Back in September of 1968 thirty freshly uniformed 11 year old kids, innocent kids, kids straight out of small Primary schools from across the city, kids who had been bright enough, or in my case just lucky, to have passed the exam to gain entry into the elite Grammar School system, these kids, along with another 90 in their year group stood outside a rear entrance to Leeds Modern School and waited for their names to be called.
All 120 of that years intake were split into four Forms, my name was called and as instructed I made my way to Room 6 where 29 other kids stood around wondering what the hell they were doing here, why were all the other kids in the school so much bigger than them, why did some of the other kids in the school even have facial hair, and stuff, why have they taken all my mates from Primary School and put them in a different form and who are all these other kids anyway, will I fit in, I’m going to hate it here.
30 kids, most of whom were strangers to each other began their five year stretch in senior school on that day until May 1973 when we were sent home to revise for our upcoming O levels and then the world of getting a job and working until you drop or retire, sort of 40 or 50 years hence.
It was on that day in May 1973 that most of us last saw our class mates – in the five years at Leeds Modern we had bonded into team, us against the school, we grew up through what we still believe to be the most formative of social history years, The Beatles split up while we were there for fooks sake, how much more social history do you need, by the time we had reached May 1973 we had a whole gamut of popular beat combos to support, to borrow LP’s from each other, to criticise, to learn to like, our musical tastes were honed to perfection during those five years at Leeds Modern Grammar School, we grew our hair over our ears and down our necks, we took to wearing flares, oxford bags, tie-dye t-shirts, shirts with grandpa collars, jumpers that laced up the front, afghan coats, and most impressively, the original US Army issue M65 winter parka’s, not the cheap imitation shit you find in high street fashion stores these days, we bought ours as Army surplus stock from the Army and Navy stores on Briggate, a shop that smelled but which uncovered amazing bargains, and Parkas by the hundreds.
So we said goodbye to all in May 1973 and went into the world of work with only one promise – you will work until you drop or retire, whichever comes first, well, FORTY years later some of them have reached that phase where they have retired, others have other baggage to attend to and have no hope of reaching that finishing post, some of us work because the gaping hole in our lives called “finances” require of us to tip vast amounts of money down there and not understand why only that its how things work around here.
I have never seen most of those thirty fellows hale and hearty since that day in May 1973.
And then along came Facebook.
The few of us who had kept in touch with a couple of others soon found each other on Facebook and hence we were linked to the couple of others that they knew and very soon we had our own little Form 1S group going and we’ve been taking the piss out of each other on there ever since – don’t forget that Monty Pythons Flying Circus originated whilst we were still at school, we are the Monty Python generation and its a natural state of affairs for men of our age to greet each other with insults which would shock females and cause them to fall out with each other for the rest of their lives, but when we gather and call Rod the Doctor an annoying noisy little twat he knows its because we love him and he will fling an insult back our way, and we bond – its how men work.
And so yesterday afternoon nine of us met in a pub in Leeds for the first time in forty years, apologies were handed out for several others who couldn’t make it, and the stories began, and the beer started to flow, and we kept updating Pete in California who sat avidly at his computer following the afternoons progress into evening, longing to be with us no doubt.
By the time 9pm came around each had consumed his own body weight in beer and Sam the Milky Bar Kid from Halifax had to get his train home so that he didn’t miss his last bus of the night, “Fook it” he said, “lets have a curry”, so we finished off the last two hours sitting in an Indian Restaurant over the road, the beer and the stories still flowing, not a minutes silence for seven hours, often three or four conversations going on over the top of each other we were probably the noisiest table in the restaurant and didn’t even have time to stop and look at the menu, Rod the Medic just ordered eight plates of anything plus dozens of side orders and we all got stuck in and the conversations flowed again – and although we all look like the 57 year olds we are now, it felt as though we were still 16, as though someone had flicked a switch in the Time Machine of Life and sent us back to that most formative time of our lives, it was a bloody good night, the Form 1S class of ’68 gathering.
We must not leave it for another forty years next time chaps.