Your school days are supposed to be the best days of your life. When I was ten years old, the best day of my life (so far) was the day I left junior school after six of the most unhappy months of my life (so far). I couldn’t wait to go to grammar school, though when I started there – auspiciously on Friday 13th of September – I felt overwhelmed, a small fish in a very big pond. In the foreground of the school photo, summer 1964, at the end of my first year there, I’m looking unusually glum – or maybe the sun was in my eyes!

Last weekend, I met up with four friends from secondary school. Surprisingly, we didn’t talk much about school (well, not much). We sat out on a balcony overlooking some of the prettiest woodland, had lunch and drank coffee, comparing notes on what we’d thought we’d do when we left school, and what we’d ended up doing.

None of us had ended up quite where we’d expected to – and yet despite some of us dropping out of college or having drastically to re-think our plans, we’ve all enjoyed satisfying careers, looked after family and now, at an age we never thought we’d have to worry about reaching, we’ve retired.

We’re the lucky ones: I know that. What’s so amazing is that forty-odd years ago, when we were doing our O-Levels, we had so little idea of how life would turn out. The stress of those summer months, then the pressure of preparing for A-Levels that were meant to equip us for our chosen careers! If only we could have seen into the future and known everything would work out in the end.

But of course, at seventeen, we could hardly see past being twenty, let alone reaching retirement!

My school days weren’t the best days of my life – but they gave me some of the best friends anyone could wish for!

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