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w/e 2023-06-11

I’m just back from a few days in Bristol and a reunion of people from my Graphic Design and Illustration degree course which ended thirty years ago. 30!

My initial thought about reunions is that they’ll be full of people competing with each other over how successful their lives have been since they last met. I guess this is the usual depiction of them in movies and TV. But I didn’t expect that and was really looking forward to this reunion. I wasn’t disappointed: it was a lovely couple of days filled with such nice, down-to-Earth people. I think at least half of the 50-60 people from our course could make it.

Some of them I’ve kept in touch with and seen with varying frequency over the decades – itself a real pleasure to me. Others I hadn’t heard from or about, never mind seen, since graduation day in 1993.

At college everyone, inevitably, tended to form loose groups based on where they lived, or which bits of the course they were doing, or their backgrounds, or anything. Not that these groups were impenetrable, but some ties were closer than others.

But you’d hardly know that from seeing them all again – everyone was so friendly and pleased to see everyone else. So many surprises, smiles, hugs, laughter, jokes. I find it hard to describe the feeling, the deep physical joy, of simply seeing all these people in one place again, and seeing connections reignited after so, so long. It brings tears to my eyes.

And as for that stereotype of reunions, competing to be the most successful? None of that. If anything I think everyone underplayed their careers and their lives, as if it wasn’t really important. It was interesting to see who was still doing something related to design or illustration – quite a high proportion – but no judgment if you’d ended up doing something else entirely.

On Friday most of us met at Bower Ashton, the campus on the green edge of the city we’d attended, now half re-built. We overwhelmed Chris H., the one remaining tutor from when we were there, who did remember many names despite the hundreds of other students she’d taught between us and now.

A photo of a lot of posters on a wall
Some posters at the UWE Graphic Design degree show. A few more in this album.

Then to the Watershed for drinks and more people, then a pub full of 20- and 30-somethings where we tried not to feel our age. Over the weekend there were more drinks, food, degree shows, walks, and reminiscences. I was even – if you can imagine such a thing – out after midnight two nights in a row! Shocking.

I wonder if more people would have kept in closer touch if we’d graduated five or ten years later. In 1993, if you didn’t have a friend’s address or phone (landline) number (or, often, their parents’) then that was it – you’ve lost touch. No mobile phones, no email, no social media. So, while some people kept in touch, or reconnected some years after graduation, this was the first time, after a lot of tracking people down, that we assembled a WhatsApp group and managed this get together.

So, that was it. Massive thanks to Paul W. for kicking it all off and gently nudging things along. I bet it won’t be another thirty years before we get together again.

§ A photo looking down a long stretch of short grass, with a hedge on the left, and longer grass with buttercups on the right. A wooden scythe is on the ground in the foreground

I did a bit more scything this week, cutting a 2.5 metre strip up one edge of the lawn. It took about 35 minutes to cut 19 metres. I think that’s, very roughly, three times faster than I was managing later last summer, so I think there must be a difference in how dense and weedy that meadow was than this, now.

I think the strimming we did of the remainder of the lawn last year was about three times quicker again than this week’s strip. But, despite being slower and more effort, the scything is much more pleasant – quiet, no petrol required, it leaves neat rows of long, cut grass, etc.

§ We watched The Gallows Pole (iPlayer) this week, Shane Meadows’ period series. It was good, and interesting, focused on poor workers, with mostly improvised modern dialogue, and with a dash of wyrd English folk stuff. But it finished, after three episodes, just when I thought it was getting going, especially as very little happened in the first episode.

§ That is all, plenty.

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