Why did we do the stuff we did?
Forty years ago, at Easter 1977, a sixteen year old youth caught a National Express coach from Bridgwater in Somerset to Bristol, and then caught a coach from Bristol to Birmingham. It was probably the furthest he had ever travelled by himself, teenage country boys did not get around very much.
On the previous summer holiday, a camping holiday at Westward Ho! in Devon, there had been a teenage romance. It had been the hottest summer on record and the sun had shone every day and the hours had been filled with laughter. Oddly, the affection had continued through the autumn and winter, there had been an exchange of letters every week and plans were made for a reunion.
Neither house had a telephone, so working out the details of a visit to her home int the Birmingham suburb of Erdington had been done by post, and by arranging to make calls from the respective local telephone boxes at particular times. It was undiscovered territory; did other teenage friendships proceed on a similar basis?
The coach journey had been made on the Easter Saturday that year. There had been an affectionate greeting and on Sunday and Easter Monday there had been outings with her parents in their Volkswagen camper van. The Easter Monday afternoon had been spent on Cannock Chase, the local beauty spot. To someone accustomed to the West Country, it didn’t seem such an exciting place.
Easter Tuesday, 12th April came, and the holiday weekend was over. Her father and brother, who had been good company had returned to work; her mother resumed the usual daily routine; and they were left to plan their own days. It became apparent that they really didn’t like each other very much, and that there was not much in common between a sixteen year old from deep in a rural community and a fifteen year old, exactly fifty-one-weeks his junior, from Birmingham.
There was no falling out, there was an outing by train to Stratford-on-Avon and bus trips to the city centre, to the art gallery and the other places thought significant by teenagers, but by the end of the week it became clear that the friendship would not continue.
It was not a surprise when, a few days later, he received a Birmingham postmarked letter from her that told him that there was a nice boy in her class with whom she wanted to go out and that she hoped he wouldn’t mind if she didn’t write again.
The letter was received with complete equanimity. It was a recognition of the obvious. He couldn’t think what the fuss had been about.
Forty years later, that trip to Stratford remains a happy memory. Why he went to Birmingham remains a question.