As with all accounts of such gatherings, I must open my report with a pathetically grateful nod to whoever arranged for the promised rain to hold off (which meant that Joey Appleton’s (D.1979-84) hair stayed fabulous all day!).
The sun shone down on College Alumni of varying shapes, fitness and hairlines as they gathered on the Home Ground to witness the destruction of their peers on the rugby field. As these poor unfortunates limped off one by one and headed for the beer tent those of us smart enough to stay well out of harm’s way made appropriately sympathetic noises, and repeated our sincere wish that we had been there in time to play also.
It was a wonderful moment for Ben Stott (R. 1979-84) and I as we walked towards the field of play excitedly picking out the now all-too-unfamiliar profiles of folk we’d not seen in far too-long.
First spotted was Chris Sparrow - who hadn’t changed at all as far as we could see. Chris is now a teacher of IT and Geography at a prep school in Oxford. Some of you will remember a colleague of his that used to go to Brighton College Junior School – Martin Smith (the Headmaster’s son… great musician, sportsman and all round good egg). Chris was on great form, and we were sorry he couldn’t stay for the evening bash.
Suddenly they were coming out of the woodwork thick and fast… No one had seen David Manning (c. 1979-94) since school – and here he was! A little thicker set and greyer than when last seen (aren’t most of us?), but still the same old fellow. He was on great form, and we got the chance to meet his lovely wife, Ruth, after lunch. David is busy selling software for banks… he might be the man to talk to about covertly wiping balances from accounts… now where’s his number got to?
Next up was dear old Mark “Gunner Gloria” Beaumont (R. 1979-82) – was he really this tall at school? Mark appeared to have left his hair at home today, and we all tactfully avoided mentioning it – Joey seemed to have brought enough hair for everyone anyway! More alluring by far was the gorgeous Sarah Beaumont who joined us for the evening festivities.
Still on the Home Ground, we were joined by an exhausted and battered Phil Jenkins (B. 1979-82). Phil had allowed himself to be talked into playing by Joey and clearly regretted it. Phil is another OB who seems not to have changed at all; he and the delightful Caroline seems to have discovered some stay-young pill… but are keeping mum on the subject.
Joey was still playing at this point – committed to a full 80 minutes that did little (nothing in fact!) to dampen his youthful spirits at the dinner and dance held later in the Hall. His father Graeme was quick to point out a missed drop-goal attempt by the boy. I’m delighted to say I missed it too… I was busy schmoozing his wife, Angelica. Well, you’ve got to…
We soon adjourned to the Blackshaw Room (the old tuck-shop as was!) to be joined by Duncan Watts (R. 1979-84), Russell Taylor (R. 1978-83), Mike (A. 1979-84) and Louisa (F. 1982-84) Simmonds and Gary Browne (L. 1979-83).
Duncan’s entrepreneurial spirit has seen him become the owner of a small chain of terrific restaurants in London. His new restaurant at Putney (Rocket Restaurants) has been the venue of many a debauched evening for those of us who live locally (Ben Stott, Justin Marsham (S. 1979-83), etc) and Duncan has kindly offered to make the space available for a college reunion there in the near future – watch this space!
Mike and Louisa Simmonds were on fine form, and again these two seem not to have changed – despite Mike having also left his hair at home! Louisa spent a good portion of lunch trying to convince us that she only goes to Will Young concerts to keep her 10 year old daughter company…
Well done Adam Belson (R. 1979-84) for keeping in touch with Gary Browne (L. 1979-83), and getting him along today. Gary was great fun – just as we remember him. It’s great to hear that he’s still gigging and producing music. We must all get along to one of his shows – and he’s promised to let us know when he’s on next so I can post something here on the OBA website.
Adam & I (along with Ben and various others… Guy Bradshaw, Kevin O’Mahoney – both much missed today) see a lot of each other in London, but it is always fun to take ale with this particular lunatic and his wonderful missus, Yana. I was particularly impressed with the restraint shown by Mr. Belson when engaged in an impromptu political debate with the good Dr. Seldon at lunch. When the headmaster opened his remarks with “Tony Blair’s got to go” I nearly ducked for cover, but Adam smiled through gritted teeth as I steered the conversation towards the subject of Dr. Anthony Seldon’s ever-more-frequent television appearances. It must surely only be a matter of time before they give him a home improvement show of his own!
Anthony was, as ever, a delight and skilfully charmed our wives as we all wondered whether we should be addressing the man as “Sir” or “Tony”. To confuse the issue still further we were joined by the celebrated Simon Smith (sans Dancing Bear). Now here really is a chap who’s not changed a jot, and we all marvelled at his ever youthful demeanour whilst wondering whether to call him “Sir” or “Basil”. We were sorry – and oddly surprised – to hear that Simon’s constant canine companion, Tom, had long-since passed away. My own urge to dig him up for one last walk was thwarted by Simon’s assurance that his grave on the Home Ground bank was unmarked.
Most of us took the opportunity to retire to our respective hotels and residencies to smarten up for the evening do, and following a few swift sharpeners at the “Wellie” (which seemed strangely unfamiliar without Mr & Mrs Tissier in residence), we all made appropriately spectacular entrances back at the College. The Burstow Gallery had been decorated with pictures we didn’t understand and a champagne bar that we did. It was here that The Witches of Fenwick finally showed themselves! Carrie England, Amanda Holden (nee Southern) and Amanda Bucknill (nee Cotton) – all F. 1992-84 - raised the glamometer to new heights as we all forgot we were married and began to coo and flirt accordingly. This wasn’t made any more salubrious when Alison Taylor (F. 1992-84) arrived wearing a dress that showed off her undiminished “Jessica Rabbit” proportions to full effect.
The evening then proceded to descend into a terrific celebration of fine wine, great food and thunderous dance music. We were treated to a feast of old favorites from a band hell-bent on giving us heart attacks and hernias. Many of those who were present will notice that there are certain photos missing here - and if you're keen to see the appropriately undressed reveller in action, you'd better contact Joey directly for that particular photo...
It really was wonderful and gratifying to see this lot together for the first time in so long; all concerned seemed to fall straight back into a comfortable and good natured bonhomie, and all pledged to stay in touch. Indeed, many of us will reconvene on the 12th October 2004 for the London Drinks, and we look forward to taking Duncan up on his offer for a future bash.
Many thanks as ever go to Fiona Aiken for organising and cajoling to great effect – what would we do if the OBA were in anyone else’s hands? Thank you also to Messrs. Seldon and Smith, and all the masters who heralded our return to the scene of so many crimes with such good grace and humour. I strongly urge the leavers of 1985 to take our lead next year and hold their own 20 year reunion; I know that Fiona (at the OB office) and I will only be too happy to help in any way that we can.
OB's who attended included:
Alex (& Miriam) Bremer (R. 1979-83)
Adam (& Yana) Belson (R. 1979-84)
Amanda Holden (nee Southern) (F. 1982-84)
Carrie England (F. 1982-84)
Duncan Watts (R. 1979-83)
Alison Taylor (& Paul) (F. 1982-84)
Joey (& Angelica) Appleton (D. 1979-84)
Phil (& Caroline) Jenkins (B. 1979-82)
Ben Stott (R. 1979-82)
Mark (& Sarah) Beaumont (R. 1979-82)
Louisa Simmonds (nee Lowne) (F. 1982-84)
Mike Simmonds (A. 1979-84)
Gary Browne (L. 1979-83)
Amanda Bucknill (nee Cotton) (F. 1982-84)
David (& Ruth) Manning (C. 1979-82)