Pink Midnight

The snow lies like a thick, smooth fleece over everything, bright and clear even in the darkest night. Yesterday it snowed on and off most of the day and last night there was heavy cloud blocking out all the mountains that stand guard around our little town. As usual, just before going to bed at midnight I glanced out of my window (what do I expect to see? Burglars? Wolves? Santa Claus running late?) and instantly did a double take. No, there was nobody there and all the windows of the neighbouring houses were dark and shuttered, but the woolly looking sky was glowing a deep dusky pink. I gazed at it awestruck, opened the French window and ventured out onto the little bit of my patio that was snow-free to get a better view.

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My first thought was that it could be full moon – but pink? And anyway, the snow cloud layer was so thick no light from moon or stars was getting through. It had to be a reflection, but from what? Red lights somewhere in the village? A few people still have Christmas lights up, but in this part of the world these tend to be white not coloured, certainly not enough to turn the entire welkin old rose. It wasn’t just in one direction, either, but an evenly spread wash of colour everywhere. There was no sound but the rushing of the water in the river and the breeze rustling the trees, no tail or brake lights from cars, no red traffic lights, no blazing fire: that would have caused some sort of flickering and this was a steady glow. I checked the air temperature (2°C) and took some photos on my iPhone. Disappointing. The colour wasn’t true. But there was no need for a flash – it was so bright that everything was clear as day.

Shivering in my nightie, I decided that however beautiful it was, it wasn’t worth catching pneumonia for, so I went to bed. At around 3.30 I sneaked out for another look. Yes, it was still just as pink as it had been at midnight so I took another couple of photos. Again, they don’t reproduce that lovely colour. A few hours later, I heard some birds greeting the dawn. In my bedroom, it was still dark and my bed was nice and warm so laziness won over curiosity and I didn’t get up to check out the colour of the sky but went back to sleep.

When I finally did leave my bed, I found the world outside had returned to grey and snow was falling again. Had I dreamed the pink sky?

No, the photos are on my phone.

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German fairy tales tell of Frau Holler, an old lady who shakes her feather beds out in the sky, and the down from these falls on us as snow. I fancy maybe last night she was busy changing her duvet covers, and we got a glimpse of her new ones.

Christmas Blessings

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View from my apartment today

To use those alliterative clichés much loved by TV weather people, it’s a wet and windy, misty and murky Christmas Eve. No hope of snow down here in the valley, which is probably just as well for the motorists. But it’s cosy indoors with my candles lit and adding to the peaceful atmosphere, and as I don’t have to go out today I’m quite content to sit in contemplative mood in my chair listening to traditional carols. I shall make another batch of mince pies to take to the family gathering tomorrow, and thanks to the Internet, I shall also be able to watch and listen to BBC1’s Carols from King’s this evening, a nostalgic touch to round the day off.

In Germanic countries, Christmas Eve is the main day of celebration so some of my friends were quite concerned to hear that I would be alone on this important occasion. I can reassure them that this is really not a problem for me, quite the contrary in fact.

We had a small congregation in our little international church fellowship yesterday, but everyone joined in heartily and once again I was very grateful for this tiny community where the Christmas spirit is still hale and hearty. We actually had a real straw-filled manger, brought in as a visual prop by our preacher who lives in an old farm house and found it in the barn. He also has four young children, and I was amused after the service to see that the youngest had honoured the occasion by laying her teddy bear to rest there. Another wry smile at the juxtaposition of lantern and tablet on our worship leader’s music stand!

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I am grateful for the opportunity last week to visit my Dear Middle Granddaughter and her Darling Husband near Geneva. I lived in that city for 8 years in the seventies, and though much has changed (it has expanded beyond belief) I still found much to be the same. The day I arrived was sunny and bright so I took a few photos, and it didn’t matter that it rained the rest of the time as the main purpose of the visit was to see my loved ones and inspect their new home. Yes, the home passed my inspection with flying colours of course! And we had a really lovely time together (at least, in my view – they may have been glad to drop me off again on Friday!)

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Proof I was in Geneva – the lake and jet d’eau

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Sunrise over the Jura  – view from DMG’s window

We shall meet up again tomorrow for the Big Family Turkey Dinner at my Dear Eldest Granddaughter’s house. The main reason for this is that having four children, she also has the biggest house and can get us all round the table, plus the kids can play happily in their own familiar environment. The meal will be a joint effort, with contributions from all of us so that takes some of the burden from her shoulders.

