At least he wasn’t dead, that was the best that could be said so far since his decision to reply to the Facebook post. As a writer Nicholas had merely set out to do some research for his latest novel, how easy was it to find your old classmates on the internet? Typing in Clacket Lane Junior School had produced a screen page of blue headings, but he didn’t want to know about the latest Ofsted report or the summer fete. Typing in 1968-1972 narrowed the search considerably; there was a nostalgia group for the anonymous town where he had spent his childhood, a history page that celebrated a few tenuous links to national events and famous persons… he almost missed the reunion announcement.
Could it really be fifty years since that last summer; the celebration of the school’s centenary, prancing round the maypole dressed in Victorian clothes. His wife had been more excited than he was, urging him to attend, despite his pleadings that he just wanted to know if it was possible to meet up with the past, he didn’t actually want to meet his old class mates, he was appalled by the thought.
Old boys and girls could join the closed FB group, go on twitter, email or even phone the organiser Caroline Hepworth, nee Burton… Caroline Burton, it would be her, milk monitor, teacher’s pet. She was organising the get together at the Holiday Inn; that was a contradiction in terms, who would want to go on holiday to that God forsaken town, unless it had changed a lot.
Nicholas emailed her and got a reply ten minutes later.
Hi Nicholas, don’t remember you but please join the group, it’s really interesting hearing what everyone’s been up to in the past half century lol.
He groaned as his wife brought him a cup of coffee. ‘Does she have to rub it in, half a century?’
‘A good way for you to get more readers’ said his wife brightly.
‘I’ll join, but I’m not posting anything, let alone pushing my website.’
He read through the posts; memories of pranks played on teachers and each other, gentle teasing where once there had been bullying, tales of exotic travels, brilliant careers and wonderful children. No one had mentioned Nicholas. In some of the profile pictures he could recognise the child in the middle aged face, others had cheated by posting school pictures or snaps of their dog, cat, motorbike or grandchild. But with only some of the names could he conjure up a memory of the child.
The next day things took a sombre turn. Caroline’s post was pinned at the top of the page.
Martin Fletcher’s wife has emailed to say he passed away last November after a brave battle with cancer.
Nicholas recalled Martin well, though he was in the other class; top of the school for his sporting achievements, he could beat anyone in a playground sprint, scored most goals at football, whacked the rounders’ ball with a strength that gave a glimpse of his potential when adolescent testosterone kicked in.
Martin Fletcher had barely crossed his mind for fifty years, but the shock of his mortality was like a kick in the stomach. The comments scrolled down the page, people were still typing them in, but Nicholas the writer could think of nothing to say.
Incongruously the next post was up beat.
Hey guys, great to catch up with you all, bet you didn’t recognise me in Game of Thrones, well the name on my equity card says Zane Swartz, but back then I was Peter Potts.
Frail, pale Potty, who would have thought it? His profile picture was the last school photo taken at Clacket Lane, Peter with his hair combed neatly. It was unlikely that anyone would recognise him behind beards, shields and spears. Nicholas clicked the Like button, everyone was Liking each other. Nicholas decided it was time to join in, at least he was still alive.
Remember how Mrs. Walker always told me off in English for not writing enough, guess what, I write long novels now.
He paused then put a link to his new website. There was no way they could know he was self published and was never likely to give up the day job.
The next day no one had Liked his post, let alone left a comment, perhaps they were still overwhelmed by the latest bad news.
Susan Fielding, everyone remembered her, all the girls wanted to be her or at least be her friend. Not surprisingly she had gone on to be head girl at grammar school. Perhaps others would have remembered Nicholas if his father’s work had not taken him to the other side of the country soon after he left the junior school.
Still, mustn’t complain, his life had been okay, while Susan’s obviously had not, she had taken her own life. News had filtered through via someone’s aunty who knew the family. Caroline had posted a hasty comment pointing out that it was not helpful to debate how or when it had happened. She was going to remember happy days with Susan at grammar school.
A sad comment from Howard.
I’m gutted, she was my first love
Howard, he of the Adonis looks, probably be called a gay icon now, presumably not gay as he had ‘gone steady’ with Susan during their years at the church youth group. He had not seen her since she left for university. While Nicholas had been battling acne and crippling shyness, Howard was enjoying dream teen years with Susan.
Nicholas was lost for words yet again. Would he put a sad emoticon to add to the list of comments on Susan? He logged out, glad that he was invisible to the rest of his year at juniors.
He went a whole week without being tempted, then promised himself to just go on once more, to post an apology that he could not attend the reunion as he would be out of the country; he was tempted to say he now lived abroad, but in the unlikely event someone looked at his website they would see him described as living in the dead centre of the country. Unfortunate choice of words, perhaps they would think he was also dead.
New post from Caroline.
Amazingly, all except one pupil have been tracked down. What happened to Nigel Palmer, no one seems to have seen or heard of him since the last day of juniors. He was such an unusually talented boy, he could be anywhere in the world.
Nicholas logged out, but his brain had not logged out, his author’s mind was racing; every other pupil’s life was being recorded in more and more detail, but he was only interested in the missing boy. Nigel, a lively, entertaining, often naughty boy; Nicholas had admired his courage in the face of authority; who was the man he became? He was determined to find out.
