Tuesday, 31 July 2012

You've Got A Friend In Me...

Seven years ago I made the very sensible decision to leave my school days behind and move instead to a sixth form college to continue my studies. Not to say that I didn’t love my time at school, or that I wasn't sad to leave my fantastic friends and teachers behind, but I felt that I had gained everything that could possibly gained there, and that staying would simply hold me in a time warp for two years- leaving me as a sixteen year old about to embark on university life.

I understand that this isn’t the right decision for everyone.  

But it definitely was for me.

If for no other reason than the fact that I met the three most beautiful, funny, intelligent and loyal girls whilst I was there- girls who have gone on to shape my life, experiences and personality in a way that none of us could ever have predicted.

I imagine that if someone had told me on the day that I met each of them that they were going to change my life, I would have been terrified for my future- yep, terrified.

It all started on Wednesday 14th September 2005.

I was sitting in my new tutor room with my new tutor group and my new, scary tutor (who, despite being little, pretty and blonde, was ridiculously intimidating and therefore reminded me of Tinkerbell). I was sitting next to a chatty girl with jet black hair and a nose ring, trying to imagine where this friendship might go as she described- with great enthusiasm- the best place to get drunk on a Friday night. It involved nudity, mosh pits and kissing the fifty year old barman.

I couldn’t see this blossoming into anything magical.

Just as I was wondering whether it would be rude to move to the other side of the room my tiny tutor called the room to silence and began to scare us into vowing to try our best at everything this year.

Halfway through this attempt at an inspirational speech;  as the whole class stared up at the forbidding woman- eyes wide, mouths hanging open and pens frozen above paper- the door swung aside, startling everyone into looking over at the latecomer.  

A very attractive girl with short dark hair and a bag over her shoulder wandered into the room- apparently unaware that she had interrupted anything.

“Sorry I’m late”, she smiled, before sitting down next to me. Little did I know that this beautiful creature was in fact The Lion King’s Pumba in disguise.  

Tinkerbell looked at her pointedly before continuing her speech.

Once she was quite satisfied that she had scared us sufficiently, the elfin tutor began to hand out our timetables. As she made her way around the room, the class gradually tested her to see whether it was acceptable to speak and, as they did so, the room got louder and Pumba began to speak to me.

As I listened to her explain why she was late, I wrote this friendship off as well. She was gorgeous, and seemed lovely, but with her laid back manner and grown up dress sense she was clearly much older than me and so would probably would be one of those students that just turns up to lessons, works, and then leaves again.

As Tinkerbell handed us our timetables we began to study and compare them.

“Ooh I’ve only got Dance this morning.”

She hasn’t got Dance this morning. She’s got Performance Studies. Where is she looking?!

“Um…” I reply, “I think you’ve got Performance Studies. Look, just here.” I point at the timetable.

“No, I haven’t, I’ve got Dance.”

Am I losing my mind? She hasn’t got Dance at all today.

“Today’s Wednesday, this is this morning, you’ve got Performance Studies.”

“But here it says Dance…”

She’s actually insane.

Oh wait. 

She’s pointing at Monday.

“Oh wait! I was pointing at Monday! You’re right. Sorry.” She laughed nervously.

I quite liked her.

Once we had exchanged names and timetables, I left Pumba to her Performance Studies class and went off in search of the Law department. My lesson didn’t actually start for another two hours but I wanted to make sure I knew where I was going. I didn’t think that I would be a calm latecomer like my new friend had been this morning, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Especially on my first day.

Using the map that I had been given I attempted to navigate my way through the canteen and into the right department. As I stepped into the Law corridor I heard a loud voice telling, well the whole college, that she was waiting for her Law class to start in two hours.


“Did I just hear you say that you’ve got Law in two hours? I’m waiting for that class too.”

She turned around.

With huge, almond eyes and two pink streaks at the front of her hair, Minnie Mouse was striking to say the least.

She laughed and said, five decibels louder than any normal person would, that she was waiting for the same class as me, what was I going to do while I waited?

I then introduced myself to her friend, and stood chatting to them about their subjects/hometowns/plans for the future until the second girl said that she had to leave for her class.

“I’m so nervous about making friends, how am I meant to meet people?” She asked.

“Just introduce yourself and start talking. That’s what I do, it’s easy.” I smiled at her.

“Yeh, just go up to people and make a fool of yourself like this girl just did with us.” Minnie replied.

Fantastic start Rebecca, well done, you’ve embarrassed yourself.

I spent the following hour with Minnie, supposedly swapping life stories but actually just replaying her words about me making a fool of myself over and over in my head, until we finally made our way to our Law class.
Standing outside the classroom I could see immediately that there was already a divide between the future lawyers. The students were divided generally into…

1.       The Beautiful Girls.
The girls who hadn’t yet realised that they had left school and were therefore no longer ruling the world. Wearing short skirts to reveal ridiculously long, fake tanned legs, they had chosen Law after watching Legally Blonde too many times and would go on to spend lessons filing their nails, giggling behind their text books and fluttering their eyelashes at Jafar- the evil Law tutor who soon became my first ever arch enemy.