My very best Christmas wishes to all my readers, especially those who don’t have a family around them at this time. May the love, peace and joy of Christmas enfold you.

Birthday Tribute

I don’t have a huge following on my blogs – you are basically the same trusty few who comment regularly and one or two people who say shyly to me, “I read your blog sometimes.” And I say once more that I’m very grateful to you for your feedback and support, expressed or silent. At least I know I’m not talking to myself.

How surprised I was yesterday when WordPress suddenly notified me that my Nelly Sachs website was getting more traffic than usual. I looked at my stats and my jaw dropped. Almost 10,000 views, just under 5,000 visitors! Was it Holocaust Memorial Day? I checked – no, that’s in January. Then a message popped into my mailbox and all was explained. It gave me a link to http://isupdate.com/google-doodle-celebrates-nazi-germany-survivor-nelly-sachs-cnet/ and I realized that 10 December was Nelly Sachs’ 127th birthday.

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I was very touched that this was being commemorated and a bit overwhelmed to see that so many people had followed the link to my translation of O die Schornsteine (O the Chimneys). This is probably the most accessible of Sachs’ poems, but I was very pleased to find that several people had moved on to other pages, and left comments there (mostly complimentary). By the end of the day my site had been visited by over 12,000 people and there were more than 20,000 views.

Considering the millions of people still classed as refugees (which is fast beoming a dirty word) I feel it fitting to link here to two of Nelly Sachs’ many poems on the subject of displaced persons.

https://nellysachsenglish.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/chorus-of-the-wanderers/
and
https://nellysachsenglish.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/203/

 

 

Time to Ding-Dong Merrily

One of the things about being an expat is that you sometimes get a very skewed view of matters that you would never have questioned if you had stayed back home. I grew up in Middle England, going around on cold dark December evenings from door to door with my pals singing the old Christmas carols for pennies to the familiar traditional melodies, and never dreamed there could be any alternative (apart from Little Town of Bethlehem to which I knew at least 3 different tunes not including descants). So it was a shock to my true-blue British system to hear Away in a Manger sung by Americans.

“No, no, it goes like this,” I cried, and they gazed at me in amazement.

“Never heard THAT before!” was the response.

Even more incongruous to my ears is the tune that Americans use for It Came upon the Midnight Clear. Our British version thunders from the church organ, and dignified Baroque angels lean gracefully down through the clouds towards the shepherds.

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Americans sing the same words but their melody is in three-four time. These are Rococo angels waltzing around, maybe even bouncing up and down on carousel horses; certainly not playing golden harps, more likely keyboards with hurdy-gurdy harmonic effects. Yes, it’s a pretty tune, but I can’t take it seriously. Walt Disney should illustrate this, not Michaelangelo.

And look what our transatlantic cousins have done to Angels from the Realms of Glory. Once again, I prepare my full-throated version and after a couple of bars am stopped in my tracks.

“You’re singing Angels We Have Heard On High.”

“No I’m not. I don’t know that one.”

They sing their versions of the two slightly different carols, and I can see that there must have been a mid-Atlantic storm that shifted some of the notes around. Okay, I’m enriched by learning a new carol, and my Christmas angels are still pretty well Johann Sebastian  Bach rather than Johann Strauss.

They also add to my repertoire with a fourth melody for Little Town of Bethlehem, which is still lying pretty still amid its deep and dreamy streets. No waltzing there. But wait! Why am I being so stuffy about three-four time? Next up is the mediaeval carol In dulci jubilo  (Good Christian Men Rejoice): surely these angels must be skipping and lindyhopping, and I can’t blame the Yanks. Even the Putti must be bouncing about to this! I remember that wonderful jaunty rendering by Mike Oldfield – 1970-something, I think – and have to claim that there are some tunes that are immortal, and can stand up to virtually any treatment. Listen to Bach’s arrangement sung by a choir.

I’m off on a tangent now, looking for the origins of this joyful song. Thank you, Wikipedia! This is a great story. And I have learnt a new word: macaronic.

