This time last week I travelled into the West End to meet up with six friends from university. Two I hadn't seen since our graduation day almost thirty years ago, others I hadn't seen for at least seven years and the last meeting with some of those was sadly at a funeral.
It was a reunion which grew out of a chance comment on Facebook and an effort to get in touch with the fellow students for whom I still had contact details, some of whom then brought in others. The only thing we all have in common is that we studied single or joint honours German at The University of Reading in the same year group. But it was amazing how we immediately fell back into easy conversation. Someone brought along the departmental photo (which I'd missed as I was at a job interview) and time was spent trying to recall the names of other students and sharing anecdotes. I was glad to discover I was not the only person who struggled to put names to the familiar faces in the picture.
Some of those present had lived in my hall of residence, others spent the year abroad in the same location as me. As well as the memories we talked about families, jobs and our fears that some of our children will be going out into the world during a recession, just as we did. I wonder if our career paths might have taken different courses if that had not been the case.
Whether or not we ever manage to get together as a group again, the afternoon was life-affirming. It showed that most people's lives don't follow the path they had expected, yet we have all survived. And it proved that friendships based on shared experiences never quite die, however long they are neglected.