Last night I found myself in a wine bar/nightclub on the King’s Road, Chelsea, London – not, I hasten to add, where I would normally expect to find myself on a Saturday evening shortly before the start of the Spring Term … or, indeed, on a Saturday night ever. Having arrived unfashionably early, I was mistaken as I was waiting outside for the owner of the club; quite what I should make of that, I leave to the imagination of others, but suffice it to say that I do not intend to change career direction in the foreseeable future.
There was, of course, a reason for me to be there, along with our wonderful school Director of Development and our brave Head of Classics … the St Mary’s Calne leavers of 2010 had organised a reunion, and it was a marvellous opportunity to catch up with them, to hear their news, to see them reconnect with others, and to talk about their futures. I heard stories of gap years, of settling into university, of second year dissertations, of internships conducted and planned, and of the looming question of ‘what next in life’. Everyone was on amazingly good form; the noise level was high, the welcomes exuberant. It was a fantastically uplifting experience to be in their presence.
I was struck by a number of thoughts as I watched them: first, they were all still really, really good friends. I knew anyway that they had kept in touch, and this is not unusual at all for girls from St Mary’s Calne. There is something in the way in which we do things at school that bonds all girls, across subject disciplines, personality types and character. I hear tale after tale of weddings, christenings and the like where over half of that particular year group will turn up, to the astonishment of onlookers who have come through school with only a small handful of close friends. The friendships that these girls – now young women, of course – have built at school will endure and will be a source of help, comfort and laughter for years to come.
Secondly, they were more than ready for the next phase of their lives. Going out into the world of work, and the next stage of their relationships, will bring with it hurdles, ups and downs, disappointments and sadness as well as triumphs and happiness, but these girls have resilience, an intelligent approach to the world, a boldness that is not arrogant, and the support of one another. As I watched them and listened to them, I hoped that I would continue to hear about their lives, and that they would continue to keep a special place in their hearts and minds for the school which had been their focal point for their formative teenage years, and which had brought them all together. Above all, though, I was reaffirmed in my conviction that what we do at school is right and works. I was hugely encouraged and I was emboldened to continue what I do. It was a brilliant feeling.
I slipped away into the night, back to Paddington station and home to Calne before the wine bar turned fully into nightclub mode. My ears were ringing from the music and from the conversations. As my train drew away from London for the short journey home, I was glowing. What a tremendous experience!
Girls, if you read this, know that I am so, so proud of you. Good luck with everything that life brings to you, and may our paths cross again soon.