The original song text, a macaronic alternation of Medieval German and Latin, is thought to have been written by the German mystic Heinrich Seuse  circa 1328. According to folklore, Seuse heard angels sing these words and joined them in a dance of worship. In his biography (or perhaps autobiography), it was written:

Now this same angel came up to the Servant (Suso) brightly, and said that God had sent him down to him, to bring him heavenly joys amid his sufferings; adding that he must cast off all his sorrows from his mind and bear them company, and that he must also dance with them in heavenly fashion. Then they drew the Servant by the hand into the dance, and the youth began a joyous song about the infant Jesus …

The tune first appears in Codex 1305, a manuscript in Leipzig University Library dating from c. 1400, although it has been suggested that the melody may have existed in Europe prior to this date. In print, the tune was included in Geistliche Lieder, a 1533 Lutheran hymnal by Joseph Klug. It also appears in Michael Vehe‘s Gesangbuch of 1537. In 1545, another verse was added, possibly by Martin Luther. This was included in Valentin Babst’s Geistliche Lieder, printed in Leipzig. The melody was also popular elsewhere in Europe, and appears in a Swedish/Latin version in the 1582 Finnish songbook Piae Cantiones, a collection of sacred and secular medieval songs.

I have left all the links in this excerpt so that anyone with time to spare can also dig deeper down this rabbit hole.

A blessed and joyous Second Sunday in Advent to you all.

Perseverance Pays!

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All Saints Church, Theddingworth  Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been asked how I find relatives and ancestors as I build up the family tree, especially for people long dead and forgotten. Before the Internet made it a lot easier, you had to physically go out and pore over archives and parish registers. Nowadays, much has been digitised and it’s mainly a matter of armchair detective work. It can be time-consuming, which probably explains why so many amateur genealogists are retirees.

In England and Wales, the registration of births, marriages and deaths in the national index began in 1837, and the first nationwide census was conducted in April 1841. These usually provide enough information to allow personal histories to be followed back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, so that in most cases the last 200 years are not too difficult to reconstruct, and there is enough evidence to back up the course of events, often in surprising detail. Prior to those dates, though, a lot depends on good luck!

Here, for instance, is the story of my sleuthing in the case of my great-great-grandmother.

The widespread tradition of giving a mother’s maiden name as a child’s middle name has proved useful in tracking and verifying relationships. I have traced siblings as well as children and grandchildren, simply because they bore a familiar second name.

A name that has been – and still is – frequently used as a second name in my mother’s family is Collis. My mother’s eldest brother was known in the family by his middle name of Collis, and it has been passed on to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, without any of them really knowing where it came from. They are happy to perpetuate the memory of a much beloved (great)grandfather.

I was intrigued by this name, which I like (I was fond of my uncle, so I’m biased), and it isn’t overly common. At least, not as common as Smith! If I had had a son, he might well have been called Collis.

I knew that my uncle had been named for his maternal grandfather, Charles Collis Cheney, and I discovered that Charles Collis Cheney had a son who died in infancy, also named Collis. This indicated that the name held real significance for him, but where did it come from? Was it his mother’s maiden name? Disappointingly, records showed that his father Eli Cheney was married in the last quarter of 1841 to a young woman named Anne Knight, not Collis. I wasted a lot of time trying to find baptismal or birth records for Ann(e) Knight but drew a blank. However, thanks to census records, I did know her approximate year and place of birth, a vital factor: about 1818 in a Leicestershire village with the lovely lisping name of Theddingworth.

Unlike later censuses, the first UK census of 2 April 1841 gives only basic information, and it usually rounds the ages of anyone older than 15 up or down to the nearest multiple of 5. My great-great-grandmother would have been 23 in 1841 and on page 5 of Theddingworth, the village of her birth, I found a 20-year-old Ann Knight employed as a servant to a grazier. That seemed plausible.

As it was such a small village, I glanced through the other pages and suddenly discovered two 55-year-old women called Elizabeth Smith and Alice Collis living with a 4-year-old girl named Elizabeth Knight. Collis and Knight in the same household: was this a coincidence?

It dawned on me that although Ann Knight was so young at the time, she might possibly be a widow. A servant girl with a child would have to find someone else to care for the little one, and an elderly relative would be the obvious solution. These names fitted this theory. Was Alice Collis related to Ann Knight?

Well, yes: further research uncovered a marriage in Theddingworth on 8 November 1836 between Anne, daughter of William and Alice Collis, to James Knight, son of John Knight and Mary Turner. So my 2nd great-grandmother was born Anne Collis. This seemed to be evidence that the Alice Collis named in the census was Anne’s mother, and little Elizabeth Knight was her daughter. At last I knew the origin of the name! It was indeed the maiden name of my great-great-grandmother.

