The high cost of school reunions


With Don Gordon-Brown

Do you realise how costly it is to try to fool former school mates – some you haven’t seen for half a century – that your life has been every bit as exciting and successful as their own, maybe ever more so?

In a few hours, I’ll be heading up to “Gatton College” – well, that’s what it was simply called back then, not Queensland Agricultural College, Lawes – for a reunion of those who graduated – or didn’t – from there in 1968 with diplomas in agriculture or animal husbandry. Oh, sorry … there were also a handful of tit pullers (dairy manufacturing) and flower arrangers (horticulture).

There’s going to be quite a roll-up seeing it’s the 50th anniversary and I know from cruel experience of attending a number of these as the decades have relentlessly ticked by that they usually cost a motza.

But not this year. No more bunging on an act and trying to hide a life of failure. If my old mates look me up and down and shake their sorry heads and mutter things like “He’s turned out exactly the way I thought he would” and “Nev Briton was so, so right about him” then so be it.

And who knows: if they prise out of me the full, calamitous extent on my sorry career as a weekend warrior and then a journalist and publisher, then so be it. They might shout me a beer. Give me a lobster to see me home safely. Maybe step in, give me a break, put an end to the embarrassing silence we always endured and offer to pay when it’s Phillip Bate’s turn to shout.

No more subterfuge and flim-flam trickery. I’m over it. And, besides, all my credit cards have long been taken off me, I’m penniless and I can’t bung on the act any more, no matter how much I’d like to. No “readies”, either, as my old, late lamented mate Doug Murray (pictured) would like to say.

Actually, Dougie was the main cause of the horrific expenses I used to incur at these reunions. For, you see, he was a success as a journalist. Very successful. Won awards and deserved them. Rolled up to these things in his gold Mercedes soft-top. A glamour on his arm. Dressed up to the nines. Fancy hat. Fancier boots. No wallet. Just used to pull a money clip out of a pocket of his Beppo the Clown trousers and flip through the grey nurses, looking for the lobster he needed to buy a round.dougie at desk

That’s what I had to compete with. Just think of the costs I incurred for one five-yearly reunion, about 15 years ago, from memory.

Weekend rental of a later-model Mercedes coupe: $750. Hire of Swedish au pairs, Heidi and Hilda (and they each had a fine pair) to accompany me for the weekend and pretend to be deeply in lust with me ($450), the motel costs in Gatton for two nights for the girls after retiring to our  room in Pitt dormitory, a final leery wave and a knowing wink to drooling former schoolmates standing in the corridor, before sneaking them out the window and driving them into town ($650); the gold money clip ($12.50), and the wad of photocopied $100 notes ($25 and the risk of federal prosecution).

All that added up to …. oh, shit…the list goes on. Rental of fancy clothes and shoes for the weekend ($55), the corset ($25) the toupee – only joking, I never rented a toupee. Gosh, how vain do you people think I am?

And that was just to keep up appearances with Dougie!

I know Gatton this weekend will be chockablock with former mates who were just as successful as Dougie. Even more so. But I don’t care any more. Can’t afford to. At 68, I am finally beyond caring.

But I’d give my left nut for my lifelong mate Dougie to still be with us, to make me take out a loan and go through the same old pathetic ruse once more.