School Reunion!

Recently, I attended a high school reunion.

Background

I grew up in a small working-class town.

The parents of the kids I rubbed shoulders with served in local shops, did shifts in factories, ran their own small businesses (mostly manual labour) or were long-term unemployed. A couple worked as teachers.

I didn’t come across folk whose parents were doctors, lawyers or accountants until when I went to university.

There were two high schools in the town – the Catholic school (good reputation) and the state comprehensive (not so good reputation). I’m sure you can guess which one I went to! clue: it wasn’t the first one.

As you can imagine, there was intense rivalry between the two, although if there had been school league tables back then, no doubt they would have been near the top and we would have been near the bottom!

Although my early to mid teenaged years were rather awkward, I’d say I enjoyed a lot of my time at school because I loved to learn, I loved and was able to take part in a lot of sport and I had my friends. Of course, they weren’t all happy days but I couldn’t say that I ever hated school.

I knew that I wasn’t going to stay in the town forever – the city lights (and night life) of Manchester beckoned and the family relocated there while I was at uni. However, despite not having lived in ‘Smallville’ since I was 19, I’ve been visiting the town at least once a year ever since, to catch up with a friend I’ve continued to keep in touch with.

Class of ’85 Reunion

This wasn’t the first school reunion I’d ever attended.

The first one was 15 years ago, organised pre-Facebook days via Friends Reunited (remember them?) and my now-ex ended up in a punch-up…yes, really!

Anyway, no such shenanigans were expected this time round, not with us all older and wiser!

I was one of the early arrivals and for a moment, it was as if no one else was going to turn up and I had the fleeting thought that it was all going to be a disaster.

But then, people started drifting in. It was all a bit awkward at first – I mean how do you greet people, most of whom were still in school uniform when you last saw them? In the end, I think around 30 people turned up, some with their partners.

Some faces were familiar, while others had changed almost beyond recognition. I remembered many names, although the name badges did help to jog the memory for ones I didn’t remember.

Names which used to roll off my 15-year-old self’s tongue because I heard them being called out every day when the teacher was doing the class register now felt strange being uttered again after so long.

However very soon, things relaxed, probably helped by the incredibly cheap alcohol (I’ve been too used to paying premium and had to keep double-checking the prices), it was great to roll back the years, to find out what people had been up to, how their lives were the same or different from my own (mostly different).

Many still lived and worked locally and it was good to see that some friendships from school still endured enough that they (mostly women) still went on holidays together. A few attendees travelled up from London and also from as far as Scotland.

It was all quite weird but in a good way – I was greeted warmly by people who, as boys and girls, I had virtually nothing to do with at school because we weren’t in the same friend circles or took different classes.

It’s not a brag when I say that everyone remembered me.

It certainly wasn’t because I was one of the popular kids (I most definitely was not) – it was because I was the only non-white person in my school year.

It didn’t make a difference to me back then and it still doesn’t.

These were the peers I’d learned with, the ones I grew up with, people with (mostly) similar backgrounds. As I looked around, who was more successful? The ones who were grandparents? The ones with top-earning careers? The ones who looked healthy and had their own teeth/hair/slim waistlines (delete as applicable)?

In our own ways, we were all successful. We had made it to the reunion 34 years after leaving school, to (re)connect, to reminisce, to be sociable. And there was no fighting!

A Blast

All the favourite 80s tunes from our youth were played and I danced the night away, getting blisters on my feet in the process!

A few of us then took the party back to my friend’s house. No, we weren’t on the shots, we were being sensible grown-up and having nice cups of tea and coffee, but I still didn’t get back to my hotel til 3.30am!

The whole event turned out to be a real blast and I’m so glad I went. I rekindled some friendships which I thought I’d lost, did a bit of networking, found that some people who I didn’t have much time for back when we were kids have turned out to be the kind of people I’d like to get to know more.

I didn’t mention FIRE but with one or two I chatted to, I mentioned my desire to retire early and they understood completely and said that was something they would want to do.

If I continue to be in close touch with them, perhaps FIRE could end up being a topic of conversation!

Anyone else attended school reunions or is it something you would avoid at all costs?

Half a Century

You might think I’m talking about the cricket score but no.

By the time this post goes out, I will have turned half a century old.

Yes, I am bloody 50!

There, I said it out loud but I still can’t quite believe it myself.

How did over half of my life go by so quickly?

Should I be having a mid-life crisis as so eloquently described by indeedably?

My Mum will no doubt ask me if it’s finally time for me to grow up?

Even if she doesn’t actually ask me, I will see it in her eyes and I’m afraid she’ll continue to be disappointed, haha!

Dread

I have to admit that I had not been looking forward to turning 50 at all. I was the same when I turned 40; seem to recall being a little down (for me) when I was 39.  I ended up getting a tattoo to celebrate and it looks likely there will be a similar such celebration for this birthday…

I know it’s only a number but it still sounds so….old!

It’s just as well that I’m told I don’t look my age (or act it) and I certainly don’t feel it, although when hungover, I think I feel every single one of those years!

Weight-wise, I’m only a few pounds heavier than when I was in my 20s but size-wise, I’m actually trimmer than I was then (about half a dress size), probably due to a better diet and less alcohol.

According to the Boditrax machine I tried out six months ago, my metabolic age is 34 years old which is great and means this old girl is mostly looking after herself!

I could probably get away with lying about my age but nah, I’m crap at lying and couldn’t live with my own lies!

Celebrate

Anyway, my friends kept asking me last year what I wanted to do as they wanted to celebrate my five decades on this planet.

To be honest, I just felt like hiding at home to contemplate, not celebrate but I bowed to peer pressure in the end.

