Student Days

I was sixteen the first time I fell in love. In my naivety, I thought it was all about me, and didn’t show nearly enough interest in the boy’s motor scooter, which they all had back then in the sixties (in Bridport, anyway). So he dumped me and broke my heart and I spent a year chasing the poor boy, but all in vain. He moved on, as we all did. Uni, college, marriage.

Vespa 180 SS, 1965 02

My student days were spent in Bristol, where I shared a room with two pretty girls, one dark and bouncy, the other blonde and dramatic. A disco had been organised for our first night, so coming from rural Bridport, I happily and naively walked across the park on my own. When accosted by a flasher I was taken completely off guard and had to be given brandy by our landlady. The police interviewed me and asked bizarre questions such as ‘what colour were his eyes?’ He was a flasher, for goodness sake.

We went to parties that were like Roman orgies but without the food. We spent smoke-filled hours in basement flats where the only furniture was purple tie-dyed cushions on the floor and posters of Che Guevara on the walls. Musicians protested against the Vietnam War and the name Ho Chi Minh cropped up in frequent debates. Karl Marx versus Jesus Christ; capitalism, neo-colonialism, communism. The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. Pass the cigarettes around.

One night myself and the five girls I boarded with played Ouija board. We drew the curtains, tore up pieces of paper on which we wrote all the letters of the alphabet, upturned a glass and sat in a circle with one finger each on the glass. We switched off the lights, lit a candle and took turns to ask a question.

At first everybody thought one of us was pushing the glass, but no-one would own up. Then someone asked the ‘spirit’ to prove it was real. He answered he would light a fire on the roof. We told the ‘spirit’ that wouldn’t be good, he should think of something safer, so he said he would light our oven. We all knew our old oven didn’t work, so we agreed. Suddenly there was a gust of wind through the closed window and the curtains billowed out as one of Lynn’s paintings blew off the window sill. At the same time a dog in the park outside started howling. We switched the light on and ran downstairs to check the oven. It was hot. There was no-one else in the house and we had all been upstairs together for the past hour.

We never played that game again.

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