It’s 1961, the autumn, and instead of going back to Central High School at Bushy Park for my senior year, Judy, Jennie and I went off to Hammersmith to attend Mrs. Hugh-Jones Tutorial Establishment.
We had decided to stay in London for the foreseeable future and that meant doing O and A levels and going to an English university. Mrs. Hugh-Jones ‘school’ was a place where we could try to ‘catch up’ enough to attempt O levels. (These were exams taken at the age of 16 after about five years of secondary education – now called GCSE’s). Unsurprisingly, my education wasn’t up to the standard of O levels so I concentrated on English and French, with a bit of History and Geography thrown in but no maths or science.
At that establishment I met my first English best friend, Shaun. She and I were opposites in many respects – she was tall, I was short; she was bosomy, I was flat-chested; she was loud and out-going where I was quiet and rather introverted; we made perfect friends! Judy wasn’t too keen on Shaun to begin with. One day as we walked to the bus-stop, I introduced Judy to Shaun as ‘my sister’. Shaun asked, “What’s your name?” and Judy replied in a loud and gruff voice, “Fred.”
Shaun and I went through many troubled times together, then there were some periods of time where we lost touch, then we’d pick up where we left off, only to lose touch after some months or years when my life took me in one direction and Shaun’s took her in another. (For a description of Mrs. Hugh-Jones Tutorial Establishment and a little more about Shaun, see my blog post, Where Does SHE Come From (part 4))
Apart from Shaun, I had few girl friends until 1964 when I was pregnant so I’ll tell you about some of the ‘boys’ who were my friends.
Judy and I met brothers, Nigel and Paul when I was around seventeen. Nigel was slightly younger than I was but that didn’t put me off. Paul was older by a couple of years and both Judy and Jennie quite fancied him but they were far too young for him. We all went round as a group which also included Shaun and a young American boy called Happy. As often happens, I lost contact with Shaun, Nigel, Paul and Happy but am pleased to say that through such sites as Friends Reunited and Facebook, i was able to find these long lost friends. Of the four of them, two have died and one, Happy, lives in America. Nigel and I email each other once or twice a year and have met up occasionally.
[When it was Nigel’s 70th birthday, he had a party and invited all his old friends. Jennie and I made the trek across London and, coming out of the train station, met Happy and his wife, Becky who had made a much longer trek, all the way from Virginia! There were many people there I didn’t know and only a few whom I knew. Paul was missing, having died some years earlier, but his daughter was there and it was lovely to talk to her.]
After I left Mrs Hugh-Jones establishment, I went to an A level college. By that time I had met a young man who lived in the same block of flats, called Roger. We spent lots of time together and fell in love. We got engaged and were happy – but his mum wasn’t too keen. She must have cheered when I broke off my engagement some months later after I met a young man called Tim and fell head-over-heels for him.
Tim was intelligent and witty and reasonable looking. He and I went out for some months and when we couldn’t see each other, we wrote to each other. He lived with his mum, dad and brother in a small village in Kent called Wateringbury. (Years later, and not connected in any way with Tim, Julian and I went to the house that Tim had lived in to chat to the owner about furniture restoration.)
Tim and I went to Bath for a three or four day holiday. We both went to the same hotel but signed in at different times and had separate rooms – in those days it would have been totally frowned upon for a young unmarried couple to spend the night together! One or other of us would wait for an hour or two after ‘going to bed’, then sneak to the other’s room. Despite all the late-night sneaking about, we really enjoyed our holiday.
Tim’s mum had a lovely garden in which she grew the most beautiful sweet-peas. She would always give me armfuls of flowers to take home when I had visited from London.
After about a year, Tim broke up with me, having been lured away by a more glamorous woman and it broke my heart. It took me a fair while to get over that break-up but, eventually, I recovered.
During the summer after the break-up I went out with my friend, Chris whom I had met at college. We would meet in Sloane Square, near to the hotel he was working in, and go to “World’s End” at the far end of the King’s Road in Chelsea. There we had found a club we could go into for very little, or maybe nothing, and we could dance. (Surprisingly, in the London of 1961 it was almost impossible to find a place to dance to recorded music if you didn’t have deep pockets!)
End of Part Two!