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I was at school with Samantha Cameron – so imagine how I felt at our school reunion...

'The last time I saw Sam was at a reception at Number 10 – I caught her eye and smiled, but she turned away without a glimmer of recognition'
'The last time I saw Sam was at a reception at Number 10 – I caught her eye and smiled, but she turned away without a glimmer of recognition' Credit: Jeff Gilbert

The invitation alone is enough to strike fear into my heart. The words - “Class of 89: 30 Year Reunion” - accompanied by happy, smiley pictures of we Marlborough College students in our bigger-haired days. 

Suddenly, in my head, I feel like that awkward 16 year-old north Londoner again, struggling to fit in with an aristocratic Chelsea set made up of people like Samantha Cameron and the rakish Earl of Hardwicke. 

Never mind that I subsequently studied Greats at Oxford, rowed in a Boat Race and edited two magazines. Or that I’m living in Islington, happily married to a Frenchman, with two children, aged 10 and 12. No, what really matters is that I failed to land a boyfriend for the entire time I was at Marlborough. 

What’s more, in comparison to those of my cohort, my life achievements seem lacklustre. I didn’t marry a Prime Minister, or happen to be dominating public debate in the manner of Brexiteers Daniel Hannan and Mark Reckless.

But it’s not just the thought of facing Marlborough’s high-achieving ex-pupils I’m worried about. There’s something about reunions which makes everyone behave in the manner of their teenage selves, much like a family Christmas back at home.  

That’s fine for the “lads” and “lasses”, not so great for the “whos” - the school’s version of nerds. I start to worry that we’ll be made to sit at tables according to our former social status, as we used to in the dining room of horrors, Norwood Hall. 

Will soggy buns be provided, so they can be lobbed at us girls? Inspired by Strictly Come Dancing, will the boys now be marking our attractiveness with scorecards, rather than just shouting out the numbers? 

My year was the last before Marlborough went completely co-ed. This created an unhappy atmosphere, and our daily humiliations did not end at the doors of the dining room. The boys used to infiltrate our laundry and unwashed knickers would end up pinned to the house notice board. Every week, without fail, someone crossed out the name of the prop on the rugby team and wrote mine there instead.

The school, which had its own vocabulary, had a word for this. Instead of banter, we dubbed it “grief”, and being on the receiving end of it felt brutal. Rereading my reports, it’s obvious my self-confidence took a battering. One beak (as we called our techers) wrote of my reluctance to speak in class, “She can’t still be terrified of those boys, can she?” 

It’s a question I want to answer, 30 years on. So, reluctantly, I take myself to the gym, book a haircut and fantasise about buying an expensive denim jumpsuit in a bid to impress Sam Cam, if she turns up. 

The last time I saw Sam was at a reception at Number 10 – I caught her eye and smiled, but she turned away without a glimmer of recognition. Minutes earlier, I’d been chatting to her husband David, who reeled back in horror when I revealed I’d been at school with her.

I can’t think why. I only have fond memories of her, which involve us smoking and trying to sneak out for a pint without being “busted” by “vice squad”. We were in adjoining houses, and bathtimes usually involved either her, supermodel Stella Tennant, or any number of girls, piling into one’s cubicle for a “tab”. Fag ends were squashed into the tampon incinerator, which memorably burst into flames one night as a result. 

Lebby Eyres was struck with fear when she received a school reunion invitation from Marlborough College, the same school attended by Samantha Cameron and Dan Hannan  Credit: Jeff Gilbert

Sam was charming, and I was, naturally, envious of her willowy figure and aristocratic ease. But, friendly as she was, we had the sense her life would follow a different path. There was no “Most likely to” section in our yearbook, but if there had been, Sam would have been a shoe-in to marry the PM. 

The rise of Dan Hannan has been more of a surprise, given we found his views a little retro even in 1989. Suffice to say he loved Margaret Thatcher and bow ties.

Ahead of the reunion, to be held in London, I coincidentally drive past the school. It remains unchanged, save for girls wearing tartan kilts, in contrast to our 80s “uniform” of baggy M&S men’s cardies. I pass Fieldhouse, my home for two years, and memories resurface – playing George Michael songs, eating Mother’s Pride, and staying up with Sam for the boys to deliver us Chinese takeaway one windy night in 1987. 

That gale turned out to be the Great Storm. Three days later, it was followed by Black Monday, the worldwide crash. We were insulated from uncertainty, but in the real world, Thatcher’s grip was loosening. It seems odd to me now, in an era of fun royals and Made In Chelsea, but we were about to enter a period when even the smartest among us would be talking Mockney, enjoying the Second Summer of Love and pretending we’d never even gone to boarding school. 

The day before the reunion, I dig out our leavers’ photo. My trepidation increases when I realise that I can only recall a third of my fellow pupils, and panic really sets in when I arrive at the reunion (after some Dutch courage) to find there are no name badges. 

It would be fair to say that time has not been kind to everyone in the room. While the girls are all instantly recognisable, my impression is the men have been enjoying the fat of the land. The more hair they have, the easier it is to place them, and I wonder whether it’s the girls who should be shouting out the scores now. 

Brexiteer Daniel Hannan has been a Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999

There are some surprises among those who haven’t lived their lives in the glare of the media. That Ramones-loving rebel became a teacher, and the unassuming boy who helped me with art is now a millionaire. Goodness knows how the former classmates of Meghan Markle felt when they met for a 20-year reunion at the Immaculate Heart High School in LA last week (the Duchess, being one day from giving birth, wrote a letter apologising for being a no-show).

Not everyone has been so blessed, but it’s impossible not to acknowledge that, unlike some of our number, we’ve made it through the past 30 years relatively unscathed.

While Sam is a no-show, Dan is there looking unchanged. I remind him of the time he told our English beak he had a second-rate mind, and we laugh about the fact the actor who played him in Brexit: The Uncivil War is 61, not 48. He even takes the joshing he receives during the speeches on the chin. 

But if Dan seems more comfortable in his skin, then so does everyone else. While the girls agree our time at the school was troubled, we’re grateful for our top-notch education. Some have sent their own children there, and insist Marlborough has changed. That path is not for me, but even if I had the financial means to send mine, it would make me feel my life had not moved on.

Despite that - and my initial dread of the whole thing - the reunion helps me experience something I hadn’t felt before: a sense of belonging and camaraderie. It’s hard to believe I was so scared about seeing these rather portly, affable chaps again, and as the evening wears on, the years start to slip away. Middle-aged we may be, but a 3am finish at a private members’ club and a hangover that lasts a full three days bear witness to the fact if there’s one thing school taught us well, it’s how to have a good time. 

Does the thought of a school reunion fill you with dread? Or, like Lebby Eyres, were you pleasantly surprised when the time came to catch-up with your classmates? We want to hear from you in the comments section below and in the Telegraph Women Facebook Group.

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