Cosy Corners in Depression and War
Autobiography of Joan Hughes
The story of one person's nests



1960 was a pleasant year. Together with Alf, Colin, Mr Voice and two other young men, I was studying for Part Two of the Royal Institute of Chemistry Exam. I was the only woman on the course. Mr Voice was the only one known by his surname. He was 35, the oldest on the course. We only spent time together as a small group in tutorials with Dr. Wyvill, who was responsible for students studying for graduate membership of the Royal Institute of Chemistry.

We joined degree students for most lectures in a lecture theatre containing about 100 students. We had Dr. Finar lecturing on natural products in organic chemistry. "Natural products" are chemical compounds with complex molecules, such as riboflavin, one of the B vitamins. Dr. Finar was our most interesting lecturer. All the lectures took place on one day per week, lasting from nine in the morning until nine at night. I found this a strain. The rest of the week I spent full-time on the bench, perfecting my qualitative and quantitative inorganic chemistry, but increasingly doing more organic chemistry, except for two weekly tutorials in physical chemistry and a lesson in Russian, all from Dr. Wyvill. We thought Dr. Wyvill was becoming more interested in scientific Russian than he was in physical chemistry, his main subject. He published a new book on scientific Russian.

Russian for Chemists (347 pages) by P. Leslie Wyvill was published by the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1966.

I was a good analyst, and soon began to have as much facility identifying organic compounds as I had with the inorganic. All organic identifications started with the sodium fusion test. This needed great care, as sodium ignites spontaneously on contact with water. We did not use water in the test, and used only a minute amount of sodium metal. With organic compounds, the sodium fusion produces sodium cyanide, sodium chloride and sodium sulphide when nitrogen, chlorine and sulphur are present in the original organic compound. Most organic compounds contain oxygen and hydrogen as well as carbon, but there is no easy test for these. Final identification depended upon measuring accurate melting points, and mixed melting points, specific for the compound being examined.

Of our set, Mr Voice had the most trouble doing analysis. He told us that he had been a glassblower for 15 years, before obtaining a post as a laboratory experimental officer. In the last eight years, he had become skilled in remote handling and working in glove boxes in the laboratory. He worked at the atomic energy plant in Dounreay, and was in London only for the first three months of the year to do this part of the "Sandwich course".

By the end of March, this session of the "Sandwich course" was over, and I was back at work. I was sent over to the Physical Methods Division in Endell Street. This was accommodated in the basement. There were two or three large rooms, fitted as laboratories. In one of these a middle-aged physical chemist carried out X-ray analysis of crystalline compounds. This was the method first developed by Bragg in the 1920s and 1930s. In the physical methods division, we were sent a few known compounds, whose detailed structure was not known, for which X-ray analysis was undertaken.

Completely unknown substances were also sent to us, and infra-red (IR) spectroscopy was the first method tried with these. I worked in the front lab on IR spectroscopy. The front lab staff did not enter the X-ray room often, but occasionally I did so for a chat. This was at times when the apparatus was not in use, and when the chemist was taking a tea-break. This man, Mr Soames was interested when I told him about my work on the carbon-in-steel test at Napiers' Aircraft Engines Ltd.

" Did you actually use a Strohlein?" he asked, and was most interested when I described the apparatus. These pieces of apparatus were now out-of- date.

In the coming years, X-ray analysis would be superseded as being too time-consuming, or if still used, it would be computerised. In those days the elucidation of the structure of a single complex compound could take a whole year or more. There were many compounds whose structure was known, and of course, these could be identified quickly. But I believe Mr Soames was one of the few chemists employed by the Government Chemist mainly for research.

Mr Radford was in charge of infra-red spectroscopy. I liked IR spectroscopy and Mr Radford was a pleasant man. We had a scientific assistant, Miss Giles. As a scientific worker, she was a complete disaster. One day she was told to clean the platinum dishes. These could be cleaned with hot hydrochloric acid or sodium carbonate, but not concentrated nitric acid which attacks the platinum. One day Miss Giles heated the dishes in hot nitric acid. She did not use a fume cupboard. When I turned round brown fumes of nitric oxides were ascending to the ceiling and Miss Giles was coughing. I had to get hold of her and hurry her out into the yard immediately for fresh air.

When the air in the lab had cleared, we went inside and I told her off about using nitric acid to clean the dishes. When the chief chemist, Mr Cooper came back from lunch, he was very angry about ruining the expensive platinum dishes. He did not appear too concerned about the fact that Miss Giles had inhaled acid fumes. She had to be closely supervised. I was not supposed to be doing this, having to get on with my own work, using the IR instrument, but felt glad that I had noticed what Miss Giles was doing in time, before she seriously damaged her health. She did not make this mistake again. Mr Radford remarked that she was more suitable for employment as a shop assistant than in a lab. She liked to wear heavy make-up and high heels. None of this was very suitable for lab work. I do not know how she managed to get a post at the Government Chemist.

