ibstock High School

Ann Briers 51/365

It is time to phone the darling of the P.E. department, the uncrowned queen of Ibstock ’82, all round sportswoman and general good egg, the sunny Ann Newbold, as was!

Ann has lived in Ibstock all her life so phoning the 01530 code brings on my smile without her even answering. She answers in her 1982 voice, because that’s her voice! It hasn’t changed a note and sends me in a spin. She thinks my voice hasn’t changed at all, but it has, I have the tapes to prove it.

We connected on Facebook relatively recently after she had bumped into a number of our old school friends and they kept telling her that I’d called them. That made her jealous, that made her join facebook and now she is a prolific user.

I’m pleased that I influenced her, even from Australia, because we had a healthy rivalry at school, mainly over the hockey bib CF, centre forward. She wanted it, I wanted it, she had the blue eyes and the soft voice, she had the edge on the game, she got it. I had to settle being RH, right half, Ann’s right hand woman.

She reminds me of the time that she ‘bullied off’ from the centre circle, won the fight, and ran straight for goal, scoring as we mortals in our lesser positions just watched on. It’s all coming back to me now. I wondered if they took the ‘bully off’ out of the game and replaced it with a back pass because of daring centre forwards like her. She reminds me that she got a slight telling off for it, which was probably just a shake of the head from our beloved teacher. I hope Mrs Grew is reading this!

For eighty minutes we catch up on our old teachers, two of whom are still walking along the same stretch of corridor that they were in 1982. We marvel at their achievement and carry on a theme that has run through all my conversations with old school friends; how different our lives might have been, had we stayed at Ibstock High School. Unfortunately, the schools in Leicester have a system that differs from much of the rest of the country. You go to primary, middle and upper school and the middle school is somewhere you have to be dragged away from kicking and screaming because it is almost the perfect environment to succeed in. You get to the upper school with high hopes and low morale and everything can feel a bit cold by comparison.

Middle school was like one big family or one small country, with a deputy head as inspirational as Winston Churchill at the helm. He told us that we could do anything with our lives and we believed it. His assemblies were a battle cry for us to go out into the world and show them what we are made of. His name was Mr Cross.

Here he is! Mr Cross.

Here he is! Mr Cross.

And now, because of Facebook, we go straight back to our postions on the field and in the big family when we communicate with each other.  Ann’s two sisters both married boys they met at that school, each are very memorable to me and when I described how I remember them to Ann, she said I could be describing them now. We stalk their facebook photos together, 12,000 miles apart.

I ask Ann if she got my card as if I’d posted it two days ago and she had. I wrote and sent it in 1990 when she lost her Dad through anaphylaxis. That was the last time we were in touch. We hardly need to talk about what life is like to be without your dad because it’s all so still real to us. And she takes the conversation up to the next gear by telling me that the little blond lad who sat at the back of the class smiling, died of a stroke last week.

And so my museum of the phone call goes on. At the end Ann talks about my writing and I tell her that I am either going to be an abject failure or a resounding success but nothing in between! Oh, but I do have some very successful little friendships bubbling away from the start of my life. I could pick up the phone and ring any one of those cheerful people still running round my mind with their hockey sticks, right this minute.

Ann took this photo. I am on the right, hugging our P.E. teacher Mr Brommel.  See what I mean about family!

Ann took this photo. I am on the right, hugging our P.E. teacher Mr Brommel.


James Ashley Harriman 42/365

I wanted a memorable reunion for number 42, it’s one of my favourite numbers.

I tried to call several people but things, like Christmas, got in the way. I stopped pushing and felt perhaps that 42 would happen in its own time.

And it did. I put out a post asking for a friend to volunteer and when James responded I knew that this was the one!

James first came into my life when he was about four and I was seven. We lived in neighbouring villages, he was the youngest of three boys and I was the youngest of three girls. We had very similar parents, sensible siblings, all upstanding members of the community but we weren’t about to let that stand in the way of our own rebelliousness.

When he picked up the phone he said he had been dreading this moment and I whooped with delight that his voice hadn’t changed a bit. He reminds me that we last spoke 23 years ago when I walked past him in Brisbane. I was on a  very late gap year in Australia, he was working in construction and when we saw each other, we nodded and  said ‘Ay up’ as if we were in Measham. Then we looked back and laughed, a lot. I remembered that I had a photo of that chance meeting and was pleased as I could only ever remember having evidence of our friendship on my dad’s cine films.

James harriman Bog roll

So there we are in Brisbane in the days before selfie sticks and here we are ( this will shock him) in 1986 in a charity race in Ashby de la Zouch. I found this photo as I was looking for the Brisbane shot. The race was called the Bog Roll and we had to wear fancy dress and push a toilet round a course around the town. We were dressed as fitness fanatics and James just joined in! The winners won with their toilet in a shopping trolley, such a good idea, so light!

James and I talked for 80 minutes about everything that mattered. I urge you all to pick up your landlines and ring up your childhood friends. You will talk about each other’s bikes, the paths and lay-bys near your homes, your unfathomable siblings, your friends in common, Sunday school, the laughs, your streaks and your perms, your mum and your dad, how you fell into what you’re doing and when you last went home. Do it! There will only ever be smiling.

James is still in Brisbane and his parents live not far away. I remember them well and their red setter too. I ask him whether he has any children, it’s hard to picture the twiggy, smirking, wide eyed and great fun boy from the village next door as a dad. He has four children and his daughter is called Annabel. I am shocked and flattered but then I remember that my son is James.

Martin Satchwell 29/365

It is 6.30 am. I am half an hour late as I dial England.
Martin answers the phone before it rings.
What a nice life I have, getting out of bed that has one Martin in it and phoning another who I haven’t spoken to since 1982.
‘It’s been a long time between drinks’ I chirp.
And he says something unrepeatable.

Martin has never left the area where we grew up. He lives on Penistone Street and it was only when I drove my Australian Martin past that sign for the first time that I wished Mr Penistone had adopted another ‘n’.

Martin Satchwell was in my year at school but he was in class 3B. Oh 3B, I can smell the pheromones as I write.
When God (or Miss North) decided on the roll call of 3B, she worked out in advance whose testosterone levels would go off (the scale) at roughly the same time and then bunched them all together and put them in a room, on its own, up two flights of stairs. In anticipation of all the dancing, jokes, filthy language and wrestling, she put the strictest teacher in charge. So the female population of the school had to wade through a waterfall of adrenaline, sex hormones and biscuits, just to make it to the door.
3B boys would be positioned at intervals on the stairs and we would relish delivering a lame message to someone indistinct, just for the pubescent rush and perhaps a ping of the bra straps.

Were you ever on the stairs Martin?

If he wasn’t on the stairs then, I think he is now.
He wonders whether I ever saw him as anything other than the boy whose school bag was bigger than he was.
‘Martin’ I say ‘I was tall for my age, you were short for your age, you were the shy one, I was the loud one, it would never have worked.’

In 1982, Martin wrote this in my leavers autograph book.


It was the sweetest message in there by far. I remember reading my book to the end and saying ‘Martin?’
I must always have been destined for a Martin. Just not this one. But hey, I spoke to him this morning after 32 years and who’d have thought.

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