I picked myself up at the start of 1968, thanks to family and friends. I was working in the Children’s Library and one thing we were doing was helping to welcome the families who were beginning to follow the men who came to Bradford from Pakistan to work in the mills and on the buses. At that time, children who were newly arrived spent some time in separate schools learning English, a very different approach to nowadays when children go straight into mainstream school and simply assimilate the language. Anyway, we used to visit these centres regularly, bringing books with us, as well as entertaining children from all over the locality at our regular storytimes and craft sessions.
In July, I went to France again to attend Françoise and Claude’s wedding. What an experience that was! I met her in Troyes, I think. Françoise was just about to begin her teaching career and I stayed with her, in the school where she worked as a monitor until the it was the end of term. Then we drove home to the help with preparations. They day that I went with the two of them to purchase some of the alcohol for the celebrations, I keeled over asleep in the car on the way home! The day before the wedding a chef arrived (and stayed for 3 days) and dinner was prepared and served to a large number of guests in one of the buildings outside the house, which had been decorated specially for the occasion.
Next morning I dressed in a brand new outfit. Françoise told me to ditch the hat as no-one wore them any more! I was rather disappointed. Guests gathered and we walked in procession through the village with Françoise and her father at the front, then the bridesmaids, all the guests and Claude with his mother bringing up the rear. The first part of the service was at the Mairie (Town Hall), a civil service performed by the mayor. Then we all processed to church (which we had cleaned ourselves) for the religious ceremony. Almost immediately after this was finished, the bride and groom disappeared for at least an hour – they had gone to a studio for a formal indoor photo. Then back to the village for a single, enormous group photo. I was perched on a bench high above them on the back row, with my “companion”. He was chosen to accompany me as one of the very few unattached young men. He was not my cup of tea. I can’t explain why but he wasn’t!
The wedding meal was several courses long and lasted for several hours. There was a fabulous croque en bouche, the “pièce montée” at the end of the meal, lots of wine and champagne was consumed, then we danced in the village hall until it was time to eat and drink all over again in the late evening. More dancing followed and the newlyweds disappeared. Then, all of a sudden, everyone was piling into cars and setting off to find them. They were “hiding” at Claude’s parents’ house, the bedroom was stormed and we all drank champagne from a chamber pot! I arrived back at the house at 6am to find that everyone else had retired to bed, including a couple who were asleep in my bed! I staggered down the road with Françoise’ cousin and was found a bed at a neighbour’s house. There was another enormous lunch the next day to finish off the celebration and then I returned home.
I then took the huge step of moving into my own flat. I was feeling uncomfortable at home. I wanted to be able to do spontaneous things with my friends but I was expected to return straight home from work every night. Auntie was of the opinion that “nice girls” had no reason stay out after 10pm. Perhaps I just needed some independence. I found a flat in Bradford, went along to see it with an older cousin and plucked up the courage to tell Auntie. She was furious. She thought that she would never see me again. I promised her that that would not be the case and 24 hours later she relented and then gave me a number of lovely and useful items which set me up in my new home. I had a groundfloor flat at the back of an enormous victorian villa on the outskirts of Bradford’s city centre. It was not far from where I had lived as a child. In fact, only the red light district divided us! I quickly moved in. The rent was £16 per month.
It was around this time that I was unceremoniously dumped by my boyfriend of just a few months. We were introduced by a mutual friend at work and over the course of the summer months he would pick me up in his car and we would go for a drive and usually listen to “Beyond Our Ken” or “I’m sorry I’ll read that again”. We didn’t meet up at work at lunchtime; I suppose we only saw each other once or twice a week. I remember we did go to see “Bonnie and Clyde” when it first came out and to one or two parties but it remained fairly low key. The end came when I invited him to my new flat and fed him the latest thing in instant catering – a Vesta Curry. As most of us had never tasted a real curry at this time, we thought this range, which you made from a dessicated state by boiling it in water, was the real deal. It definitely was not! You had to be there to appreciate just how dire this stuff was. Anyway, as he left, he said “I don’t think we should see each other any more”. I said “Oh, alright” and we parted company. I didn’t ask why.
So then I was bridesmaid for the other friend who had come with Françoise and I to Scotland. It was a lovely day and Auntie came too. Which just reminds me that I had already been a bridesmaid for another friend who was married in late 1966. I was surrounded by weddings and still no-one in sight for me!
I applied for the post of the Children’s Librarian of Halifax. I had flourished under the mentorship of Vera Jacques, the innovative Children’s Librarian of Bradford. My library qualification was going well, if slowly. It was a day-release course paid for by my employer and took around 5 years to complete. I was successful and started in the autum of 1968. I also made my final appearance with Bingley Amateurs in the chorus of “Die Fledermaus” (The Bat) a Strauss operetta.
The end of the year was approaching and I was rehearsing with colleagues from my previous job ready to sing at the Christmas party. The friend who had introduced me to my previous boyfriend now invited me to go on a double date with her. She had met a group of students from the university (not sure how). She and another friend had gone out with them but it hadn’t worked out for the other couple. My singing friends gave me a lift to the flat where these students – 3 of them from Bradford University.
Children! I was about meet your father. He came down the stairs and I thought “I always end up with the short, round one”. For some reason, the three of them all lived in their own rooms and there was no socialising in the living room. I sat in his room while he prepared a meal of pork chop, peas and mashed potato. We talked for hours until I insisted on being taken home. His friend, a young man from Iran, had a Ford Capri! Richard asked to see me again…..
And to quote Charlotte Brontë “Reader, I married him”!