My friend Carol and I are on holiday in Italy. We met, aged fourteen, somewhere near the back of Mr Robinson's form, fifty years ago. They don't have 'forms' any more. Education has become a lot more serious than in our day: they have 'Years' now. You start in Year One and you progress through the system until you are spewed out 'educated' at the end of Year 13. No more,'Third Form' or 'Upper Sixth'. Boring!
I remember Carol had inked the name of her favourite band into her wooden desk. I think it may have been, 'Small Faces', or maybe, 'Pink Floyd', I am rather hazy on the precise details:I'll ask her in the morning.
I was never tempted to scrawl on my desk. One rarely finds, 'Joan Baez' immortalised in blue ink. Folk singers didn't get that kind of noteriety. Not female ones, anyway.
Reminiscing is our passion now. We grew up on the same vast housing estate on the outskirts of Gloucester. Today we debated with interest the year building commenced up there under Robinswood Hill, devouring Matson village for which it was named. I doubt many remember the remnants of the village: the schoolhouse is long gone, Peacey's Farm now a fashionable Spa ...
'It say's 1955 on the Internet' Carol remarks drawing on the Great Authority. "That can't be right: I moved there when I was three ... Graham Wright and I were toddlers when we buried the keys to the half-built houses opposite ..." I laughed. The dimmest of memories surfacing of mum and Mrs Wright searching frantically with trowels, an irate foreman swearing in the background. Don't recall if they were ever found.
And so on, the sun slipping away behind us, the evening falling around us.
How amazing it is to think that we can sit downing a beer here in Sorrento, when the farthest our parents got was London, and an exotic seaside holiday was a Sunday School outing to Severn Beach.
Before I stop writing and turn in, I'm going to indulge in a moment of unfettered gratitude for a life that has extended boundaries that my grandparents couldn't have dreamed of. Yes, gratitude, and a deep thankfulness for a good friend who sits in the sun with me and remembers what was good about the old days, and how far we have come.