Saturday, January 11, 2020

Where's your beard?

Last night I attended the 55th reunion of those who began as students at Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1964.  Sadly, only eighteen of us were present and being the oldest in the joint reunions (years 1964-67) we were placed on High Table.  Those who have experienced reunions will know the mixed feelings about meeting up years later - who will we remember (and even more - who will remember us?)  Will we recognize anyone?  At all?

After evensong the reception before dinner thrust us together in a packed room where I recognized no one, but I was quickly into fascinating conversations with men who came to college later than me.  Wearing occupations and life experiences lightly, conversations  immediately sparked all over the place.  Going into dinner I had no idea who I would be placed next to.  Three hours is a long time if you only have small talk:

On one side the (young) college chaplain had been sited with prior notice of my ministry. He proved to be a sheer delight with conversation ranging widely. On my other side was someone I had not seen for 52 years.  He greeted me explosively: 'Where's your beard? You had a magnificent full beard...I don't recognize you! You were always such a happy chap!' Asking about my painting he said that he claimed to still have a picture of mine!  You can imagine how this all led into lengthy enthusiastic conversation in which I caught up with much of his news.  When he asked me what I did on leaving college I used some short-hand: 'I went into the church' I said.  He looked aghast. 'What!  I can't believe that of of all people! You!'  True, when I threw myself into college I had no thought of Christian ministry but it was as though my beard and extrovert pretensions would rule it out completely.  I also wondered how woeful my witness must have been.

The whole evening proved immensely enjoyable with a rolling back of the years that did my heart and memory good.  The next reunion is scheduled for 5 years' time - I wonder how many 80 year-olds will make it?

1 comment:

Dawneen Suriano said...

You! Oh my goodness, that made me laugh.