A name-change launch party of an organisation we fund took me to the Abbey Community Centre just behind Westminster Abbey. While I was there I bumped into an ex-colleague from Lewisham College Learning Centre days who is now a basic skills tutor for name-change organisation. He has a lot less hair but otherwise is just the same - hippy (in the off-to-Goa-vein), looking like a graduate even though its been easily 5 years. We chatted about the good old days as all ex-Lewisham colleagues seem to do.
On my bus journey home past the gothic spires and gargoyles of parliament and the faintly lit millennium wheel, along the deserted streets of Whitehall up to the grandeur of Trafalgar Square with its gigantic phallic monument to the diminutive Nelson flanked by lions and wind-blown night-lit fountains I wondered what it was about Lewisham that brings out such nostalgia.
Never again will I work in a place where there are so many people of a similar age, with a similar mindset and a common front united against a perceived enemy.
Perhaps thats it. Or perhaps it was the type of people that the job attracted at that particular time - a certain caliber, a certain work-ethic, a certain work-play balance. Or maybe it was our lack of husbands, wives and children.
And despite the fact that we hated it at the time (and spent most of our time in pursuit of change, challenging authority, complaining and plotting our escapes) everyone I subsequently meet thinks back fondly to the friday night benders, camaraderie lunches and great nurturing of talent and skills that occurred there. At least for those of us who have now executed an escape. I have more friends from there than anywhere else, including college and school. And they have all moved onto jobs which are worthy and important with small i's - teaching, regeneration, local government, community & voluntary. Good work. Still I find some of the best of times can be had with these people where going out is a non-planned spontaneous affair of wanton abandon.
The change for me? Happened when I moved into management. Nobody likes a manager. No rephrase that, nobody trusts a manager - because you are naturally on different sides, so to speak. Never again will I be one of the gang, in the know or first on the invite list. Maybe they were just the no-responsibility days, and like childhood they are there to be remembered.