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Wednesday, December 28, 2011
It was a long time in the planning.
Back in the 20th century I had been in the Liverpool university drama society. Despite our different backgrounds and ages we had been a tight-knit group of friends. We spent most of our time in the green room under the theatre.
I visited the theatre again in 2001 and found it had been turned into a “venue”. This is newspeak for disco and it made me sad.
I had always found the idea of getting together with people I haven’t seen for years unsettling. Maybe it’s because so many American sitcoms use school and college reunions as a device for exposing old insecurities. Would everyone be more fabulous, successful, happier, richer than me?
If so, would it matter? No... but yeah... but no... but yeah... but no...
Eric, who did an engineering degree and now works in project management, was the perfect person to organise our small reunion in London. Logistical difficulties – and there were a few – do not deter him. After all, he lives in Southport.
Phil, who works for the BBC, is based in London and so is Sue, who is a top broadcast journalist.
Peter came up from Bognor Regis. He was a deputy headteacher but is now semi-retired...
Did I ever mention I now have to work until I’m 66?
We meet at a bierkeller which probably translates as something like ‘beer cellar’. Eric chose it with the old green room in mind. It had been in the bowels of the students’ union building, along the corridor from a formica-infested coffee bar. Nonetheless the café had boasted a decent selection on the jukebox. (For younger readers, a jukebox is like an early iPod).
The 2011 re-creation of the old atmosphere ends there. Things have changed – for a start, I don’t smoke now. Back in the green room my puffing had infused the air with the smell of cheap tobacco – still, it had been a nicer aroma than the burgers. (That’s enough maudlin nostalgia, Lynne. Ed).
And I’m back in the room. It is a bierkellar in London and I am eating giant German sausages with red cabbage.
Everyone but me has pictures of their children to show either from an album or on their smart phones.
The only thing I can do with my mobile apart from make a phone call and text is a passable impression of Captain Kirk from the Starship Enterprise. I can flip it open and say “Beam me up, Scottie.” As party pieces go, it’s nothing to write home about.
After a while, as we remember plays we performed in and the student radio show on Liverpool’s Radio City, we get younger. Age is an irrelevancy; our attitudes, work ethic, sense of humour and zest for life is unchanged. We still share the ruthless sense of humour that fuelled our long hours of aimless but entertaining conversation. And the people we remember...
It had been an after-show party. Martin, a lovely chap, tall and long limbed had piled up his plate with spaghetti bolognese and, returning from the kitchen, found the only place to sit was a low bean bag. He went for it and the food slid off the plate and into his lap.
One Christmas, we invited Ken Dodd (a notable local resident) and Liverpool and Everton football teams along to our pantomime to give out the prizes in the panto painting competition. Liverpool and Doddy couldn’t make it but a few Everton players came along and, believing it to be more sophisticated than cheap wine and beer, we offered them tumblers of sherry.
We also remember the passiona, unrequited, requited and undecided.
One year, Eric wrote a children’s play called The Pageboy Prince. Sue recalls playing Cedric the Dog who sported large floppy ears. It wasn’t her best look but audiences adored her.
Peter was the eponymous hero of the piece and can still sing his big number – although the bierkeller acoustics weren’t great. Ah...
(You’re off again, Lynne. Ed)
We part after a long lunch and, having set aside the whole day, I find myself wondering what to do in London, a few days before Christmas. My radar fixes on Oxford Street but not before Eric suggests going for a cup of tea. So it is that we end up in the S&M café, near Liverpool Street Station.
My worst fears are unfounded. It stands for Sausage and Mash... at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.
It has been a good day and, if I am asked to do it again? Well, maybe without the sausage theme next time.
My auld acquaintance are not forgot. Happy New Year!