Long long ago, in the land of Medway…

Long long ago, in the land of Medway…

Hello there!
It’s Friday and I want to tell you about my friend. 
She’s a couple of years older than me, always has been, 
and today it’s her 2-years-older-than-me birthday, 
so can we all shout together 
Yep, if you ever call Clarity Towers, you will mostly be greeted by a chirpy, bubbly woman, always pleasant. Struggles a bit with whether it’s Good morning or Good afternoon, but once she’s over that hurdle, she’s away!
And that’s Jan. As helpful and honest as the day is long. 
We go back a long, long way, in fact, right back to the school gates of the Medway Technical High School for Girls! Ahh yes, those were the days…
Please allow me to take you back in time to what is now Fort Pitt Grammar School, at the top of the hill.
Seven years we climbed up that hill. When it was icy or snowed, the older girls would have to make a human chain by holding scarves, so that the younger girls could climb up. 
Part of the school dated back to the Crimean War. Florence Nightingale worked there.
I remember this West Wing was where the 
first year classrooms were!
And this was the back of the Crimean wing, 
on the way to the netball courts.
I remember the big fire, when much of the Crimean wing was burned down. Tragic really. Turned out one of the girls was panicking about her mock O levels, so her boyfriend decided to help out by setting fire to the cupboard where the exam papers were. Bloody fool. 
But he didn’t get the Lunatic Asylum, which was actually our Domestic Science Block, where we learned to cook!
or the old Art block, 
I can even remember the old 6th form common room used to be 
in the Morgue! It was a great building!
Jan and I both lived a long bus ride from the School in Rochester, and since we Grays had just moved to the Towns, I knew nobody. Every morning at the bus-stop, there was just the one girl with the same uniform on as me, but she was in the third form. So after a couple of weeks, I plucked up the courage and approached her. 
“Excuse me. Please will you be my friend?” 
“OK, as long as you don’t tell anybody at school!”
There, you see. That was 44 years ago, and we’re still attached at the hip!! Jan travelled all over the world as a Nanny; I lived abroad for 15 years, too. 
Yet, looking back, whenever things have gone pear-shaped for either of us, (and believe you me, the 44 years haven’t all been a bowl of cherries), the other one has been there in a jiffy. 
And now, we work together.  Jan is in charge of the office, which can be pretty overwhelming at times, when all three phones are going! But she is brilliant. 
When my daughter Gracie left to go live in New York, I was heart-broken. How would I ever find anybody as upbeat, switched on and trustworthy as her?
Silly me. She was there all the time. 
So today, she and I will slope off at lunchtime, and go to Tunbridge Wells for the afternoon. 
Spot of shopping at Hoopers, and afternoon tea in the Pantiles.
Very civilised. And absolutely what girlfriends should do when birthdays roll around…
with love from

68 thoughts on “Long long ago, in the land of Medway…

  1. Super blog – Happy Birthday to Janice – A joyful voice at the end of the phone, I know I have spoken to her :)) Great pictures with such history, reminds me of the buildings at The Arsenal in my hometown of Woolwich – many of which are now refurbished but equally steeped in history – hard to imagine you as a tad shy Barb! Your plans for today sound fab – 'Ladies that lunch' – my favourite sort of day I find these days as I grow older!!! Have a really fab time and enjoy that cuppa at the Pantiles – Happy Birthday Janice xxx

    1. Just catching up on Barbara's blog, and saw your comment Kim…my Dad worked for many years at Woolwich Arsenal, we lived in Plumstead, but always shopped in Woolwich market and travelled to work from Woolwich Arsenal station !!….

  2. Hello Barb, what a lovely story – Happy Birthday Janice, yes I have spoken to her and she does have a bubbly voice. And there are a couple of sayings that could describe this sort of long term friendship. "The road to a friends house is never long" and "Friends are family that we make for ourselves". Have a wonderful girly day together. Bx

  3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JANICE!!! You really do have a wonderful friend there Barb!
    Your Old School looks full of history…They knocked mine down and built a lidl on the site and a restaurant called Top Wok…oh and a pub!
    Have an absolutely fab day with Jan. I am sure you both will laugh a lot! Love and hugs! xx

  4. What a lucky lady you are to maintain such a long friendship! I sadly have lost touch with most of my school friends but have gained some great friends along the years ,Hope you both have a lovely afternoon and Happy Birthday to Janice ! x

  5. Hi Barb,
    Lovely post today. Happy birthday to Janice, you are right, she does cheer you up when she answers the phone and have to also say that she is very helpful too. Hope both of you have a great afternoon. Love Alison xx

  6. Happy birthday Janice. I love going back to look at my old school and really enjoyed reading this Barbara. I hope you stay friends forever. Enjoy your day together. Lynne.x

  7. Happy birthday Janice. You've obviously shared much laughter as well as tears over the years, such joy to have friendships such as yours. Have a wonderful day

  8. Always amazed how you can remember all those lovely stories from your past. We only have a few REAL friends in life, so they are treasure to our heart, and we should keep them sweet. So have a great day out, and Happy birthday to you Janice.
    Laurence xx

  9. Happy Birthday Jan
    I too am off for a birthday lunch with my best friend she is 3 months older than me and in that three months I don't let her forget it! 🙂
    Have a great day!!!
    I know I will!

