Organising a reunion of old friends took me back to 1984. What bliss, for almost a week, to drop out of the adult world and revert to the craven, dirty-mouthed girl I had once been. It's exhausting to behave well, talk interestingly, organise next week's washing and tomorrow's chores year in, year out. Being a teenager was never boring. Sure, it was agony and torture a lot of the time - but boredom arrived on my doorstep with my first tax demand, not a minute before. Hearing the girls' voices made my tastebuds tingle with Thunderbird. My head was released from obsessing over bank statements to focus on snatches of soul anthems.
The five of us hadn't been in the same room together since we wore navy-blue uniforms. On the phone we instantly reverted to teen-talk. The calls went something like this.
"Hi Tam, it's Lauren."
Tam heads a PR department these days. At school, she was considered the girl most likely to marry a millionaire. She hasn't: they were all "too boring" for her. Then I called J.
"Hi J, it's Lauren."
"Taaart! Alriiiiight?" J is a teacher at a rather nice school. Back in the old days, half the time she would be in a vivid fantasy world of elves and dragons.
Mel was the hardest to get hold of - impossible to pin down, in fact. She has three mobile phones, none of which is ever turned on, as far as I can gather. She even turns her voicemail off except at obscure times, say between 4am and 6am every third Thursday. I managed, luckily, to leave a message, and she called me back when I was in a meeting with an editor.
"Sluuuuuuuuut! Boothy, how ya doin', you old dog?" The editor raised an eyebrow and politely concentrated on his moules marinieres. I felt nearly as awkward as when my phone rang during a Dame Judy monologue at the theatre. She looked straight at me. It was like being slapped by Queen Victoria.
In the restaurant, I was feeling about as chic and mature as a delinquent on day-release from borstal. I took the call outside - the best way to be ignored in London is to walk around swearing at invisible people.
She was "well up for dinner", she said.
Which left only Donna. Donna, the girl we all wanted to be without a shadow of a doubt. She was the living epitome of I-don't-care-cool. She really did climb out of windows to meet boys while the rest of us swotted for exams. Donna had boys eating out of her hand: she was going to travel the world, live in America, marry six times and have cosmetic surgery to make herself look like Pammie Anderson.
I decided to pay her a visit at her mum's, where she still lives.
I knocked timidly on the peeling front door.
"Yeah, yeah. Coming." We hadn't laid eyes on each other for three years. I had expected a modicum of surprise. Instead, she looked me up and down, the way she had a thousand times in the 1980s, shifted her weight to one hip, then sauntered back inside shouting "Well, come in then" over her shoulder. I am still utterly in awe of her. The years have changed the way I look - so much so that an ungallant ex I bumped into last year at Glastonbury Festival said: "Lauren, is it really you? I'd never have recognised you. Not in a million years."
Her living-room was just as it had been 20 years earlier - hermetically sealed against fresh air, with three bars on the electric heater blazing. We spent three hours talking utter rubbish. Mostly gossiping about people we never liked in the first place, chewing over old times, reliving "ugliest boyfriend" stories. Toast and tea at Donna's is still more exciting than canapes at the Dorchester.
Some people make cheap cider taste like champagne.