COLUMN: February 9, 2017

When I do not have a picture to illustrate my column I use a picture of a puppy, a kitten, an otter, or TV’s Susanna Reid. This is TV’s Susanna Reid
IT was my own fault. If I could find somebody else to blame, I’d be on it like UKIP on immigrants.

But the fact remains I was the one who decided there should be a reunion for the staff of the newspaper I worked for 20 years ago and I was the one who organised it, even though I was warned that reunions are invariably a terrible idea.

There’s a reason, my friend Tony told me, that you haven’t seen these people for 20 years. I scratched my chin and wondered what the reason was.

Coincidentally, he was the one who put the idea in my mind. He had posted a decades-old picture of a group of us on Facebook. If you do not know what Facebook is, it is a special website which allows you to find out which of your relatives and friends cannot spell properly while being harassed to sign up to games you do not want to play.

I looked at me on the picture. I was apple-cheeked, with round glasses, like a young Benny Hill. I did not want those people to think I had turned into a middle-aged Benny Hill, so I suggested that there should be a reunion.

“Yes, Gary,” one of my former colleagues, Mike, typed, “this is an excellent idea. You organise it.”

“But nobody will come,” I said.

“If you build it, they will come,” Mike retorted, like the ghost of a long-dead American baseball player. “But don’t do it on a Saturday night, do it on a Friday just after work.”

“Fine,” I said. And so I organised a reunion. Mike was right, I thought. Lots of former colleagues and their own former colleagues were either definitely or possibly coming. Tony is an idiot, I thought. Look at all the people who are definitely coming.

And then I realised that if all the people who were definitely coming were joined by half the people who were possibly coming, there was not going to be enough room in the pub I had suggested. I needed to book a place big enough for 40 people. Boo to those, like idiot Tony, who suggested that reunions are invariably a terrible idea. This was going to be amazing…

Five of us met at a bar before the reunion. “How many are coming, Gary?” asked Mike, one of the five. “Oh, dozens,” I said. “Even if a load drop out, we’re still talking about 30 people.”

We fetched up at reception at the reunion venue. I leant suavely on the desk, like James Bond. “Good evening, mish, I have booked an area for the evening. The name’sh Bainbridge. Gary Bainbridge.”

The receptionist took us through into the bar, where an area roughly the size of a tennis court had been roped off for us. A young couple, gazing into each other’s eyes, sitting inside the reserved area were approached by the receptionist and told to sling their hook. They glared at me as they were bundled out into the main bar.

And so it was for the next hour, five of us, in one corner of this reserved area, like a single Tic-Tac in an otherwise empty box of Tic-Tacs, while drinkers standing in the rest of the bar plotted our deaths. They need not have bothered killing me. I was already dying.

Tony arrived. He was not the crest of a wave of latecomers. “This it?” he asked. I nodded, morosely. We chatted about old times and tried to look like a crowd, but while three might be a crowd six is definitely not.

Then the cavalry arrived – a group of women from advertising sales who had taken their pre-reunion drinks more seriously than us. I might have whooped. I cannot swear that I did not. In total 17 or 18 former colleagues turned up, not all of whom I knew.

But in the end, it didn’t matter. Because it was lovely to feel responsible for old friends meeting each other again. And that’s why those people who say reunions are a terrible idea are wrong.

Because the reason you don’t see people for 20 years is because your life moves on, and you have to concentrate on the people you are with right now.

But occasionally it’s good to remove those old friends from their boxes on the shelves of your memory and appreciate what you once shared.

As long as they flipping well turn up.

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