More research was needed, and I struck lucky: a marriage between William Collis and Alice Seal on 9 November 1812 in Theddingworth, and a baptism on 7 June 1818 for Anne, daughter of William and Alice Collis, showing she would have been about 18 when she married James Knight.

Theddingworth is a very small place, and the Collis family seem to have been established there for many generations so it was quite easy to trace the line back to my 6th great-grandparents, John Collis and Martha Sprigg, both born around 1700. Prior to that, parish records become less informative, and I may have found my 6th and 7th great-grandparents, too, but there’s no way of telling for sure. Maybe one of these days I’ll get to Theddingworth and be able to discover more on the spot, including the maiden names of the other grannies. Meanwhile, I’m happy to have solved a family mystery. What a pity that my Uncle is no longer alive to hear where his name came from.

Thoughts that lie too deep for tears

Interesting, that the piece of music that instantly comes to mind when we mention the composer Tomaso Albinoni is the Adagio in G Minor, 90% or more of which was actually the product of a musicologist hardly anyone has heard of, called Remo Giazotto. Who remembers that name? Or anything else composed by Albinoni? But you have only to hear the opening bars and the measured tread of those imaginary footsteps advancing down the halls of eternity, and you know what you are listening to.

Giazotto claimed to have discovered a fragment of a manuscript that survived the bombing of the Saxon State Library in Dresden at the end of WWII in 1945, and to have reconstructed the rest of this haunting Adagio from these few bars. He copyrighted and published it in 1958, under the title: “Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ, on Two Thematic Ideas and on a Figured Bass by Tomaso Albinoni”. No official record of it has been found in the collection of the Saxon State Library, and Giazotto never produced any manuscript fragment to back up his story, so the debate goes on as to whether Albinoni’s score ever actually existed.

The Adagio itself, of course, has a life of its own. It’s been used over and over again in films, in popular music and as background music in TV productions and for computer games. It’s also a popular choice at funerals. We should be sick and tired of it, but it never grows stale or hackneyed.

My first encounter with it was in 1962 or 63 as the theme music in Orson Welles’ film of Kafka’s “The Trial”, and then again in the film “Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray”, both of which I saw as a student during my final undergraduate year at the Université d’Aix en Provence. It got under my skin. And I wasn’t alone. It became a kind of theme to our student gatherings, always somewhere in the background, and we never tired of it. Sure, we danced and partied to all kinds of pop and jazz, where the Adagio would never have fitted in, but in moments of tranquility, study or contemplation, it was the Adagio that would be played.

It was a record of the Adagio that I gave as a token of thanks to my fellow student who had acted as proofreader/editor to my thesis (I couldn’t afford to pay her for that kind service), and she was so moved that she burst into tears as she opened the package.

Music is powerful. It can penetrate to the deepest part of our soul. Somehow, it is fitting that this particular Adagio should be associated with the senseless devastation of Dresden.  It may sound corny, but I would like to think that – if possible – when I am on my deathbed, someone will play me this recording of Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor as arranged by Remo Giazotto, so that my life here can fade away with those immortal sounds. And if that isn’t possible, then play it at my funeral.

Thank you to Auntie Uta for leading me to this performance on YouTube:

In the golden olden days …

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Dale Hall, Liverpool, December 1959

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I was very sad to read in 2014 that Liverpool University’s Dale Hall of Residence was to be closed, and even sadder at the news that it had become derelict and succumbed to a fierce fire (believed to be arson) in December 2017. It has now been demolished and is being replaced by private homes, no doubt much needed, and probably very desirable residences. But there’s yet another milestone in my life that has disappeared.

Dale Hall fire damage

I was one of the very first to live there, and it was my home-from-home from October 1959 to July 1962, the place where I made some really important friendships. It holds many cherished memories for me.

I came up to Liverpool to read French as an immature eighteen-year-old in October 1959. University policy was,  as far as possible, to accommodate in Hall those female undergraduates unable to live at home. Few students had their own transport in those days and in general, buses were our only means of getting about. We would catch the number 80 bus at 8. 45 in order to get to lectures at 9.30, and then again around 5.30 in the evening to ensure we were back for dinner. Most of my lectures were in the Victoria Building, which was handy for the Students’ Union and the Cohen Library, so apart from the odd foray down Brownlow Hill and across Lime Street to Lewis’s and the City Library, I didn’t see much of Liverpool and led a very cloistered existence compared to today’s students.

