Back to the ’80s part 2

The years have been kind...

Well, what a surreal night it was last night, as well as lots of fun!

Meeting people I hadn’t seen in over 22 years was a really weird experience. Drifting towards the Cross in Chichester in ones and twos, there were squeals of delight as we each recognised first one face and then another.

Our first stop was The Hole in the Wall, one of the old haunts of our college days.  Some of the crowd hadn’t been to Chichester in a long while and commented on the pubs that had been lost in the city since our college days – The Punch House in East Street, now a clothing shop; and The Hogs Head and The White Horse in South Street, now turned into bland gastropubs.

Once in The Hole in the Wall we settled down to deliver our monologues – potted histories of the last 20 or so years since leaving college – in true theatrical style, accompanied by raucous laughing and much applause after every act.

The tag cloud of our diverse conversations would look something like this:

22 years!     amdram   band    bar    Brighton    Chichester     coming out    Crawley    disabled    Discovery    drinking   dropped out    family trauma     gay    illness    India    job    kibbutz    kids    lesbian    Little Britain Live    MA    marriage     messed up    Mountview    police radio     Private Lives retail management     Romeo & Juliet separation    sex change     Sir Paul McCartney    smoking    social work     stage combat    stage management    Sweet Charity    sword fighting    Taj Mahal   theatre    twat hat    Veejay

We then continued this very lively exchange of shared memories at Pizza Express, which to us was the epitome of style in the late 80’s (and probably the only place we could afford, other than the café in A&N).

But as I’m standing here typing this (did I mention I do most of my writing standing in the kitchen whilst preparing gourmet feasts for The Family?), I’m thinking, yes, I was genuinely pleased to see all of them last night, as I hope they were to see me;  and to hear about the directions their lives have all taken.  But where does it go from here?  Yes, we have some great shared memories (although mine seem to be sketchier than most), but how will our good intentions of staying in touch stand up when we’re back in our separate lives with all the demands those lives place on us?

As one of the guys said to me, “I barely remember you – I mean, I don’t think we were best buddies – were we?”.  And that’s probably a fair comment.  We were on a performing arts course together, all of us seemed to enjoy it very much at the time, and when looking back on it last night.  But only one has actually made a living out of it – going to drama school to train as a stage manager and then having what seems to have been a fairly fulfilling career so far.  One thing this guy did say though that saddened me somewhat was that he no longer enjoyed going to the theatre, seeing it as a busman’s holiday and that he resented paying the going rate to effectively do something he did when he was “at work”.  I do understand this, but it has reinforced my belief that I made the right choice all those years ago to not follow the bright lights of theatreland with the vague hope of making it my living.  To not feel moved by the power of theatre would, for me, be a huge disappointment.

Another thing that surprised me was that very few of my peers had continued with acting in any way as a hobby.  Most had used elements of what they had learned in the course of their ‘normal’ jobs – presentation skills, confidence etc.; one had done some work with stage combat and fighting; another had recently started teaching at local stage school and was part of a developing band.  Most cited a lack of time, demanding jobs and working patterns as getting in the way of any creative leanings they still may have.  One said to me that it was really good to look through my Facebook pages and see show after show listed (of course that has the reverse effect on my non-theatrical friends who do think I’m a bit barmy and very single-minded).  Once again though I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be able to put as much time and effort into what I do as a hobby – The Family are very understanding and they know I know I take them for granted… and for that I’m sorry… but they also know I wouldn’t be ME if I stopped.

So will the class of ’87 meet up again? 

I have already mentally declined two opportunities – the first being the band Discovery’s next gig – the date clashes with the final performance of the next play I am in; and the second to the same person’s 40th birthday party – which is on the same day as The Family jets off on this year’s holiday to sunnier climes. (The fact that it is the same person whose invites I am declining means nothing, honestly!).

And the answer? 

Yes, I hope our paths cross again… and a lot sooner than 2032.

Advertisements

Back to the ’80s

Friends were supposed to be coming round today for a meal and games, but Daughter of Mine is a bit under the weather at the moment.   Earlier in the week I made the decision to postpone to another date, when I can be sure that she’s able to join in and not whinge for the next week about being tired.

The timing of this cancellation though has enabled me to participate in a full-on ’80s revival happening in Chichester tonight.  Early evening, mind.  This gathering of 40-somethings probably has a self-limiting curfew.

On Thursday I got wind via Facebook of a reunion being organised for the group I was at college with in 1986-1988 studying performing arts.  I haven’t seen any of them, except one, since then, so this is going to be really wierd.  I’ve just been looking through some photos of us all, taken when we went on an exchange visit to India at Christmas 1987 to showcase our drama performances to students out there.  It seems like a lifetime ago; we all look so young!  Tonight will tell whether the years have been kind to us all…

Looking back over the photos, I can remember what an incredible experience this three-week trip to India was.  We performed excerpts from traditional English drama – from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and I think I did a piece from Private Lives by Noel Coward – I found the script at any rate when I was looking through some papers yesterday.

We stayed with host families often during our visit, only having to put up with dodgy domitories a couple of times.  Here’s one where I obviously couldn’t resist taking a photo of the none-too-pleasant facilities!

We did see some fantastic things though – as well as the sightseeing ‘musts’ like the Taj Mahal and the Ajanta Caves at Maharashtra – we were treated to cultural spectacles of Indian dance and music.

I remember disjointed bits about the trip – one of the music students nearly throwing up on a bus; fake snow with the Christmas decorations in the Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay (as it was still named then); staying with a family in Mangalore who took us out on their yacht on Boxing Day; being bundled out of a venue halfway through a performance due to a demonstration by the locals, shouting “English, go home!”; taking my anti-malaria tablets on an empty stomach one morning and feeling REALLY sick; and eating scrambled eggs with what I thought were chopped tomatoes stirred in for breakfast – they were extremely hot chillies!

Can’t wait to see what the others remember about the trip and our college days later tonight!