    Lorna D

  10. When you have good friends like Jan (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANICE) you can be apart for years and you lose nothing of that friendship. As soon as you meet again, you are straight back to that special relationship and talking as if you had never been apart. There are four of us in our old school group and we meet up once a year in spite of being spread well across the country, and we take turns to host the gathering. We don't need central heating on these occasions, we generate our own hot air. In these days of instant communication, we talk on the phone, the more computer literate of us use Skype, emails and Facebook.Thank you for sharing your friend with us and it is lovely to see the person behind the voice. Have a great time in Tunbridge and visiting Paul in the Pantiles. xx Maggie

  11. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JANICE!!!! (you told us to shout Barbara) Hope you have a great day with Barbara, Janice. It is wonderful that you both have each others friendship after all these years. I am fortunate that I have a couple of friendships like that and they mean so much to me. Enjoy!!!!! xxxxxx

  12. Happy Birthday Janice, have a good day. My best friend at school ended up marrying in my brother! We became friends on the first day when we shared our sandwiches. Sometimes the simplest of things start a lasting friendship, you just never know. 🙂

  13. Happy Birthday Janice! Have a lovely day. Barbara your team do a great job, were so helpful when I ordered recently (a post chrissiee present to myself!) , So thanks and enjoy your day xx

  14. Happy birthday janice that wonderful caring voice ive spoken to her many times so dedicated .I have a group of very loyal friends who have helped me through some very testing times true friends lovley to share your blog barbara brings back my memories too have a lovley afternoon to you both xxx

  15. Happy Birthday Janice. Lovely to read your story Barbara – it's funny how we can all remember so much of our schooldays but can't remember where we put that darned DST five minutes ago!! Have a lovely afternoon. Pat x

  16. Hope you and Janice have a lovely celebrating her birthday and your friendship. Happy Birthday Janice, she is a lovely lady on the phone and always so helpful.

  17. Happy birthday, Janice! Don't know what I'd do without you to sort out my orders when I've mucked it up yet again. Hope you have a lovely day with a big slice of cake thrown in. xx

  18. Barbara, I spoke to Jan at the beginning of the week and even though I don't know her personally she spoke to me as if we were old friends, I have to say I agree you are blessed to have someone like her as a friend and to run your office for you. True friends such as Jan are hard to find and what a true testament to your friendship this relationship is.

    I hope you both enjoy your day together taking time out to do girlie things.

    Happy Birthday Jan !! and thank you once again for a great blog Barbara xx

  19. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Janice, I bet you both have a great afternoon, enjoy your cuppa. We all need a true friend mine lives opposite me. Your old school looks full of history, bet it was cold in the winter though, those old buildings often are. My school was an old Friary ,steeped in history, our headmistress did not let us forget it either. You did not step out of line with her! Have fun enjoy your free time Lynne xx

  20. Happy birthday Jan, hope it was a cup of tea only this afternoon, maybe something stronger tonight. I also have a friend like this – 58 years now – we've known each other since we were about 4 although we lived many miles apart the friendship has always been there.

  21. How lovely. I hope you both had a great time. Happy Birthday Jan . Friendships are so important . I have many acquaintance's but just a handful of real friends who I know I can call on day and night ,and over the years they have always been there . xxp

  22. Happy Birthday Janice, hope you both have had a great day. I went to school in Michigan so my school friends are miles away although we do speak a lo I've even got them looking at the Clarity website. Thanks Janice for all your help over the phone and thanks Barb for sharing. J x

  23. Lovely story Barbara, happy birthday to Jan; school friendships are so wonderful. I only have one friend left now as we are passed 70+. Lovely when we meet up… Straight back as is if it was yesterday! Sadly quite a few have passed but we talk of them all still.

  24. Hi Barbara. First want to say Happy Birthday to Janice. I can tell just by looking at her picture that she is a lovely happy person. My old school hasn't changed that much in 30 years, just a couple of new blocks added on. In fact they only renewed the main hall and stage curtains two years ago! How do I know that? Our three children all went there (very strange feeling when my history teacher, who was the deputy head during my childrens time there, gave a speech and I immediately felt like I was back in the classroom!) Proper friends are few and far between and you two are so lucky to work together. Hope you had a great afternoon together, bet you didn't laugh much!!! Have a good weekend. Take care.

  25. I had the good fortune to speak to Janice a couple of weeks ago at the Clarity offices – she sounded lovely & I can imagine, she "is what it says on the tin!" Hope you both had a fab afternoon out. Happy Birthday Janice! 🙂 x

  26. How did I miss this post. Happy slightly belated Birthday Janice. How lovely to have been friends all that time. I hope you both had a lovely day together. I have a Janice in Swindon but not seen her for a long time! an old work mate, she used to turn up at my flat out of the blue with a bag of food and tell me to go dust off my oven and get the wine glasses out! I like the bus stop bit, I can just imagine it! x

  27. What a lovely story Barb. Happy belated birthday to Janice. Hope you had a wonderful afternoon together. Special friends are so important in our lives xx

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