My lovely boss left today. I told her I was not going to cry and she said she wouldn't either ... and we actually managed not to. Another miracle. In retrospect, this is probably only due to the fact that I'll be speaking to her on Monday and, each time we have a meeting in Manchester, we are going to meet up. She left me with a card that made me smile, wherein she'd inscribed, "I have seen you at your very best and at your worst. I have loved working with you ... don't ever lose the part of you that looks at the world in such a child-like way ... that is the very quality that makes you so much fun to be around and gets you through the hurdles, some of which you have already overcome." When she hugged me, she told me how proud she was of how far I've come from the place I was in a year ago. Shit, I will miss her immensely.
Thankfully there was a mission to focus on ... the school reunion Cocktail Party in London ... which involved breaking every speed limit home (in the fog) ... record-breaking time getting ready ... and catching the train to Victoria to meet Sara. We found each other easily, helped by the fact that we were both wearing red coats, and quickly jumped in a cab to Piccadilly to join other Old Dovorians at the RAF Club.
It transpired that we were the only girls there from our era really (that I remember), and we were beginning to wonder if anyone else we knew was there, when we spotted Sunil, James G and James R, Pietro C, Otto O, as well as two old teachers - Mr Matthews and Mrs Stefan. The bubbles were not cold enough for me and I started fantasizing about a vodka, coke and ice, which Sunil managed to procure.
There were some doddery old boys there too, one of whom asked me if I was still AT the school, and when I laughed he appeared a little indignant and I realized he wasn't flattering me, he was serious. His eyesight is obviously failing (and I spotted his hearing aid). Sara asked him if he'd have liked having girls at the school during his years there and he then took great pleasure in telling us that during his time there "just after the war, there was a lot of homosexuality going on" and then went on to explain his theory that this was due to desperation. Not sure if he was sharing this information for shock value or if he was gay, or if he was implying that he wasn't ...
There were some boys from barely before or after our era who were a little too charming, bordering on lecherous frankly, and they weren't nearly as charismatic as they thought they were. And no, I don't remember their names.
One man introduced himself to me as Stephen and I instantly felt at ease with him. He reminded me of one of Cliff's brothers actually ... we chatted, and he gave me his business card which I glanced at ... and it turned out he is the current Headmaster. And the weirdest thing happened, he asked me to join the school's Marketing Team, and I actually turned back into a teenager for a moment, and simply stood there mute, nodding like an idiot, unable to refuse BECAUSE HE IS THE HEADMASTER. WTF. Secretly I am honoured and just hope I can find the time to contribute.
After that I met a lovely 6th form girl, and found that (apart from Sara obviously, and the men mentioned already, as well as the Headmaster) I seemed to feel happiest talking with her ... hmmmm, says a lot about how much I've grown up. She really was lovely, a completely open book, very talkative and sweet-natured. She even confided in me about stuff going on! Let me tell you that they are tame there these days. Even the current Head referred to our time there as "the liberal years". She was fun though, and a breath of fresh air. I noticed that we naturally broke away from the group and almost believed I was still back there ... in fact we were talking so intently that no one tried to interrupt us. AT ALL. But there was one point when I realized that I wasn't. When she mentioned that one of the boys (who left the school last year) was in Afghanistan. She was telling me that she and another girl had sent a parcel of stuff and letters to him yesterday, and that he was fine, he'd be alright, and it was what he wanted to do. "He's absolutely fine, " she said with complete confidence. And she 100% believed it. I just couldn't tell her ... why should I fuck her head up ... but I zoned out ... all I could hear in my head was Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek, and I suddenly wanted to run right out of there. I could feel the panic rising up from deep within me ... eventually fighting with myself to zone back in on her when she was telling me about her impending driving test. Finally, I noticed the Head and all the students were waiting for us to shut up so that they could tell her that it was time for them to leave.
Other than that, everytime I felt a bit freaked or hemmed in, I made eye contact with one of the boys and was duly rescued. It's always a pleasure to see them, it really is, and I laughed (genuinely) lots.
Sara started to feel a bit mashed I think (one clue was when she asked one of my classmates if he had spoken "as poshly as that at school")... and I realized that I did not want to catch the last train home alone ... along with a thousand drunk people, so fetched our coats, and Sara successfully flagged down a cab by standing in the middle of the road. She's a good person, really thoughtful, intelligent and has this ability to enable me to tell her how I'm really feeling without tears - and shitfaced or not - insisted on ensuring I got on the train safely. Two red coats hugging, and a promise to text each other when we got home safely.
We both got home around the same time. I'm not sure how her journey went, but would imagine it was similar to mine ... surrounded by FREAKS. Aarghhhhhh. I could feel myself tensing up, my body language very apparent to anyone sober enough to analyze it, and when I got in my car, I immediately locked myself in it, not beginning to relax till the front door was shut. I then checked the entire house for imaginary monsters before pouring a vodka, coke and ice.
I know it's late. I know I've got stuff to do tomorrow, but I can't sleep yet. I hate freaks looking at me in the inimitable way that they do. Euuuuuuuuuuuuuw. The tension is starting to leave me, but only a fraction. One more vodka and I'll try to sleep. NOT YET.
I'm proud of myself for doing it. It's the first time I've managed that journey ... one that I took many times knowing that Cliff would be waiting for me, and one that I took many times with him. Tick. Another roadblock overcome. But even better, I only told two people that I'd been widowed ... and that was only due to the fact that they asked me if I was married. It just didn't seem necessary to share the fact. Now that is progress.
Thanks for holding my hand, Sara x