I only own one pair of sunglasses, bought around two years ago from Matalan. When the weather is as glorious as it has been today, I wear them (slightly ill-fitting though they are), but when it isn’t they lie in the bottom of my bag, the lenses covered in dust and fingerprints – often for weeks on end, as you’d expect in this country! Despite this neglect, however, I cherish the shades, black with red arms on the inside, because of the memories they carry from a special summer.
We were finishing Year 12 in 2014, not long after I’d bought the shades, and thankfully the sunshine was frequent enough to justify their use. As we made our way through AS exams, and weren’t needed as much in lessons, we had to find a way to make this newfound spare time – alongside the free periods we already had – worthwhile. Soon enough, my friends and I settled on taking advantage of a rather uncharacteristic summer and playing cards outside. For a good few weeks, we seemed to spend every possible minute with an ever-expanding cast of players, making our way through games with rules I needed reminding of on countless occasions. Needless to say, I don’t recall doing too well at any of them, but it was the taking part that counted – and the laughs and camaraderie, both of which were in abundance. Each game was an occasion of the kind I’ve mentioned before, where the respect I saw between many in sixth form was really clear to see. There was exactly the right balance of competitiveness and friendliness, and I personally felt well-supported, as always, in learning the ropes with a deck of cards. In fact, my positive memories of the entire period – conducted in locations varying from the grass verge outside the Post-16 block to the old common room, just as everything was being stacked up and shipped out – were compounded by being made to always feel fully included. Someone would always make sure that there was a space in every circle for me when we sat down to a game, and come the end of one there’d be somebody on hand to cheer me on when I was on the brink of finishing last!
Sadly, I’m not in as much contact with one or two of those friends as I’d like to be, but never have a few individual weeks been quite so vividly retained in my mind as those. It’s just a shame that we never got round to playing any more games, as we’d said we would after the summer holidays, but I suspect I’d only have needed the rules explained to me even more – I certainly do nowadays! Regardless of what has or hasn’t changed between then and now, however, one constant still remains in the form of those occasionally dusty Matalan shades. I put them on and some of the sunlight slips around the sides and into my eyes, but I don’t mind as much as you might think. Squinting is the least of my concerns when I have memories like those, capable of pushing any worry to one side. I leave you with this, then – throw those glasses away at your peril, because I wouldn’t throw the memories away for anything.