Snails and broken hearts

Throughout 1966 I was still working at Eccleshill District Library and enjoying the course (paid for by my employers) which would be the opening to full library qualifications, instead of the dreaded ‘A’ levels!  I’m relieved to say that my pattern of failures turned into one of success so that, year by year, I got nearer to my goal of becoming a chartered librarian.

I forgot to mention that, when I started work in 1964, I earned the princely sum of £28 per month. (That’s roughly the equivalent of £540 today). Someone used to go around by car to all the libraries and pay us in cash!!  I gave it all to Mum, save £2 per week.

In July 1966, I had my second trip to France and was with Françoise and her family for Bastille Day (14 July).  We went to a restaurant and I ate a dozen snails!  I loved them; they tasted rather nutty and were smothered in garlic and butter.  I did feel a little sick afterwards, though.  We watched a firework display and the next day (still feeling sick) set off with a coach full of people from the local villages to visit Mont Blanc and the ‘Tunnel’.  The famous tunnel at that time was under the alps, connecting France to Italy. We climbed Mont Blanc by a little train and then descended onto a glacier by cable car to explore ice caves. It had to be just about the most dangerous thing I had ever done (apart from the snails).

We also visited Germany, by car. Françoise had learned to drive and had purchased a 2CV.  She was, by this time, studying at university, while living and working part-time in a girls’ boarding school.  We set off in two cars, three girls (including Françoise’ cousin) in one car and four adults (aunt, uncle and two friends) in the other car. Françoise’ car was hit from behind when we slowed down to allow another car to turn.  Luckily, even the fragile 2CV was not too badly damaged and we were able to continue.  The two men of our party were concerned about meeting Germans for the first time since WW2.  “Will we want even talk to them?”  It’s strange though, that when we came to stay overnight, they settled into an easy conversation about their time as soldiers and our host’s spell in a POW camp on Corsica. We spent a couple of days with Françoise’ cousin – the boy who had been her father’s apprentice on my previous visit.  Apparently, he liked me and wanted to see me again.  I imagined marriage and an idyllic life in France ahead of me but no words were said and we drove home via Luxembourg, which we managed to see in one afternoon.

I developed a huge crush on another new colleague.  It lasted for many months and made me hang about, full of angst, even writing poetry which was returned with a “Thanks but no thanks” by a magazine.  He kissed me once and I was taken aback and didn’t respond, so he assumed I wasn’t interested and went on to go out with two of my other work colleagues.  At the same time, we were playing our guitars and singing together at his house on a regular basis but, to my total despair, it was just as friends (although I always clung to a crumb of hope).  It lasted until he left to study to become a teacher.  I saw him, in the distance, a few years later and not long after I married your father and I have to admit that my heart still skipped a beat.

In 1967, I moved to the newly built Central Library to work in the children’s library.  I actually moved just a couple of weeks ahead and helped to pack up the old library.  Every single box that I packed came open en route!  I was given a lesson in tying things up with string which I have never forgotten!  An amazing eight storey building,  arranged in a non-traditional subject-based way, it was built according to the dreams of the City Librarian, Harold Bilton.  It was a comfortable place to work, with windows right around the building. We even had a separate room for storytelling.  And our new overalls were slightly less offensive than the old ones!

I was in the reception area to watch Princess Alexandra officially open the building in the summer of that year.



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