My Cambridge interview over, it was back to school to concentrate on A level studies. Not that this prevented me from enjoying myself. By this time, in my late teens, there were plenty of distractions of a social nature. There were, of course, girls to consider. In the fifties there were few places where young people could meet outside the home. Coffee bars were non-existent prior to the late fifties. Places of entertainment were limited to youth clubs, the cinema and the occasional dances where no alcohol was available. Occasionally one could sit in a girl’s house under the watchful eyes of her parents, listening to records with the prospect of a cuddle on the sofa if you were lucky.
Having an older sister, you would have thought I would have picked up a few ideas from one of her boyfriends but she wasn’t exactly encouraged to bring them home by Father, particularly late in the evening. Mother was much more sympathetic towards any friends, male of female; in those days she always made people feel welcome. I remember one occasion, however, late one night, I decided to raid the sideboard where the sweets were kept and interrupted a snogging session taking place on the sofa! The boyfriend in question was a Pilot Officer in the RAF so I was quite impressed by him, particularly since he flew in a Gloster Meteor Fighter Squadron based in Lossiemouth, Scotland. Unfortunately for me that relationship didn’t last long!
Girls apart, my life was full of outside activities. By taking up rowing at school I became involved in practice sessions both before and after school during term time and this continued into the holidays with competitive rowing at events both in Peterborough and other local venues. I also joined a Youth Club and was a member of the school art club which I attended one or twice a week. I once entered a poster competition advertising an arts festival and won 1st prize (the only first I ever got!) I even had to go to the Town Hall to be presented with my prize by the Mayor no less. The prize was a large box of watercolours which I used for a number of years afterwards.
During that last year at school I also learned to drive. Dad was good enough to teach me despite the fact that a few years previously he had been through the experience with Betty. It was to his credit that he was prepared to risk himself and his car in the process and we both passed first time. However it was not without its upsets. One Sunday we had been to Hunstanton for the day and I was allowed to drive all the way back. Everything went well until I turned into the drive and took half the gatepost with me...