Episode 11: Fellow Students & Love

Diane, came from Padiham, near Burnley. I fell for her Lancashire accent in my first two weeks in Birmingham, and within another fortnight she’d found the man of her life – another in our year! In 1993 she and Dick hosted a reunion of our year which I  organised for the twenty-sixth anniversary of our graduation. Diane and I still enjoy an hours natter on the phone from time to time.

Richard was an evangelical Christian and had no interest in girls (or boys), but he loved railways and classical music. We spent much time together, going to concerts and walking old railways. We only lost touch when I went abroad in 1975. I wrote to him about the reunion but his mother replied that he’d recently thrown himself under a train. I wish now we’d stayed in contact.

Judy undertook the forlorn task of chilling me out. She suggested we go to Goldfinger together. I have one of those snapshot memories of her, as a pillion passenger on my Vespa, clinging to me from behind on our way to the cinema. I couldn’t believe my luck, which I suppose was the trouble. Judy came from a German-Jewish family who had emigrated to South Africa where they were repelled by the resemblance of Apartheid to Nazism. However, they were enthusiastic Zionists. Judy now lives with her goy husband in Chester, and we still correspond occasionally.

Veronica was the right kind of girl for me, the daughter of a C of E clergyman and middle class. I thought that if we spent enough time together we would fall in love. On this basis those many hours were a poor investment. But she has remained a life-long friend. She and her husband, a distant relation of Arthur Scargill, cycled round the world on a tandem. She also excelled herself by giving us our wedding present seventeen years late, a year before my ex and I split up! She and Colin came to my 60th, and camped in the summerhouse.

Jean was the girl I did fall in love with, and she wasn’t at Birmingham. I met her and her friend Wendy at Ilkley Youth Hostel before I went toBirmingham and while they were still at a comprehensive school nearHuddersfield. It finally sunk in with a sickening thud that Jean didn’t love me when I visited her atLeicesterUniversity and she introduced me to her future husband, a man twice her age besporting a nicked railwayman’s cap. Mind you, they were divorced again within the year. Serves them right! The experience caused me so much grief that thereafter I was content with less taxing relationships.

On the rebound I took up with Wendy, who had lovely golden tresses and was not so discouraging. She said it was an experiment! In 1966 we hitch-hiked to Vienna in search of music, but found a still-war-ravaged city with little to offer culturally mid-summer. We stayed in a filthy  converted theatre where the stage was adorned with a huge map of the Austro-Hungarian empire. By the time we got back toEngland it was over with Wendy. She met an Israeli at York University and now lives in Tel Aviv.

PS Talking of visits to places which later became significant in my life, I forgot to say that I visited Brighton with my parents around 1963. For something like 9/6 (under 50p) we bought an excursion ticket and paid a supplement to travel down on the sumptuous Brighton Belle. Of Brighton itself I only remember the pier. We travelled back, stretching the validity of our ticket to the limit, via Steyning, Horsham and Guildford. Dr Beeching had already declared this route redundant.

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