Another year, returning to greet and be greeted by familiar faces always brings that anticipation that maybe someone will be there for their first time. That is such a thrill to have the opportunity to hear new stories from school days followed by often fascinating further tales from years beyond the
bounds of Brookfield that leads us to Carlisle. These people are welcomed with the proverbial open arms as they often bring news of someone they've kept in touch with. So dear reader it's never too late. Your group needs you.
This year was no exception. Anticipation was high. Those of us known to be 'regulars', met to reinforce our (in)frequent friendships but hugely important nevertheless. A surprise awaited a group of us. Before us were banners and balloons, blazoned with the tell-tale number - 80. This was our lucky year. We had made it and all through that day everyone began to know who we all were. No pretending. I found being 80 a hugely exciting landmark but being at our reunion also brought a sense of sadness, aware of class friends whose lives had ended before they could share this day with us. Because those who shared your years at Brookfield remain a significant part of your life. They have shared the best and the worst of you as you prepared to be an 'OLD' scholar. Whatever your experience, good or bad, OS is a time to put ghosts to rest or laugh through some crazy times.
The weekend format has been tried and tested and we enjoy the familiarity of the programme of events because during, between, and after, is when we all reminisce or catch up with the trivia or the triumphs of our lives.
The chatter, the hugs, the smiles, the support all built to a ground swell as we arrived. There was that sense of "Oh there's .............." or "Who’s that?" to "I trust I'm still recognisable" or "I hope I remember all the names”. Never fear, our beautifully designed name badges were available as we arrived.
Badge thankfully worn, we were either 'watered' or fed, continuously it seemed by the venue's regular cheerful staff. There were also the usual careful preparations of artefacts, memorabilia and merchandise to browse that prompted more sharing of stories alongside the recognition of many who we knew were out there living their lives waiting for us to welcome them to Carlisle. It was at this point we were aware that this display represented the willing work our committee do to make our reunions so special. With some difficulty trying to interrupt this flow, we were gathered to focus and be reminded of the valuable service these people do on our behalf. We heard their deliberations, had reports from our officers and respectfully held a moment of silence for those who had died during the past year. Reality surrounded that moment as those names represent our dwindling finite numbers. Boy did I value those around me (but would love to welcome more). It was very heart-warming to hear a much longer list of those unable to be with us but who sent
greetings. A well-deserved vote of thanks was given to the committee. More quiet encouragement was needed for THE PHOTO.
More talk, always more talk, followed by an excellent lunch when talk continued.
Time to check in for some revival time ready for the later time when new people only able to join in the evening did so. A table had been prepared for our 80 year old group with decorations reminding me of being at a children's party. Very decorative and thoughtful. Apart from a lovely dinner in lovely company, the highlight was the President's speech. It will be shared in full, but hearing it and
seeing it delivered was a memorable experience. Perhaps it created some tension
for waiting all through dinner for her turn but it was a highlight for me. Huge thanks to our President. But then came the ceremony of handing over the badge to our new President Ian Gillies. Great anticipation for next year.
Things continued for those able to make a weekend of the reunion, so on Sunday we visited Mosedale Meeting to join Friends there. The Lakes had suffered near drought conditions but the drive there was stunning, with dried bracken giving a glow to the fell sides.
Next year my turn for an 80 year old banner will have gone but I'm planning on being there. Another year of stories to share.