Weymouth Grammar School 1973–78-80: Reunion 2012
Before reporting on this latest reunion, I'd like to mention that whilst I was there I was complimented on my writing skills for this website, and even encouraged to consider doing it for a living. That will almost certainly never happen because of the demons inside of me, but I thought with that in mind I'd muse on why people attend school reunions. Or not. As you can see, I have attended all three held so far (the last two in some organisational capacity - see below), and three is a lot more than most school years (for example, the year below us have never had a school reunion, and according to a friend of mine from that year are never likely to). However, all of these occasions took place when I was having personal problems and suffering from depression and anxiety to some extent (I even engineered the second one partly for that reason), and therefore presented an opportunity (if only a temporary one) to escape from all that and step into a virtual time vortex, to be surrounded by familiar faces in a reasonably safe environment that thanks to the the good old rose-tinted specs held more good memories for me than bad.
In the emotional see-saw that has been my life so far, things have generally been a lot more down than up, and these reunions happened when I was definitely in the "down" zone... but had each taken place four or five years earlier, then they would have coincided with rare periods of "up" in my life - for example, in the late 80's I had (against expectation) suddenly climbed to a respectable position on the "greasy pole" with a job that had considerable responsibility (and for the first time in my life had more money than I knew what to do with!), and in the late 90's I was apparently well on the way to achieving my long-held ambition of making a living through my love of music (that ultimately never happened). Therefore as such I would have to ask myself: would I have bothered with going to school reunions when my life (and luck) appeared to be going in my favour for a change at those points? Obviously I'll never be able to answer this (unless someone else puts on yet another reunion in a few years time and I've finally and unexpectedly become totally fulfilled in my life), but I wonder if am I alone in using these parties as a bolt-hole from an unpleasant reality?
Anyway, that's enough cod-psychological rambling from me for the moment (if anyone wishes to correspond with me personally on this matter please feel free to so do) - now onto details of the reunion itself... Michael Frost unexpectedly got in touch with me via my website in the autumn of 2011, and even more unexpectedly announced he was thinking of putting on another reunion and was seeking my advice as organiser of the last one. Bearing in mind my memory of him at school as a moody introvert, I initially had some concerns that he was not the right person for the job. However, (as he also pointed out) it had been nearly 10 years since the last one, and as each had happened nearly 10 years apart the time was perhaps right for another to take place. Also however (just like the last one) it appeared that nobody perhaps better-suited was stepping up to the plate, so I reasoned that if he was serious about it then maybe better that than wait on others who may never bother... And I certainly wasn't going to organise another! So I responded by making it clear that if he was going to do it, then he would have to make a serious commitment and give up a lot of time and effort, and outlined all the pitfalls of taking up "the poisoned chalice" so that he may think again on the wisdom of his decision. However he confirmed he still wanted to do it despite all that, so I decided in that case I would put aside any personal reservations and commit to helping him in any way I could so that the event would hopefully be worthwhile.
Initially that only meant being a "consultant", and my suggestions and advice always seemed to be considered and appreciated (and often taken on board), which was very gratifying. However, when it came to providing the obligatory 70's disco for the night, there was a problem as the guy I had used for mine and recommended to Michael was no longer available. Not exactly being plugged-in to such things he was at a loss for an alternative, therefore I thought as I had practically all the music required and the know-how to program it, he could do worse than have me be the DJ for the evening, for which I am pleased to say he gratefully accepted my "services". We made sure the venue that was finally chosen (The Centenary Club, near the railway station) had adequate sound and light facilities provided, and I spent much of my free time over the summer putting together about five hours of mixes for the occasion, most of which I have now put on my "Mixcloud" site for your listening pleasure if you're interested.