2.       The Unbelievably Nerdy Ones.
I was never cool at school; I’ll be the first to admit that. But this group of people are something else. With ridiculously frizzy/stand-up hair that I’m sure could be fixed by Herbal Essences and a quick brush; blotchy, bumpy skin and perfectly round glasses, these students manage to maintain their milky complexion in August, wear braces into their twenties and laugh as though they’ve got something stuck in their throat. Their jokes involve Isaac Newton references and their spare time never includes fresh air or exercise. They achieve outstanding results then go on to work in the back of a boring office somewhere because they have no social skills whatsoever.

3.       The Sporty Ones.
They wear flip flops in December, rugby shorts to their English lessons and make everything about sport. They make the Beautiful Girls blush and are genuinely confused about The Unbelievably Nerdy students’ total disinterest in sports. Their grades are just fine but they’re not really bothered- they chose the college for the sports team and they’re planning on making a career out of that anyway. The teacher tries not to like them but their cheek and charm gets them through the year easily. Think of your school PE teacher. He/she was one of these once.

4.       The Losers.
They’re at college because their school wouldn’t let them stay on. You don’t even learn their name because you see them once during the first lesson and not again until the exam. They think that the teachers are all out to get them and that education is a waste of time. I recently bumped into one of these working on a market stall in Chelmsford. She flashed her gold tooth and her bump at me as she had the last laugh: ‘They always told me that I’d regret not working hard but look how well I’ve done without any GCSEs’.

5.       The Perfectly Normal, Lovely Ones.
This is the group you were in, right? Course it was. It was the group I was in at school, college, university and that I’m sure I’ll go on to be in in all jobs and future playgrounds.

As I stood outside that classroom and categorised each person I spotted five people in that last group. One of them I soon realised was totally in a group of her own as she stood chatting away to herself stroking her own arm, and another turned out to be a lost foreign exchange student. Which left me, Minnie Mouse and Cowgirl Jessie.

Jessie smiled at me and came over and introduced herself.

When Jafar finally arrived and let us into his classroom, he watched, jealously, as the three Perfectly Normal, Lovely Ones sat together and swapped lives so far: forming the beginnings of a friendship with potential. Having, almost certainly, belonged in group number two when he was at school, Jafar took a great dislike to this and decided to nip it in the bud before it went too far.

“Hm Rebecca why is that I’ve learnt your name first? If you’re unable to sit quietly then perhaps you should sit alone.”

Now I, as most of you will by now know, am Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, and will therefore stand up for myself when absolutely necessary to people that I’m unlikely to see again like Orange Customer Service Reps or angry Dutch men that push me around (read my future blogs for that story), but would accept a kick in the teeth politely and appreciatively if it was coming from authority.

I therefore blushed, apologised and vowed to be quieter in future lessons.

Minnie Mouse isn’t like that.

 “It wasn’t just her Jafar. It was all three of us and, in fact, most people in the class have been speaking so I think it’s unfair of you to only pick on Rebecca who obviously won’t stand up to you.”

Oh dear. Kill me now.

Maybe she doesn’t belong in the Perfectly Normal, Lovely Group.

I looked over at Jessie. Even she, feisty as she is, was blushing in embarrassment and struggling not to giggle. Spotting her watering eyes and bulging cheeks as she struggled not to burst out laughing I suddenly saw the funny side. My eyes began to water. I could feel myself getting pinker.

Minnie Mouse spotted us out of the corner of her eye.

She didn’t even bother with discretion.

She burst out laughing, and, unable to hold it in anymore, so did Jessie and I.

Jafar rolled his eyes and went back to addressing the whole class.

After that day I always wondered whether we were seen as The Perfectly Normal, Lovely ones or The Annoying Giggly Girls.

Later that afternoon as I climbed aboard the bus that was going to take me home I noticed that Pumba was sitting near the back. Sitting beside her, we began to swap stories about our first day and established that we had both met Minnie Mouse and Cowgirl Jessie, that we both thought that Minnie Mouse was crazy and that Jessie was hilarious, and that we had both found at least one person from Group Number three that we fancied. We were also both the exact same age.

It all started on Wednesday 14th September 2005.

Since then we have been through more drama together than the whole cast of Eastenders put together.

We’ve seen tears of laughter, joy, relief, sadness and disappointment. We’ve been there for broken hearts, broken bones and broken homes. We’ve been there for celebration drinks, commiseration drinks and just plain drunk drinks. We’ve sung together, danced together, holidayed together. There have been midnight phone calls, emergency phone calls, excited phone calls and I-miss-you phone calls. We’ve had wild nights out on the town and quiet nights in with films and ice cream. We’ve pulled apart He’s Just Not That Into You and discussed the many merits of Bradley Cooper. Many characters, both good and evil, have come into our story and none have managed to successfully pull us apart. These Perfect, Lovely Girls are not only my Minnie Mouse, Cowgirl Jessie and Pumba but also my partners in crime- my Pascal, Abu and Zazu; my Rachel, Monica and Phoebe; my Carrie, Miranda and Samantha: my favourite people and my best friends.
And even now as I continue on my travels, meeting new, amazing people every day and spending most of my time with the gorgeous Flynn Ryder, funny Peter Pan and wild Lumiere; I miss my three musketeers every day and continue to bombard them with texts and emails regarding my latest adventures and new crazy dramas: reminding myself each time that not everyone has beautiful, intelligent and lovable rocks to lean on 24/7.

Aren’t I lucky? J

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