What a lovely surprise to get a letter from you! is it really fifty-four years? I remember vividly those cross-country railway journeys – one time you had a ukelele with you. And I remember Top 5, too. You were very ready to leave school at that point, which astonished me, as I couldn’t imagine life after school – still couldn’t, really, three years later when I left. I think basically I liked the structured life and anyway, by that time, I’d persuaded the system to make certain compromises with me. I also remember you saying, in a tone of profound disgust “Brown shoes with a navy blue suit! How can they expect us to grow up with any clothes sense!”
Enough of this frivolity: Fawcett: it sounds to me as though it’s time they updated the Godolphin Book – or did they do it in 1976 and has this now been forgotten again? Or is it just that a sense of history is not encouraged in this computer-and-Internet oriented generation? The past is quaint at best and mostly boring? (We are tottering on the edge of a major diatribe – what I did, when I did anything, was teach history. But back from the brink, to the subject under discussion). Fawcett, it seems to me, was very much defined by its physical position; the other Houses all lived in each other’s pockets, but we were away along the Snicket. We were even in a different parish – do you remember Early Service at St. Edmund’s in the blackout? Torches fastened to the ends of the rows of chairs? And the curious smell of damp, not nearly so noticeable at St. Martin’s. ‘And may her bridegroom bring her to a house where all’s accustomed, ceremonious” – that I think is what Poly and Eva did for us. They provided a secure and ordered life for us. I wasn’t always happy – too many places where it was easy to go wrong (“Aggie, that’s another fag mark.” “Aggie did you forget the . . .”) But one knew that Prep would be at 6 and supper at 7.15 and bedtime at 8.30 (or as appropriate), that Sunday would roll around with coffee (of a sort) for breakfast, and Church and letter writing and gardening and Poll/Eva would read aloud while we did our mending. I think that framework, though we chafed against it, gave me at least a great sense of security. I don’t know that the ethos of the school (a “nice” job and a “suitable” marriage, when all was said and done) did much to prepare us for the “philosophical and social turmoil of the late C20′ but I think the training in order gave us a good start in a world where order seems to be dissolving all around. And being, like yourself, now a widow, I find it invaluable to be able to create some structure for my life.
All of which said – some of the best moments I remember are when either outside events or some minor mutiny within managed to punch a hole in the routine; sleeping in the kitchen because the air-raid sirens had gone? In VIth form going down town by myself to Beech’s Bookshop? A walk up to Clarendon in the early spring – going skating on the Clarendon pond, Thursday afternoons. But perhaps the most useful thing I learned – from doing prep every night with 3 aspiring pianists practising three different tunes on 3 pianos all within earshot, was how to tune out absolutely anything!