There were lots of shrieks and hugs, and well, maybe the odd tear. The years just seemed to drop away; we saw ourselves mirrored in the eyes of our contemporaries, and we were young again. We are like Russian dolls- all the people we have ever been are still there inside us, and a gathering such as we have just enjoyed twists a few of them open and reveals the earlier versions.
I walked round the old building, stood in the middle of a domestic science room, and watched the cookers and benches dissolve to reveal my old art room, and I was back then, struggling with an exercise which taught me so much about seeing that I remember it nearly every day of my life. Miss Catherwood set up a white still life box, and in it put a white jug of white daisies. We had to paint it on white paper with coloured paints. Until then, I had not realised how many colours there are in shadows, nor how form and colour are defined by what is next to them. In fact everything affects everything else (only connect)- as much a lesson for life as for art. This was typical of what we learned: all our lessons were related to life. Perhaps this was why we all felt it was a very special school. I had to think when a present student asked me what made it so special, and told her that it was the staff: they had a passion for learning and for life and did everything they could to pass it all on to us. "grab every bit of education you can", said Mrs Redhead to me. I have repeated that many times to my own children and to my students, and I guess we could all say something similar.
As we explored the old building the memories came flooding back:
"This is where it was!"
"You know-You biffed me...."
"You what?", said I, after Leslie and Grass got over their giggles.
Apparently, Leslie had been legging it along the corridor as usual, late for a lesson, as usual, when she encountered Mrs Cannell- who appeared to us then, at least ninety and improbably tiny, peering malevolently at the world through the smallest, thickest, roundest glasses we had ever seen.
"You positively biffed me with your bag, girl", -came the loud RP squawk, which I would probably have desribed then as a Jolly Hocky Sticks voice.
For Leslie and Grass it is a catch-phrase, which instantly transports them back in time and place.