I’m not one for being the centre of attention and the idea of a party seemed horrific, so the alternative was to go away somewhere.

I ended up organising a trip. The whole act of booking flights for everyone, sorting out hotel and ‘loose’ itinerary actually made me look forward to celebrating my birthday.

And the trip was a big deal – not just the significance of a life milestone but because:

a) I was travelling abroad with my friends, whereas previously, we’d barely ventured out of Manchester together, never mind leave the country – two of them had expired passports so good job I checked; and

b) the group of 7 friends were made up of my two ‘circles’ of friends who hadn’t previously met (ex-work, who have known me for around 20 years and gym pals who have known me around 6-7 years).

Fortunately, my fears of clashes of personality were not founded (not that I knew of anyway!).

And so, to celebrate becoming ancient my birthday, I decided to go on a little weekend trip away to Bruges, in Belgium.

Girls on Tour In Bruges

Of all the different European cities to visit, I opted for Bruges because I like beer and my friends like chocolate, so it seemed like a no-brainer! No, actually, what attracted me was that it looked really picturesque and historical and seemed to have a lot to offer for tourists. One member of the group had visited previously and she recommended it.

The whole trip nearly started off with a disaster however, as I realised just as we got to Brussels customs that I’d left my bag on some chairs while we were waiting for some of the others to get off the plane. I ran all the way back for it and fortunately it was still there and hadn’t been detonated as a security risk – phew!

Bruges was lovely – we did a lot of walking along cobbled streets, visited museums (including an interesting Salvador Dali exhibition), went on a brewery tour, canal trip, guided walking tour, drank lots of Belgian beer and ate some great food. Somehow, I managed to miss out on moules frites – not sure how!

The trip was not cheap – the girls (sorry Ms Ziyou, we all refer to ourselves as such!) were looking to stay centrally so I got us into a 4-star hotel right next to the canal, with lovely view and great walking right outside the hotel. We were just ten mins walk into the main square where all the pubs and restaurants were.

It was a fabulous weekend – the city had a lovely ambience, I found it very friendly. The weather was perfect – sunglasses and sun-cream made an appearance! I was very happy and humbled to have such a great group of friends who wanted to celebrate with me – it was a perfect weekend.

Anyway, I would definitely go back as there were still lots we didn’t get the chance to explore.

The Actual Day

Cancelling my Gym Membership

When I say I’ve cancelled, what I actually mean is that I’ve given notice to end my membership, since my gym/sports club demands a whopping 3 months’ notice to terminate.

And what I’ve done is in contrast to what I was talking about four years ago.

But things change.

What brought this on?

A month ago, the aerobics class which I have been attending twice a week for nearly 15 years (Body Attack) was taken off the timetable.

Lack of ‘adequate attendance’ was cited as the reason by the club, despite other classes with low attendances remaining on the group exercise timetable.

A petition was signed by 50 members asking for the classes to be reinstated to no avail. Numerous emails were sent to the club manager asking for the time slots to be replaced with a suitable aerobics replacement class but really, Legs, Bums & Tums is not a suitable replacement! (this isn’t to diss people who love Legs, Bums & Tums classes, but they are very different classes!).

For many years, my gym membership was heavily subsidised by work. It’s only these last 3 years where there’s been no reduction but I put up with the price because it was my club which I attended frequently and because my gym membership was something which I was prepared to spend money on – my only extravagance.

After being a member of the club for over 20 years, I suddenly realised that despite it being more of a social club than a gym (I meet my friends there, we eat there, relax in sauna etc), without my preferred classes, the club as no longer was giving me what I wanted. The high membership price could no longer be justified.

Plus I was really dissatisfied with the inadequate communications from the club and their pathetic reasons for not reinstating the classes, especially as it just looks like it boils down to them being too cheap to renew the licence to run the classes.

So I gave them my written notice.

Importance of class times

The recent bout of working many late nights can be partially blamed on not being able to attend my preferred classes. Previously, I would leave a little earlier from the office to be able to make my classes on time.

With no set classes to attend, I was working late and then going to the gym even later. That left very little time to eat when I got home before it was time for bed. I needed to get back into a routine which didn’t make me feel tired.

Weights

In response to my notice and to probably try to entice me to stay, the club gave me a free personal training session.

I already did my own bit of weight training in between my classes but what happened was that the PT session gave me a fantastic weight training exercise programme which I can do on my own…at any gym.

In the few weeks which I’ve been following the programme, I already feel a lot stronger (and according to friends) look stronger.

I do however still miss the aerobic classes, miss the camaraderie, miss people looking like they’re half-dead after the power/cardio tracks, miss the challenge of keeping ahead of people half my age.

But, I’ve been enjoying this new challenging weight training exercise so this will do in the meantime.

Another

I guess I’ve always been a bit of an outlier in FIRE circles in that I’ve continued to pay for my gym membership. So no surprises really to hear that I now need to find another gym which is convenient in location and timetable.

Apologies for the deceptive title of the post and to the extreme followers of FIRE but gym membership is very much part of my life for my health and well-being.

I know many people can keep fit for free by running or cycling but I’m not one of those people, that’s not how I like to exercise and keep-fit. What I do works for me.

In any case, any other membership will most certainly be a lot cheaper than what I have been paying, so this should have a positive impact on my savings rate, probably to the tune of around £50 a month…

Changes Afoot

So I mentioned in my goals post that one reason why I wanted to keep my goals simple and familiar was because my life (as I know it) was going to be turned ‘upside down’.

Not in a bad way, I was being a little melodramatic there but certainly, there will be a big change happening later in the year.

So what’s the big change? Continue reading