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2009 : 30-Year Reunion Review

30-Year Reunion for the Class of 1974-79

It was the year Margaret Thatcher came to power; the year Trivial Pursuits was invented; the year, in fact, when nudists were first allowed on Brighton Beach!  Plus, of course, it was the year that Pink Floyd came out with “We don’t need no education”.

Hardly surprising then, that the gang of boys leaving Worth that year – the class of 1979 – included some of the greatest stars in the school’s illustrious history.  Sporting heroes such as Nick Hiley and Pawel Kisielewski-Dunbar, gurus of levelheadedness like Mark Shepherd (who was nick-named Future Head Boy even in our second year, with inevitable prescience), and out-and-out rock stars like, well, me.

I was surprised we weren’t heralded by the media then, when fifteen of us who left that illustrious year met for a reunion on Friday 9th October 2009 to feast in the bowels of The Bleeding Heart Restaurant in the City of London.  It was bizarre to stand there as more and more Worthians came into the room – none of whom I’d seen for thirty years (a period longer than the reign of Charles II).  But, quite strangely, we began to recognise each other pretty quickly, and dived into catching up with a lot of back-slapping and hearty guffawing.  Actually, I did have to prompt a few chaps as to who I was, and was later voted the most changed of all of us.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but quite likely to be so!

The polite ‘what are you doing now’ conversations didn’t last long, and we were soon recounting old punishments and remembering the rickety bench by the cricket pitch where we used to go and smoke.  An early highlight was the arrival of Father Kevin, who had very gamely accepted our invitation to be the token ‘grown-up’.  Something must go on in that Monastery down in Sussex – hidden in its secret rooms the Monks must brew up an anti-ageing potion of great power – for Father Kevin didn’t look a day older than the last time I saw him a couple of decades ago!  More than that, he was hugely entertaining, and frighteningly knowledgeable about who was who, and who’d been doing what over the intervening years.  A joyful guest; and his being there was a great treat for us boys.

The dinner started in earnest – mountains of food and a certain amount of gentle supping of soft drinks (possibly some wine as well, I don’t remember).  Fervent babbling and hoots of laughter this way and that.  We swapped places before pudding to catch up with as many as possible.  And then the great moment for the team photograph – all of us puffed up like an amateur rugby XV – snapped by the long suffering waitress.  What a handsome bunch – and quite an impressive roll-call of achievers too; with swathes of bankers, solicitors and lawyers and the odd architect – even a tree specialist.  Next time I’m clapped in irons and headed for the Old Bailey, I’ll be safe in the knowledge that there will be a friendly Worthian who can come running to the rescue.

I’m sure a lot of us will be getting in touch more often as a result of our evening.  We are, after all, ancient friends with a great deal in common, including many shared jokes.  We were just stupidly out of touch for a wee while (for thirty all too-short years).  And I’ve got something more to look forward to as well.  It appears that Jeremy Sharman has got a tape of Voyd playing their greatest hits.  Voyd – as I’m sure everyone knows – was one of two great school bands of the late 1970s (the smoothie one as opposed to the punk one) and I’ve been trying to find a recording of me and the band for years and years and years.  Now at last the truth can be revealed.

Before we all broke up – some to head for the pub and some to start their long journeys home – I remember looking round with huge satisfaction.  I was rather in two minds about the evening beforehand I must confess, but how comfy and jolly it all turned out to be, and how packed it was with interesting people.  Something tied us together as well – not just the many dozens of common experiences but also a deep-rooted approach to life.  Something characterised by willingness and good grace that made me more than a little proud.  It became clear again what a good thing it was to be a Worthian.

There was a further benefit to the evening in that I had been allowed to take some of the credit for the whole event.  As it happened, I hardly did a thing, and the main responsibility for its success must go to Olivia Henley at Worth Society, ably backed by Jeremy Sharman and Alex Stewart-Clark.  They must all be congratulated on a wonderful evening; special not just for getting everyone together and feeding us so well, but for masterminding a distinctly moving and powerful occasion.

Sandy Mallet (R’79)