A piercing scream rent the air, a blood curdling cry that penetrated Jennifer’s brain and shattered what was left of her nerves. Instinctively she covered her ears and prayed for silence. For a moment there was blissful silence as the victim drew breath.
‘But I wanted to open my banana myself’ cried the little boy.
For the umpteenth time that day Julia wondered why on earth her brother Gerald thought she would enjoy looking after her great nephews for a few hours. What had possessed her to agree?
With her nerves already torn to shreds she had absent mindedly started to unpeel the fifth and last banana of the bunch. The two boys had constantly pleaded hunger since lunch and had not believed she had no Monster Munch or Peppa Pig yoghurts in her house.
One more hour to go, how to distract them…
Across the floor were strewn the toys they had brought from home, quickly abandoned after fierce arguments as to who owned which Lego figures. Drawing had resulted in a nasty stabbing, obviously a mistake to sharpen the pencils. The cat had been a distraction for a few seconds until it fled to hide under her bed.
There was always the last resort, television, totally against her principles turning them into zombies staring at a screen, but needs must. However, when she looked in the Radio Times she could find no young children’s programmes, what was the matter with the BBC, what happened to Blue Peter?
The doorbell rang at last.
‘Is that Grandad?’
Julia looked at her watch, a few minutes early, supposing it wasn’t Gerald, but the window cleaner coming for his money or her new curtains being delivered…
If it was not Gerald she was going to scream…
No words, just pictures to rest your brain or addle it!
Feeling a bit funny? Perhaps you need a Pudsevante.
No more trips to the chemist to collect your prescriptions? No more standing in a queue while the beleaguered pharmacist looks for lost medicines and other customers collect paper sacks full of their repeat prescriptions? Yes, no more trying to say your address and post code, your voice muffled by the masks we are still wearing in a ‘health care setting’. I heard the other day that in future we will use our 3D printers, which we will all have by then, to print out our tablets, probably combining more than one drug. Leave your computer on overnight to calculate the exact dose to suit your body mass and genetic make up. These tablets will be far more efficient, your doctor or consultant will no longer have to guess a dose that will work, but not blast you with bad side effects. Of course there is always the possibility we patients might accidentally give our computer the wrong instructions…
One thing many of us probably know about breast cancer is that you have to take tablets for five years after your main treatment, probably tamoxifen which comes from Yew trees. Looking this up I was rather disappointed to discover that it is taken from the bark of the Pacific Yew from North America. I had always fondly imagined scientists at dead of night picking berries from ancient yews in English churchyards. The early Christians built their churches on Druid sites; the Druids planted Yews as they regarded them as sacred; proven right because the Yew held the magic of healing.
It turned out that I am prescribed Anastrozole and I can’t find any romantic or ancient origins for it. Like tamoxifen it is a hormone inhibitor to protect against the types of breast cancer that love oestrogen. This is a tiny tablet to take once a day and because oestrogen is good for your bones I also have to take a very big tablet twice a day called imaginatively Adcal – D3, full of calcium and vitamin D3! Luckily these big tablets are chewed.
On my final appointment with the oncologist he said five to seven years, funny, he said five years earlier on! Perhaps I will be on Anastrozole long enough to be printing out my own tablets. Every breast cancer patient is under the hospital for five years after the main treatment, with breast care nurses at the Ladybird Suite – at my hospital, presumably other hospitals have other cute names – who can be contacted any time.
With one in seven women getting breast cancer ( six in seven Not getting it! ) at some stage, the system seems to run on very efficiently, with charities like Breast Cancer Now providing a great deal of information and help, from leaflets at the hospital to phone and on line help always available.
Rounding off this week’s May walks, saunter across Tuckton Bridge to the Christchuch side of the River Stour.
Where are you now and who is watching you?
Perhaps you won’t get lost if you follow the path…
…and don’t annoy The Green Man
You have reached your destination.
Gather here for the monthly Win on Waste; to the delight of green thinkers or anyone on the obsessive spectrum you can save all sorts of household items unwanted in your council recycling bins. From stamps to old toothbrushes. At a glance the most popular donations seem to be medicine blister packs and bras. The various items are donated to charities, community groups and artists. Exactly how they use them I am not sure, but ‘follow the milk bottle top’ could be a topic for a blog…
Do you have local community collections?
Is he going in, surely not…
Yes he is, fully clothed.
Should I do something?
I can’t stop him, I can only watch helplessly from the cliff top.
There’s no one else around in this awful weather and the rain beating against my face makes it impossible to see him properly now.
Impossible to see if the man now being knocked over by the diagonal waves is trying to retreat back to the shore or allowing himself to be taken.
I came out without my phone, to escape from technology, to drown my worries in the storm. Has the man out there chosen a more drastic way to drown his thoughts?
Which door will you go through to find what is real?
Take a walk…
…round and round
and upside down.
Where will you end up?
All pictures in this week’s blogs guaranteed taken this week and within walking distance of my house. For stories set in or inspired by my local area try one of my short story collections.
TAKE A WALK TWIXT RIVER AND SEA
FROM TUCKTON TO HENGISTBURY HEAD
RIVER STOUR, DORSET
HENGISTBURY HEAD – IRON AGE FORT
Happy May Day – have you flown away somewhere far?
Or walked to the edge of the land...
Or did you stay at home…