Dale Hall was a brand new hall of residence generally known as the Virgins’ Retreat, stuck out in the rather posh suburbs of Mossley Hill, with very little in the way of temptation to lead a dissolute student life, or opportunity to indulge whatever temptation there was. My social life tended to be enacted in Hall, where it was easier to stay in our “prison” than to go out. There was a pub in Mossley Hill, where it might have been possible to meet people, especially male students, with the men’s hall only a mile or so away, but that cost money and we were very hard up.

I made friends in Hall in the first few weeks, as we ate our meals at tables of 9 that formed the nucleus of a number of cliques. Our group was quite lively, and although Hall regulations and lack of funds prevented us from going out often, we spent many hours in one another’s rooms putting the world to rights until the early hours of the morning.

We were the very first intake of students to inhabit Dale Hall, and we felt very privileged when we compared our living conditions to those of the other halls of residence, which were mostly converted Victorian villas where 2, 3 or even 4 girls had to share a room and there were battles for the bathroom.

Everything was brand new, clean, fresh, and contemporary in style. We had centrally-heated, brightly decorated individual study bedrooms, with a bathroom between 2, containing lavatory, hand basin and bath plus a tin of Gumption to clean it with (but no shower), and there was a shared kitchen with 2 gas rings and a grill at the end of each corridor. There was also a laundry room next to the kitchen, where you could wash out clothes by hand and spread them to dry on wooden racks, together with an iron and ironing board. In a room at the far end of a ground-floor corridor was a manual sewing machine that anyone could use. Electrical appliances had to be approved, so although there were a few hairdryers allowed, no radios, record players or tape recorders disturbed the hallowed silence.

Breakfast and evening meal were provided, and in addition we had weekly and monthly rations: ¼ lb of tea or instant coffee and ¼ lb of sugar per month plus 2 oz of butter per week, and we could help ourselves to 2 slices of bread daily from the couple of loaves provided in the kitchen – it was a matter of honour not to take more, as you would be depriving someone else if you did, but we would sneak down to the kitchen in the late evening and take any extra slices left over, for toast, which we made on the electric fires in our rooms, a practice forbidden and a bit risky.

Breakfast was served from a hatch in the dining room and was available from 7.30 to 9 am. There was always something hot, though it may have been simply one lone sausage, or a fried egg with one rasher of bacon, and as much cereal, tea, coffee, toast, butter and marmalade as we could stuff into ourselves. Dinner at 6.30 pm was formal except on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, as was Sunday lunch. This meant wearing our well-ironed undergraduate gowns over a respectable afternoon dress (definitely not trousers), and a prompt start all together as the Warden and her entourage swept in to take their places at High Table, with grace sung in Latin before and after the meal. There may have been wine at High Table, but we undergraduates had to be content with plain tap water.

Woe betide anyone who arrived late for formal dinner: you then stood just inside the door until you caught the Warden’s eye, whereupon she eventually nodded majestically as permission to enter and take your seat. If you needed to leave during dinner, there was a similar procedure: you stood and waited until she graciously nodded to you. During my second year, I was afflicted with frequent nosebleeds, which were triggered sometimes by the steam rising from the soup in my bowl. Clutching a blood-soaked hanky to my face, I would stand for several long seconds before she noticed me and allowed me to leave, and of course, as I wasn’t going to face the humiliating process of going back into the dining hall, I thus missed my dinner.

The Warden, Miss Leese, was an ex-WREN and a formidable character, trailed everywhere except to formal dinner by her pet pug dog Toby. We were in awe of her, but she really had a very kind heart and if a girl genuinely needed support, she could be relied on to give good sensible advice and make things happen. She and her staff were in loco parentis, since we didn’t come of age until we were 21, which accounts for the strictness of the system. A room at the end of each corridor was occupied by a spinster lecturer, who was our Hall Tutor. I’m not sure exactly what her brief was, but she would invite us for coffee now and then. She certainly didn’t interfere in our lives in any way. Perhaps some girls went to her for advice.

We were always addressed by the Warden and staff as “Miss + Surname”. If there were two or more girls with the same surname, the first name would be added, thus my two friends named Smith were Miss Elaine Smith and Miss Gwen Smith. I was Miss Catherine Williams to distinguish me from Miss Eirlys Williams.

