Forty years ago today
8th September 1980 was a Monday. It was the beginning of a new experience.
The times were not exciting. Living in a small and remote village and having no money, there were few diversions. Baby-sitting for the next-door neighbours on the Sunday evening, it did not take me long to pack a suitcase on the Monday morning.
Having dropped out of the London School of Economics with what the doctor’s note described as “stress and anxiety” the previous Easter, there was a need to do something constructive with the time before I returned to my undergraduate degree course the following Easter.
Being nineteen years old and having done very little, the options were very limited. The ideal would have been to have travelled overseas, but who would have wanted a teenager with no skills? An organisation called Community Service Volunteers offered possibilities closer to home; the chance to do something for £10 a week pocket money.
There was an interview and then a letter advising me that I was being offered the opportunity to work as an assistant house parent at a special school run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary at Cranleigh in Surrey.
It was an intimidating prospect, I wasn’t sure I knew any Roman Catholics and I had never met a nun. I was given a telephone number to make the necessary arrangements. We had just had a telephone installed at home, it might have been the first call I made from our own phone. A charming lady assured me that they would be looking forward to my arrival and checked details of the train on which I was to arrive.
So the day arrived. With more or less everything I possessed in the world in my suitcase, my parents drove me to Yeovil Junction station to await a London-bound train.
There was a deep sense of gloom as we sat in the station cafeteria, making the odd attempt at conversation. Finally, a big yellow-fronted locomotive hauling a line of compartment carriages pulled in and I stepped aboard.
The journey to Guildford meant a change at Woking. Identifying the charming lady to whom I had spoken presented no problem; the plain blue jacket and skirt and short blue veil were not hard to spot in an English county town.
There was a warm smile and cheery greeting and we stepped into a white Austin Maxi and a new world began.
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