I can’t remember how I met Richard. He was a much older PhD student and it was a dull and joyless relationship. He was tall, rather distant and forgetful. Occasionally he came over to Bath because he edited a jazz magazine but we actually rarely met though there were lots of postcards. An arrangement to meet was followed some days later by a postcard cancelling and suggesting a different date etc. He wasn’t much fun and neither was losing my virginity…high up in a cold and dark attic flat overlooking Clifden Suspension Bridge. Newton Park had once been a stately home with a shallow lake close by On it there was a punt. My last memory of Richard is of him holding the pole just before the boat glided away from under him. I laughed. He sent visually interesting postcards.
But I was lost and horribly insecure. I felt that I wasn’t where I was meant to be. Outwardly I suppose that I looked unfriendly and mean. I dressed in jeans and dyed everything else purple. One day, wearing my Doctor Scholls, I jumped up onto a pavement with both feet together and simultaneously cracked a bone in both feet and had to have both legs in plaster. This didn’t stop me. I could set a fair pace with my crutches and one Saturday afternoon after the pub shut I was heaved up onto the cricket pitch fence and went down like a rock the other side ( they had a beer tent). I wanted life to be gritty and, and , and …I didn’t know except that I felt most alive when I was hitching . Bath was so nice-it was smart and dull. I wrote home that again I wanted to leave. The next letter is my father’s response.
May 22nd 1965 Addressed to ‘The Elms’ Weston Park West, Bath.
My dear Joy,
It’s a beautiful refreshing sunny day, nice breeze etc and here I sit flanked by Auntie Sylvia and mam on the lawn. Earlier the weather was threatening with a few drops of rain but this soon cleared and I was able to complete the cutting of the privet hedge and everywhere looks spruce and tidy. The lawn particularly has never looked better- a result I think of previously forking it and giving it a good dressing of Velvetone Fertiliser. Auntie Sylvia and mam have got their noses down to their eternal game of Scrabble whilst I edit my weekly to you.
Chris was early astir for his trip to York with the cathedral ringers and wishing he was at Leicester to see the county play against Yorkshire in the knockout cup competition.
Whilst gardening this morning I came across a lovely nest of young thrushes in the hedge dividing the two gardens. The mother thrush was ‘en-garde’ and unafraid of my presence. I’ve had a busy week gardening. Completed the digging of my allotment and helped Auntie Win tidy hers and I’m feeling well on top of things. Had a busy week at work too, rounding off with a pep talk to the workers in the canteen on Friday by the manager and staff about faulty work, and that –in the face of increasing competition we have to pull up our socks. When we tell them that the remedy is just as much in their hands through a bad system it just doesn’t do and we can’t win. To all these demands –at this time of life I take a detached outlook and remember that I have other responsibilities other then my work. Like Wilfred Pickles all my life I’ve been ready and able to ‘have a go’, but there are limits I find now. F’rinstance, the other week the manager came to me and asked if I would go on a set of improved machines-three shifts including night work. I said, ’Sorry old man, bit late in the day isn’t it?’ When he asked why I said,’ Didn’t you know I’m nearly 65?’ and he was really surprised. Of course I’ll go on whilst I can but I feel I can no longer take on more. I started with ten kids (machines) and now I’ve got twenty-little ‘orrors they can be sometimes. Here I go rambling on again –you’ll have to bear with me-sorry! Anyway, the position is much the same as last week and there’s little of exceptional account to record.
The receiving of your ever welcome is one of the highlights of our trivial round, but your latest wasn’t exactly of the glamorous variety this week was it love? Mam and I are very sorry that there’s this dilemma. You don’t need to know that we always look for the happy well-being of our lass. No iron hand from dad- a wishing to help from mam. But faced with the confrontation of what you have to say is well! Altogether out of our line of country. Put it like this –on the one hand there are the old folks at ‘Braeside’ unchanged and just the same. On the other is yourself in training for your career. I don’t know what you have in mind but all we hope is that you won’t do anything you will regret later on and that things turn out for the best. No lecture from dad-but if you are asking my advice then I’d say’ Step in and give it a bash..’ After all , you’ve hardly begun yet have you –and after all it is perhaps best well to remember that the second state (burning your boats) could be worse than the first. Maybe your next letter will bring an altogether brighter outlook.
Anyway, here’s best love and guidance in whatever you undertake. Dad