Miss Leese’s aim was to make young ladies out of us, so she would invite 2 or 3 girls to High Table at each formal dinner, to act as hostess to visiting lecturers who, we thought, came under duress or just to get a free dinner. The invitation to High Table included mandatory attendance at a 15-minute sherry party beforehand, where we learnt to sip our sherry (it was considered rather sophisticated to ask for dry sherry, which nobody really liked) and balance canapés, peanuts and twiglets or a cigarette in the other hand while making small talk to people with strings of degrees who overawed us immensely. After dinner, each girl had to take her assigned guest back to her room for coffee (Nescafé), which meant assembling as many of your friends as possible for moral support during the ordeal of continuing the small talk.

My assigned guest was Dr Faithfull, head of the Italian department and father of Marianne, who was still a schoolgirl at that time. He looked like a tramp, had no small talk, and nobody I knew was reading Italian, so conversation was very hard and it was really quite a relief to all concerned when he drained his Nescafe and left. Maybe other girls were more adept at this game, or had more sympathetic and cooperative guests, but I think Dr Faithfull felt just as awkward as we did and was possibly a shy man.

At that time, mixed halls of residence were unheard of, and the draconian rules imposed on us were fiercely enforced as far as it was possible to do so. There was a very hypocritical attitude towards the sex life of female students at that time, at the dawn of the swinging sixties. The official word was “lock up your daughters” (and locked up we were from 10 pm to 7 am), and although in general we all acted as if butter wouldn’t melt in our mouths, blind eyes were turned so long as our behaviour wasn’t too openly provocative. But the sexual revolution had begun, and was quietly making inroads. Thus, one 18-year-old girl who arrived with us in October 1959 from a strict girls’ boarding school, wearing white ankle socks and accompanied by a bodyguard of beefy brothers, was boasting by the end of her first year that she had managed to sleep with over 30 different men. None of us were quite sure how she had managed this feat, but nobody doubted its veracity, and she reaped grudging respect for brazenly admitting it. She was studying Physics, which was unusual for a girl at that time, so had plenty of opportunity for meeting potential partners. But on the whole, we tended to keep quiet about what went on in our intimate relationships and few admitted openly to having lost their virginity.

We had to sign in every evening after dinner on a register at the Portress’s Lodge, and failure to do so by 10 pm would result in the night porter flinging open your door and switching on the light at around midnight (assuming you were in bed by then). I think he hoped to catch someone in a compromising situation or a state of undress, but doubt if he ever did, and we complained about this behaviour. He was subsequently removed from his post and we had quiet, undisturbed nights.

If you wanted to go out in the evening, you had to apply to the Warden in person for late leave before breakfast, giving your reasons and saying when you would be back. She was usually agreeable as long as you didn’t stay out too many evenings in the week, and it was OK to go to the University hops on a Saturday night, provided you were back by midnight. As Christmas approached, she also relaxed a little in giving permission to go to Christmas parties. Another queue in the morning outside the Warden’s office was to obtain permission for weekend home leave, and she insisted on our having a valid reason. The drawback to this system from our point of view was that the Warden only allocated about 15 minutes for this, so it was a matter of first come, first served. If you weren’t among the first dozen or so girls outside her door, there was no point in waiting. From the Warden’s point of view, of course, it meant she didn’t have to worry too much about us gadding off!

Men were not allowed beyond the Junior Common Room, just inside the main entrance, except on Wednesdays and Sundays from 2 to 4, and Saturdays from 2 to 6. These “men hours” were extended to 10 pm for senior students in their third year, who were usually 21 and thus no longer minors to be protected. In our first year we were issued with keys to our rooms, and on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons many rooms were seen to have their curtains drawn and the doors locked. In our second year, the keys were no longer issued to us, but it was just as easy to jam a magazine under the door if you really didn’t want to be disturbed.

The speciousness of this system was revealed by the case of a girl who smuggled her boyfriend in all night one Saturday. He would have gone unnoticed except that he left his motorbike parked outside. Only one girl in Hall had a car at this time, so the motorbike was highly conspicuous in the otherwise empty car park. The girl who had blatantly violated the rules was severely reprimanded and sent down for the remainder of the term. We all felt sorry for her – there but for the grace of God go I – but on the other hand we felt the boyfriend had been a bit stupid about the motorbike!

How times have changed! Dale Hall was extended to accommodate over 250 students, both male and female, and as they were all of age there was no need for a “dragon” to guard their moral welfare. Now it is no more, and probably many of its earliest inhabitants have gone the way of all flesh, but thankfully I can still treasure my memories. Gaudeamus, igniter, iuvenes dum sumus!