to see the Shakespeare play 'Julius Caesar' - too heavy for us.'Twelfth Night' or 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' would have been great though. One tale that filtered back was that just at the intermission - when Julius is lying covered in blood having been given a good going over (to put it mildly) - there was a kerfuffle right at the front of the audience. It seems that someone had collapsed, quite noisily as well. Good ole Julius completely forgot that he was dead, hopped to his feet dripping 'blood' and peered into the auditorium enquiring 'Are you OK down there?'.
Sat out on the decking all Friday afternoon and evening - it was so warm right the way to midnight when we tottered off to our respective rooms (which is early for us!).
Spent much of Friday catching up with the main tranche of friends as they arrived - bearing in mind that I was being a bit careful with this back and Angie has a knee problem. Friday evening was a buffet, which had been planned as a BBQ to be held on the hotel's huge decking area overlooking the river. But, rain clouds were threatening and 'sho 'nuff' it absolutely threw it down during the evening - good job plans had been switched to indoors! Having said that, a BBQ would have been more fun and probably tastier as well. Oven-cooked chicken drumsticks, sausages, burgers and the like just weren't the same without the obligatory burnt bits.
The only photos from Friday evening are video clips - sorry!
Saturday dawned bright and sunny so with the rest of our little group we set off to explore as much of Stratford as we could.The river beckoned so we did a little trip on a barge/river boat - really good commentary as well, and some music at points on the trip where it was just us, the water and ducks/swans gliding along in harmony.
|General view along the river from the boat|
|Swans and ducks, gathering for the food being thrown by a crew member on the front of the boat|
|Well hidden by trees, this is a peek at part of the church where William Shakespeare was christened, and subsequently buried|
|Loved this swan. it kept swimming alongside us - when you leaned out of the boat and looked through the curve of its wings from the tail to the head, they formed a perfect heart :) So, so beautiful.|
|A couple of very old, typical buildings in the town - I cropped out the ice cream eating tourists from the bottom half!|
Edit: This post was meant to stay in draft whilst I added a bit about the Saturday evening Dinner Dance. Suffice it to say I mucked up, lost a whole post for Less is More and this popped up overnight to my surprise.
The Saturday evening was more formal, with the usual speeches, raffle and stuff. Lovely meal and a very enjoyable time was had by all. There were a few bleary eyed folk on Sunday morning, but with the passage of time most of us have learned it isn't essential to sit nattering until it's time to watch the sun rise the following morning!
Well, that was the weekend of our 2017 school reunion - in a very rambling nutshell!