Lifestyle

A high school reunion is a meeting of strangers with shared memories

By Shepparton News

SANDY LLOYD IS READING BETWEEN THE LINES

On the invitation to my 20-year school reunion was the iconic opening line from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

It’s one of the most famous opening lines in literature, and its ironic tone set the scene for this wonderful story about class, love, marriage, gossip, misunderstanding and miscommunication.

So why did it raise the hackles of some of my fellow ex-students, who huffed and puffed about the insulting suggestion that we modern women are still really only looking for husbands?

If that was the reunion organisers’ intention, then I would have also been outraged.

Instead I was absolutely delighted — it showed the organisers were completely in tune with our cohort and our final years at school. And the huffers and puffers clearly weren’t.

Pride and Prejudice was one of our main English texts, and it happened to coincide with the screening of a BBC production of the book on ABC TV.

It wasn’t THE production of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, who set our hearts racing in 1995 (who will ever forget the famous scene when he emerges, dripping wet in shirt and breeches, from the lake?). Yes, that never happened in the book. But oh boy, it was great television.

No, the series we watched back in the 1980s was much more faithful to the book, but still had a dashing, tall, dark and handsome Mr Darcy — certainly enough to send our teenage hearts fluttering pre-Colin Firth.

Not everyone loved studying the book, but everyone certainly loved watching the series. So much so, that an enterprising teacher recorded each episode and replayed it on a Tuesday lunchtime for the senior girls. And we all watched it.

It was one of those defining, bonding events for our year level.

So when I read that reunion invitation, all those memories flooded back of the good times we shared.

The huffers and puffers were right about one thing — we weren’t being trained to be wives at our all-girl school in Canberra.

If there were cooking or typing classes, I was unaware of them. We were being raised to study and travel and have rewarding careers. To make a mark. Yes, partners and children could be part of the deal, but only if we chose that path.

For our pre-social media generation, high school reunions have been a wonderful chance to find out what happened to us all.

At the 10-year catch-up, most people were still finding their way — many were not long out of uni, establishing careers, some starting families — all unsure if their paths were the right ones.

But 20 years — now that was a party.

What a confident group of women we had evolved into. In those intervening 10 years, we had found our way — even if that meant changing directions (career and/or divorce).

Just like Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, we were strong and standing proud.

I was gobsmacked when one of the ‘cool’ girls (I was always proudly a nerd) told me how much she admired me.

“You always knew you wanted to be a journalist and you went and did it and you’ve stuck with it,” she said.

And we danced the night away to the 1980s jukebox, forgetting there was ever such a division as cool girls and nerds.

Sadly, I missed my 30-year reunion due to family commitments. But there are just a few years to go until 40, and I plan to be there to celebrate.

There’ll be a few less of us, and there’ll be more signs of wear and tear, but I bet we can still dance to Come On Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners — it was ‘our’ song of 1982, and was on repeat at every end-of-school party.

It’s my daughter’s five-year school reunion next month. I hope it’s just the first of many she gets to enjoy as her life changes and develops. And I hope there’s a song they will all never forget.

I AM DANCING...

To The Cat Empire at their concert in Melbourne last Saturday night.

Also around the kitchen, in the car (well, what passes for dancing in my seat) and anywhere else their music is played.

The Cat Empire is just that sort of band — the music and lyrics are so joyous and infectious, you just have to dance and sing along.

I joined the 2000 other devoted fans at the Forum last weekend, in the crush in front of the stage, dancing until my feet hurt and singing my lungs out.

Luckily my son is not embarrassed by his old mum behaving like a teenager and joined in the fun with me.

I AM WATCHING...

Yet another one of my ABC TV Wednesday night comedy favourites, Gruen.

It’s hard to believe Wil Anderson has been hosting this show for 10 years now, with the excellent support of regular panellists Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft.

Despite having different names at different times (starting life as Gruen Transfer and travelling through Gruen Nation and Gruen Planet on its way to just plain old Gruen), its task has always been clear — to shine a bright and often harsh spotlight on advertising, as well as corporate and political spin.

Biting comedy at its best.

I AM ANGRY...

About the huge number of betting and gambling ads assaulting me on my television screen.

As the Spring Racing Carnival gallops full-speed ahead, so too do the endless and irritating ads for betting apps and businesses.

It feels like every second ad is urging me to gamble on horse racing. I find it deeply offensive and very alarming, especially when those ads are screening during programs I know children and teenagers are watching.

And what harm is it doing to people who struggle with gambling problems? It must be like putting a beer in the hands of an alcoholic.

I AM EATING...

At The Seasonal Kitchen in Prahran. It’s just around the corner from my cousin’s flat and we enjoyed a fabulous brunch there last Sunday.

The Seasonal Kitchen is run by renowned cookbook author Beverley Sutherland Smith, along with her daughter Suzanne.

Her 27th cookbook, The Seasonal Kitchen, was the inspiration for the café’s ‘market to table’ food philosophy.

That philosophy is obviously working, as it was one of the yummiest breakfasts (and coffee) I’ve ever had. Beverley also runs cooking classes and hosts themed dinners (New Orleans feast, anyone?). Delicious.