1970 (There are no letters from this year.)
I find myself reluctant to begin writing about this year’s downward spiral. It is easy to see patterns in retrospect but not when we are in the thick of living and have not learned how to reflect in the light of self-knowledge. Jobs and boyfriends came and went but in fact my happiest times were spent with my women friends. But these relationships were also rather unbalanced because I always believed that my friends were better then me…better looking , wiser , more intelligent …But my female friends were a constant and I cared about them passionately. We wrote lengthy letters.
In retrospect my life had been taking a dip for quite some time and the low of the coming year has always acted as a measure against which to compare later hard times; it was a directionless, stumbling around in the dark year.
There was no love lost between me and my flat mates. I didn’t possess much but what I did own they seemed to treat with disdain. I found my cutlery carelessly scraped into the bin with food scraps. One day I arrived home to be told that we have been burgled. Their rooms had been cleaned out but the burglar found nothing of mine worth taking. My thoughts were uncharitable.
I spent a lot of time with Sheila and Paul but that had an edge to it too. They had two small children. I know that I had no idea about the pressure they were under and no interest in babies. I visited Maggi, the music teacher, and her husband Nick. Somehow the life centred around the pubs down town has lost its appeal.
I continued teaching and didn’t do a bad job but nothing felt right.
At Easter I hitched to Brighton and stayed with Bridget. She was doing her teacher training there. Jenny joined us and briefly I was happy. On the way home I had a close shave with a lorry driver who announced that he was going to rape me. He exposed himself and told me he was going to drive straight to his caravan …I ignored his erection and managed to hide most of my fear, talk about other things and hop out of the cab at a traffic lights.
My landlord also owned No 28 Devonshire Road and I heard that the ground floor flat was vacant. At the beginning of the summer I took it, chiefly to get away from the two girls, and Sheila and Paul decided to move in with me. In both houses each floor had one enormous room. This had been my choice in No 16 but I opted for a smaller room ( bottom left in the picture) and when I moved to No 28 I instantly felt claustrophobic.
But Bridget and I had plans for the late summer. We were going to hitch to Israel and work in a kibbutz. She had completed her teacher training and had no real home so was temporarily staying with her father and his family in Brentford. I was restless and dissatisfied…we were both rather lost. I hitched down to London where before we left on our travels Bridget invited me to meet Dave, a former boyfriend from Leeds Art College.; in September he was moving to Liverpool to teach at the art college.
I know now that Bridget could be very vague, it was as though she zoned out. Not remotely materialistic she scattered/shed her belongings as she moved through life. She could also be extremely vague when it came to decisions and plans. When we set off for Israel I was barely aware of any of this and since my women friends were on pedestals I generally assumed that they knew best. I spent quite a lot of time retrieving her scattered belongings and we caught the wrong boat to the continent despite my feeble protestations; Bridget stuck out her thumb regardless of what was coming towards us and we ended up in quite a few awkward situations. By the time we arrived in Rome I had had about enough. The youth hostel was full and we spent the night trying to sleep on the horizontal supports of the football stadium opposite [there was a match on]. I worked out that I needed every penny if I was going to make it home alone so the next day when I discovered that the entry fee to The Sistine Chapel was more than I could afford Bridget went in I waited outside. ( I have regretted this many times)When the chapel closed for lunch there was no sign of Bridget so I headed off alone . That afternoon I felt hunted, harassed by packs of Italian men /boys and this was the final straw. Back at the hostel when Bridget arrived we discussed our situation and she said she would continue alone. I advertised in the hostel for a hitching companion ( safer to get a lift with a boy !), interviewed the six respondents and having chosen one set off for home. Bridget made it to the kibbutz where she worked and had many adventures before returning to England with the contents of her back pack completely different to those with which she had set out .
Back in Liverpool it was late September and down in the education office the vacancies folder was empty…. no more teaching jobs. I had to sign on . I applied to do meals on wheels and other jobs for free but there were no vacancies. My days had no structure and I was lost. Things weren’t going so well with Sheila and Paul either and money was very short.
Superficially though I must have seemed fine. John was back from Cambridge and he took to calling on Fridays with his brother Paddy. They had a house in North Wales and we slipped into a routine where most Fridays we drove out there for the weekend. I helped build Paddy’s kiln (he is a fine potter) and we constantly talked about ways of making money. One scheme was to make industrial clothing that I would run it up on my sewing machine. I got as far as a prototype but there was something about the three of us together that always ended up as a joke…we laughed a lot. My favourite memory of this time is when we went out to a warehouse which stocked industrial clothing and we were let loose amongst the stock. We disappeared amongst the shelves, reappearing dressed in whatever came to hand…chain mail vests for butchers, visors and gauntlets etc.
Henry still called once a week but now it was for a formal afternoon tea. I got out the best china and made a sponge cake and again we laughed and laughed. I laughed a lot that Autumn but it was joyless.
I met up with Dave King and we took to traveling out to North Wales to walk. He had an exhibition coming up at The Serpentine and his sculpture involved a lot of sewing…numerous multi-coloured fabric tubes suspended from helium balloons . I was grateful to have something to do. I went home for Christmas and one day Dave arrived unannounced. We went walking in the snow. Everything about that autumn/winter feels cold and brittle.