It had been 10 years since the previous school reunion. I set off with mixed emotions of fear and dread, hoping that despite the
wear and tear, I would still be somewhat recognisable. About 70 turned up from all over the country and different parts of the world.
The night started with a minute’s silence for those who had died since the previous reunion. That was a good reality check on what’s really important. Two died within three weeks of each other earlier this year – both from brain cancer. And then one of the girls had died in a light plane crash and one of the boys had been killed in a car crash.
Moving on to happier events, I had a great time catching up with Mongrel Murray who kept telling me ‘we’re family’ and how much he loves my family and I thought at any minute he was once again going to invite himself around for Christmas Dinner and bring those dreadful Mon Cheri chocolates. We could only force those down when we were no longer sober.
All who turned up were so surprised by who was looking drop dead gorgeous. It was Sally McKenzie who at school was as plain as the day. A chubby girl with a fat face and full lips (full lips weren’t desirable back then) who was always so upset because her thick hair was unruly and unmanageable and it used to make the back of her neck sweat when she played netball. Adding to her troubles was her knowledge that no boy in the Year found her the slightest bit attractive and none had asked her to that all-important event, the Formal.
But there’s obviously something wonderful about having a fat face and big lips in your youth that works really well for you when you’re 40+. Sally was looking extremely well preserved and stylish. Her hair is now dark brown and completely straight thanks to the invention of GHDs, and she’d applied her make-up really well and had a perfect manicure, spray tan etc. All the blokes were doing double takes.
Like a reversal of fortune, the girl the boys had all drooled over at school was Emma Harris. Emma was tall, blond, slim and had legs up to her shoulders. We all said back in the day, ‘she looks just like an Ansett Air Hostess’. Well five children later in quick succession with a double set of twins, she no longer resembled that air hostess image we all had stuck in our minds.
Gina Wagstaff was there and freshly divorced from that narcissist she was with for the last 20 years. No one ever liked him.
When they were dating Gina and the narcissist used to come over for dinner and have screaming matches up and down the hallway complete with tears and doors slamming and we’d all be sitting at the table with the dinner going stone cold wondering if we needed AVOs. For an hour and a half she took me through the finer points of her divorce settlement.
Then the funniest thing happened. I got a big hug and a squeeze from the boy who won the music prize and the art prize. He’d had more than a few drinks and said, ‘Charlie, you were so beautiful at school, I just thought you were so beautiful and you still are really beautiful. And I was so in love with you and I really wanted to kiss you because I thought you were the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. And one day we were in the back seat of a car together and you had on this white dress with little straps and I just wanted to lean over and kiss you and touch your bosoms but I didn’t think you’d want anything to do with me because you were so beautiful.’ And he went on and on about wanting to touch my bosoms while I was trying to recall being in the back seat of a car with him and owning a strappy white dress.
I was so totally surprised because I remembered being 17 and lying awake at night thinking about this really talented boy and wishing, ‘if only I was beautiful, then he would notice me’. And now here he was standing there looking into my eyes recalling events and feelings from so long ago but events that seemed like yesterday’s happenings. I said, ‘that would have been really lovely’. He looked so surprised, gave me another hug and said, ‘really? You mean I would have had a chance?’ And I said, ‘most definitely’.
And all too soon the night came to an end and my unrequited love left the building to head back to the UK where he runs a very successful independent record label.
My mind was buzzing as I went home. How worthwhile is it going to the school reunion! I can’t wait for the next one.
Here is a recipe that takes me back to my school days and it is great for a cold winter’s night.
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: Fillet steak is an expensive cut of meat
750g fillet steak finely sliced
2 tbs flour
2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 lge onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
500g Swiss Brown mushrooms, if small, leave whole otherwise halve
1/4 cup Brandy
200ml beef stock
2 tbs tomato paste
300ml sour cream
3 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
Fusilli pasta to serve
Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Add the olive oil. Coat the steak in the flour and paprika then sear in batches for 1-2 minutes until brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium high. Add 1 tbs of the butter to the frying pan and when melted, add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft – about 5 mins. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 mins. Add brandy, stock and tomato paste and allow to bubble for a further minute. Stir in sour cream, steak and any meat juices, then season with salt and pepper. Garnish with 2 tbs parsley.
Serve with Fusilli pasta that has been tossed in remaining butter and parsley.