Thursday, October 15, 2009

College reunion: catching up with the lost youth

Advancing age brings its special rewards. Was it really 30 years ago, for instance, that a fresh-faced young Dixon started at college?

Well, the college seemed to think so – although the not-so-fresh-faced Dixon was initially less keen to believe it had been quite that long.

But last weekend those of us alumni (there weren't any alumnae, it was that sort of college) who've managed to survive this long in the real world without utterly disgracing ourselves were awarded a dinner in celebration.

Not a bad deal, you may think. Free food and drink, scintillating (if mostly male) company, historic surroundings. A chance to reminisce and to look back over happier, more innocent days.

Well, maybe so, but first there's the preparation. It's a black tie job, which means burrowing to the back of the wardrobe and digging out the good old Moss Bros surplus suitings. There's a moment of trepidation: has the not-quite-so-much-butter diet been enough to maintain sufficient clearance in the waist area? Amazingly, it would appear so.

Where are the shirt studs? Where you put them five years ago, dear. How do you tie a bow tie? Google it, dear.

Sartorial elegance assured and a not-too-stressful train ride later, we find ourselves in the halls of academe, swapping notes about the past with those we shared it with.

In the course of the conversation it becomes apparent that most former fellow-students have led useful, productive and profitable lives as financiers, lawyers and captains of industry.

Doubts start to form about the wisdom of working life as a walking word processor. You miss out on quite a lot: one- day trips to New York, architect-designed pads in Bavaria... you name it, the other blokes have earned it, and you haven't.

On the up side, you're spared the attentions of the college's fundraising committee, who home in on the money men like killer bees, but studiously ignore those of us who picked up the wrong folder in the careers office all those years ago.

And there is some comfort in the fact that the general public now trust bankers even less than they trust journalists.

Another equally important 30th anniversary is being celebrated this year: that of the birth of hip-hop.

But let's just say that if anyone present last Saturday evening actually remembered Rapper's Delight from 1979, they were keeping pretty damn quiet about it. They (no, we) were greyer, rounder and a lot more world-wearier. But hipper? Maybe we never were.

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