Tuesday, 13 June 2017

School reunion weekend 2017

I've been asked to spill a few of the beans about our school reunion weekend in Stratford upon Avon - so here goes. First of all, I took only a handful of photos and it seems that not many have been popped onto FB that I can 'borrow' either.

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:
This shows how closely we were surrounded by water and it's actually what was known as the Main Site. The boys lived in fairly similar houses but on sites a couple of miles away (not that it stopped some of the Romeos among them!), where they also had their own dining rooms. If you look fairly closely you'll see a couple of massive square bunkers which were left from when the place was originally built as a U-boat station/barracks.

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!
Left to right, Babs, me and Angie. Taken on the Sunday just before Babs left. Babs and I were friends during school days and have more or less kept in touch ever since. And of course Angie is one third of the terrible trio - a real trouper and much loved friend. If only I could Photoshop Moira in we'd be complete!



The last photo made me realise just how much of a toll the past year or so has taken on yours truly. Constant pain is a nasty thing to deal with as so many of you know - it wipes you out, drains you - and turns your hair very silver as well. Of course, the silver could also be due to the decision to give up the blonde highlights! :)

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!






33 comments:

  1. TFS your memories, your time in Stratford upon Avon and your photos. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. xx

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  2. Oh so glad you posted this, Di! What a totally different life you had growing up than me--can't even imagine being in that boarding school in Germany! I cried the first year when I went away to college--haha! Beautiful pictures of Stratford Upon Avon--brings back memories of my visit there so long ago. There was no way I wasn't going there & see a play while I was in the UK since my mom was an actress in the Oregon Shakespearean Festival when I was a 5 yr old. Lovely to see you with your good buddies & wishing for you a year with less pain! Hugs, Greta

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  3. Thanks so much for your interesting commentary. Such a different school life than I ever had!

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  4. Great post! Loved reading about your school years. I remember once that you wrote your Mum wtote you a letter every day! That was so psecial to read.
    This post was full of your fondness for this school and your life there. Friends can make such a world of difference to our lives and it was neat to read how you keep in touch and celebrate together!
    PS
    You look good...and you are right that pain takes a toll. But you have the perfect attitude to keep it at bay.
    Sorry that I still owe you an email...we are so close to the finish of our renos and we have had workmen in every day...of course they need tea and biscuits from you know who!

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  5. Such an interesting post to read - thanks for sharing the photos too.

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  6. What a lovely account - so many people who have stayed close over the years and meeting in the first place was all due to a parent's job. Funny old world isn't it?
    I'm back from a wonderful holiday - now need to tackle the laundry mountain before I can start crafting again
    Jane

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  7. Looks brilliant, last time I was there I stayed in a hotel very like the photo you showed .. I think it was actually called THE SHAKESPEARE! Not sure if it's still a hotel. Glad you had such a fab time matey

    Kathyk

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  8. There is a very similar Mercury Shakespeare hotel Kathy, bet that's the one you mean. We were at the quite modern Crowne Plaza as we needed a ballroom etc. X

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  9. Lovely to read all about the school I nearly went to! Like you I was an Army brat and only went to 10 schools. We lived in Oldenburg for 18 months and I was scheduled to go to Wilhelmshaven in the September 1958 but Dad got posted to Malta before I got there! Glad you had such a great time and that your back held out! xx

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  10. Wow Sue - Oldenburg was quite close to where the school was. I wonder if you would have been a boarder or a day pupil? x

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  11. Wow! It seems you have enjoyed your time so much! :D

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  12. Lovely post Di...looks like you had a really good time in Stratford. We all get older Di...and the body does not co-operate with us...but as long as you are still young at heart...it's the inside that matters.xx

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  13. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. I lived in Wiltshire for a few years and so had lots of friends who were linked to the forces, so I understand how important the bonds are. So sorry to hear that you are struggling with chronic pain, it is so draining and the side effects of the painkillers are almost as bad! Crafting and chocolate definitely help though!

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  14. A really lovely post to read Di. It sounds as if you had a wonderful time. What an adventure you must have had as a child when most of us, at that time, could never imagine that in years to come we would be travelling all over the world for holidays.

    My hubby spent five years in Malta when his stepdad was posted there with the Army. He went to a military school which was attended by girls and boys of military and naval families from both the UK and the USA. It still holds a special place in his heart and although the school was recently mostly demolished and replaced with an academy for Maltese boys Bruce manages one of the websites for his old school which is visited regularly by old students, much like yourself, and reunions are still held. Thank you for sharing with us Di.

