School reunions are attractive to the brave and successful only. You skive off if you haven't achieved a fair bit since failing your maths A-level twice

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For school bell, substitute door bell of 10 Acacia Avenue. One pristine, parquet-floored parlour is transformed into a sweaty sixth-form common room as the class of '72 gather, giggling and whispering at grey hair and no hair and time's other cheeky tricks.

The hormones may have dampened down in a quarter century, but this is still a place of secrets and revelations, and a frisson of trepidation. For school reunions are attractive to the brave and successful only. You skive off if you haven't achieved a fair bit since failing your maths A-level twice in succession.

And this turns out to be a room full of achievers. Lecturers, poets, journalists, equal opportunities advisers - a working-class class turned middle-class, every one.

Their headmaster would have been so proud. Except, of course, he wasn't invited. It is remarkable how, even among a group of well-adjusted adults, the mere mention of a certain Mr Chips induces a distant, haunted expression.

I can think of nothing worse than a head-on memory trip back to those ghastly days of spinster teachers more hairy than their male counterparts, of puppy fat and Clearasil and the stomach-churning fear of mortality. What a joke it is now, to think you were terrified of dying at least a decade before gravity begins pulling your body downwards to the inevitable.

But as I am merely accompanying Other Half to this 25th anniversary nostalgia fest, and as I was still in ankle socks and big knickers when this lot were about to launch themselves, in loons and tanktops, on the big, bad world outside, I am smirkily happy to observe.

It seems people have changed remarkably little, with the exception of the bank manager who twice weaved his way incognito past the social worker, his teenage pash for two groping years, so drastically has he receded and protruded in all the wrong places.

Otherwise, Head Girl will be head girl till the day she dies, all shiny and spick and span in navy blue ensemble with tastefully contrasting neckerchief. And mellow yellow hippy man may have lopped six inches off his hair, for mid-life propriety's sake, but he still grabs the Acacia Avenue common- room guitar and engages the class in a cross-legged Beatles singalong session.

The hostess, now as then the class's party fixer, tells me I look gorgeous, bless her. How rare and how refreshing for a woman to express such fruity appreciation of another. Usually, it's "That dress is very flattering", which tends to mean "You're fat, but it hides a multitude of sins." Or is that just my paranoia? Whatever, I'm particularly pleased because said dress is at least five years old.

Not that it is suddenly back in high fashion - being a plain old chain- store shift, it was hardly cutting-edge in the first place - just that it has taunted me from the murky depths of my wardrobe for the past three years. "Pah, you couldn't squeeze a thigh into me if you tried!"

So, the dreaded Flab-busters class is really working. Yes, it is back to class again, this time to be preached at by a svelte teacher who appears to have lost her ability to hear, along with the requisite 25lbs. The bizarre, one-sided conversation goes something like this:

"So then, have you been good this week?"

"Well, actually, I porked out on two bags of ..."

"You'll never guess what, I bumped into my ex-husband yesterday, and he hardly recognised me. He's taking me for a night on the town, have to watch the G&Ts, though."

This is intended to be inspirational, along with the grotty pair of size 16 jeans that teacher has discarded, lizard-like, and which she insists on holding aloft each week, like some unholy offertory.

Give me the bread and wine, I say. And yet I continue to pay my pounds 3.99 a go not to be heard. Something to do with the temporary halting of the march towards middle age and all its spread, I suppose.

A slim chance of that, as Mr Bank Manager will ascertain. But there is always cause for optimism. Just think. Sweet Maggie May, who had us casting off the responsible years with such gay abandon, must by now be eligible for her bus pass.

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