I had also planned to do part of the disco as a "celebrity DJ tribute", but unfortunately fate intervened so my plans (just like the man's reputation and his trademark cigars) went up in smoke - a real shame as I had been putting quite a bit of work into the impersonation, written some jokes and routines, and even acquired a costume with which I was hoping to put to use in some kind of professional capacity after the reunion, but as usual I had the luck of Jonah! A proposed Village People "YMCA" routine also fell by the wayside, but at least those there were treated to the debut of the one and only "Frostie Michaelry" (geddit?), who performed his own unique interpretation of "We Are The Champions" as the grand finale of the evening - sadly, it appears that nobody took any photos of this momentous event, but there is a possibility that he may appear again some time in the future...!
There was also a small tribute to our peer Spencer Bates who was tragically struck down by motor neurone disease the year before, with whatever was left over after the expenses of putting on the event donated to his Spenstock and West Dorset Motor Neurone Disease charities, for which he had raised thousands of pounds whilst he battled his affliction. His parents attended as special guests, and being old-hands at this kind of thing held a raffle which also raised money (by the way, they both looked very youthful for their age - his mother told me that she was asked several times which class she was in!). Due to the modest turnout the venue had a somewhat sparse look about it (especially as half those there were determined to hang out at the bar!), but I think everyone who came (my estimate is around 40 or so) seemingly enjoyed themselves immensely and had no regrets whatsoever about making the effort to participate. As for who was actually there, well without giving too much away (if you want precise details then you should have been present yourself) it was mainly "the usual suspects", although for at least one person it was their first reunion. Speedy Clarke also made his customary appearance, this time showing us the torch in which he carried the Olympic flame (probably one of the few that haven't popped up on Ebay yet!). Sadly though he never showed us his dance moves that he dazzled us with at the school disco's in the assembly hall!
After the last reunion (due to clearing up afterwards) I was not able to participate in the post-party carousing in the late night bars, (no) thanks to the ridiculous "curfew" that the council in their wisdom had imposed in a near-futile attempt to curtail early-hours over-enthusiastic revelry. Therefore I had resolved not to miss out this time (enquiries revealed that the curfew had since been quietly shelved anyway, after the introduction of the smoking ban that made it unworkable), and aim to be "last man standing"... Or at least carry on until I could no longer stand! So a small party of us hit Dorothy's bar afterwards, and I was indeed the last to depart around 4am... although I heard afterwards that they have a Karaoke session that starts there just after that! Had I known, perhaps I would have carried on and entertained the punters with my vocal prowess until sunrise before going for an early morning dip in the sea (perhaps bearing in mind I'm not as young as I used to be, that might not have been such a good idea - the last time I did that about 20 years ago I went down with a bad dose of flu ha ha).
Anyway, returning in a roundabout way to the pondering I began this write-up with, perhaps one has to ask: why were there a lot less people at this reunion (in fact, ticket sales were so slow that at one point it was in serious danger of cancellation) than the one before (and that one had less attendees than the first)? Was it because of who was organising it? Or perhaps because of the way it was promoted (it would be interesting to know how many of those absent were unaware of it taking place)? Or it could be simply be that many feel if they went to one now it would have little resonance for them, and/or that they would be in the company of strangers, particularly those who have have long since left the area and made their lives elsewhere. However, regardless of where people have lived since they left school, they may have no desire to step that far back into the past anyway these days (if they ever once did), particularly if that past is not a particularly pleasant memory. In certain cases, were they to live next door to where a reunion was held, they would only put in an appearance to complain about the noise! Anyway, whatever the reasons for dwindling turnouts for these occasions, I would strongly suggest (in fact implore) that should any more be proposed in the future, then an official reunion committee (with a minimum of three people) must take responsibility rather than an individual - perhaps in such circumstances there may be a few more present than there were at this one.
Regardless of how well or badly this reunion went (my own thoughts are that: although I would have liked to seen a lot more faces there, it was still more-than worth it), I'd like to thank Michael for all his efforts anyway, and for inviting me to be a part of it. Also, thanks to Rick Stubbs again - this time for doing the "Tiger Feet" dance routine with me, and more importantly for taking care of the buffet, of which there was inevitably far too much left over afterwards - hopefully it was polished off the following day by the wrinklies that hang out in the club's bar!
The Guv'nor and his right-hand man
More photos on the WGS Facebook page...
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