    I don't have the same strong feelings about my school, probably as it was a common or garden school without the same bond linking us all. I have no wish to meet up with old school friends and only keep in contact with one friend who married my cousin, introduced to each other by myself and now hubby many years ago. I envy both you and my hubby for being able to look back on those formative years with so many happy memories. You were so lucky to have spent school years in an exotic location that holds so many happy memories for you. I really enjoyed reading this post Di. Thank you for sharing. Barbxx

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  15. Loved reading about your reunion Di!! What a fun time you all must have had!! I went to 13 different schools, not counting going back to a school for the second time and I wasn't an army brat! Just a mother who moved around way to much and had way to many boyfriends. I love where you went to school your last 4 years Di, never went to a boarding school so have no clue what it would be like living at a school. Didn't do college either and that would be the closest thing to a boarding school. lol Sounds like you have fun memories of school and some that weren't so fun as well. I love all your pictures Di, the swans are just gorgeous! I also love the picture of you ladies, you all look so beautiful!!! 2018 will be my 40th reunion and I can't believe where all those years went and how fast they went by. lol I only went to my 5th and 10th year reunion, I didn't like my school and didn't get to know very many of my classmates. I was very shy back then, hard to believe I know! Yes Di, chronic pain will give us lots of grey hair and I don't like it. lol Of course 6 boys help to contribute to my grey hair as well lol So I keep coloring mine, but hate the job of coloring it. What we do for beauty, eh?!! I love the color of your hair, if mine would look like that I would let it go and not color it!!! Glad you had a great time with your classmates my friend, it's good to get away and recharge the battery's. Hugs, Brenda

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  16. A great post Di - I can understand why you enjoy your reunions so much. Great pictures of Stratford too - I haven't been there for ages!
    Kath x

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  17. Hi Di,
    what a wonderful post on your school times and your reunion.
    I must say it looks andsounds like a wonderful time reminiscing.
    Lots of crafty love. Jenny L.

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  18. A delightful post to read Di, thanks for sharing everything with us - lovely photos!
    Janice x

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  19. Seems to me that Angie is a gluten for punishment, kidding. Really lovely photo's and especially nice to hear about the place that you called home for four and a half years, after so many different school, did not see you mention Borstal though and so disappointed that you didn't visit Anne Hathaway's cottage.
    It is so nice to read and see your post, I never see hardly anyone I went to school with, I think it must have been the very special bond of you all being Army Brats.

    Love Kath xx

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  20. Thank you for enlightening us about your boarding school years Di and it sounds as though you really enjoyed it and made long lasting friendships. I'm afraid I don't keep in touch with any of my school mates now but I did enjoy my school days and thank my art and music teachers who gave me a life long enthusiasm for the creative side of my life. We visited Stratford several years ago and really enjoyed exploring it, and we also had a trip along the river. x

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  21. How interesting Di, I used to read all those Mallory Towers books etc about boarding school - how fab you actually got to do it and abroad. Glad you had a good weekend away.

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  22. I am glad you had such a wonderful time, fabulous photos too! I love the one of the terrible trio! Your boarding school days were such a contrast to mine! I am so glad you have such fond memories. I hated every single second of my time at boarding school! Most of it is put out of my mind but the memories I do have are so far removed from fond you wouldn't believe! As for a reunion - not if my life depended on it! I don't regret the bad stuff though, it makes me who I am and puts me where I am today which is here talking to you which is fab! Hugs! xxxxxxx

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  23. Stratford is one of my favorite places, I'm so glad you had such a great reunion. So much history and so pretty. Sometimes I miss living in the UK, Canada is my home now but Wales has my heart :)

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  24. What a lovely post this was to read Di. I loved finding out about your school and how many fond memories you have. Gorgeous photo of you and your dear friends too. Thanks for sharing, hugs xxx

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  25. Fabulous insight into your school days. Fancy going to so many schools! I think your hair looks great mate - us Silver Haired Gals have got to stick together! I only have 1 school friend I see regularly but she's my BFF. I can quite see why you enjoy the reunions (despite 1 of your Muskateers being absent). Long my your back hold up.

    Hugs, Sarn xxx

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  26. Wow wow wow. Thanks for sharing your amazing story. I can see why it means so much, but couldn't imagine in a million years what it was really like for you all. I too suffer with back problem, so tiring, you did well to keep up with the celebrations. I love stratfordonavon. Take care xxx

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  27. Stunning. Thanks for sharing, Di!
    Hugs,
    Em xoxox

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  28. What a very cool place and wonderful memories for you to treasure, both from the weekend away and from your youth!

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  29. Great to hear about your reunion and the lovely school you attended.

    Sue xx

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  30. You sport silver hair beautifully, my friend, and your writing skills haven't tarnished a bit! I enjoyed every word! What a magnificent place, complete with such enormous history and such elegant swans! I'm glad you had an outstanding time in spite of missing your lovely friend so keenly. And I'm glad you got there and back home safe. Take a teasy now so you don't have a flare or put your back out. Thank you for sharing!! Love and hugs, Darnell

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  31. Thank you for sharing a bit about your school and reunion, so fun to read. So glad you had a good time!

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  32. Oh Di, what a wonderful place to go to school, except for trooping over to eat in all kinds of weather. What fun memories you must have and to be able to share those with your friends at the reunion. Thanks for sharing pictures. Your hair is so pretty. My hubby had pain every day and it really drug him down too. Hope your back is okay now.

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Thank you so much if you take the time to comment! Sorry but anonymous comments have had to be blocked due to a spam avalanche. Di x