One day Miss Giles disappeared and I was informed that she had left. Mr Radford was thankful. The following week, a quiet man called Ron appeared. I had met him at the Polytechnic, where he had been on a full- time course and had gained only a third class degree. He was quite pleasant, though he grumbled when asked to do what he regarded as useless jobs. When there were no official samples, Mr Cooper got him to practise IR technique, pressing sodium bromide discs. He was more successful at this than I was, and I was thankful that it was not part of my routine work. The trouble was that the apparatus used to make the discs was manually operated, and required a lot of pressure to be exerted by hand, and I did not have sufficient strength or the technique of applying manual pressure.

My routine task was much more complex, and involved much wet chemistry to prepare samples. Nearly every day a few bottles of water were sent to us. They came from different parts of the country. My task was to examine these for an impurity, a non-volatile pesticide, as far as I can remember, present only in a few parts per million. The organo-chlorine pesticides, a group which includes DDT are non-volatile, so it was probably a pesticide of this type.

Water samples cannot be examined directly by IR techniques, because the apparatus has at all times to be kept completely dry. A sodium chloride (rock salt) prism was used in this 1960s apparatus to divide the radiation coming from the samples into precise wave-lengths. A particular wave- length indicated the presence of the impurity.

I had to pass the water samples through vertical tubes, containing an absorbent material, to which the molecules of pesticide became bound, while the water passed through. The tubes were ranged on one side of the wall. There room only to do about four samples per day. Each sample took two days to complete. On the first day the water samples were passed down the glass tubes. As the pesticide was now on the absorbent material, the water could be thrown away. Then five litres of methyl alcohol was passed through each tube. This took the rest of the first day.

On the second day the whole of the methyl alcohol was evaporated, leaving the pesticide on the bottom of the five litre beaker. It must have been an organo-chlorine compound because organo-phosphorus compounds are volatile. This procedure was carried out in a fume cupboard as these alcohol fumes are toxic. Then about 10 millilitres of carbon disulphide was added to the beaker, which was carefully rinsed with this solvent. This procedure was done under a hood, as carbon disulphide fumes are also toxic, but we were not heating this, so the fume cupboard was deemed unnecessary. On this second day more samples were being passed through the columns, so I always had about eight samples in the process of analysis. The whole was added to a standard graduated flask, and made up to a fixed volume, probably 25 mls. Then the final examination could be done. The impurity dissolved in carbon disulphide was added to a standard IR cell and examined for IR absorption. At a particular wavelength, this compound absorbed IR radiation, and the amount absorbed could be measured, by measuring the height and width of the absorption peak, using something called the base- line method. The area under the peak was estimated and the amount of the impurity in parts per million present in the original water sample could be calculated from this.

It was a peculiarly inefficient and wasteful method, but was the only one available in early 1960. In the meantime, in another lab in the Government Chemist better methods were being developed based on paper and gas chromatography. But for six months I continued doing routine analyses by the IR method.

It can be seen that chemical method in the 1960s were time consuming and labour-intensive. If I entered a lab today many more samples would be analyzed with far fewer staff. Though the basic principles are unchanging, methods have been automated by the use of the silicon chip.

Aunt Violet had become 60 years of age on 4th January, 1960 and had started drawing her pension. This seemed to make her better in health. Part of this was psychological. I think most older people felt better about drawing the state pension than about drawing social security, which Aunt Violet had been forced to do for the last nine years of what should have been her working life. Another thing which brightened her up was the fact that she now had a grandchild, Frances.

Frances was born on May 4th. Two weeks later, she was baptised, on a Saturday afternoon. I was invited to the baptism. One of Teresa's friends whom she had originally invited to be godmother was unable to come. I said that I would like to be godmother, and Teresa agreed. The small party set off for the church. I was required to hold the baby during the baptism. I think that this was the first baby I had held, and I was very inexperienced with them. The baby cried throughout the service, so loudly that I did not hear one word of the baptism liturgy. The oil and water were applied separately and at the correct times. Pouring the water over the head of the baby three times and saying the correct words are the only essential elements, and are used alone in emergencies. The normal liturgy in church with healthy babies is much longer, in order to emphasise the importance of baptism.

Frances seemed to be squirming about and slithering the whole time. Her mother took over and said that I was making the baby nervous by incorrectly holding her. I did not know what to reply to this. But Teresa had a feeding problem. She was breast-feeding and soon found the baby was not getting enough nourishment and had to supplement this with bottled milk. I cannot help thinking that the baby had been hungry while in church. As soon as we got home, Frances was fed and settled quietly in her cot. I believe that Leonard's cousin, Elizabeth, about 15 years older than Leonard, was also present, and her husband Robert. Elizabeth was 45 and had recently married Robert. She had no children and married too late for this, but was continuing her work as a secretary. Robert was a translator from the Japanese, doing mostly scientific translations.

Later in the afternoon Teresa felt ill, and had to go upstairs to lie down. Robert and Elizabeth took over the preparation of sandwiches, which Teresa had started, and Leonard thought how good they were. Teresa was unable to eat anything and did not come downstairs until late afternoon, when the washing-up had been done. She apologised and thanked Elizabeth and Robert for their work in the kitchen. I think we all stayed there for the evening meal. By this time Teresa's sickness had eased and she was able to join us. It had been a tiring, but exciting, enjoyable day for all of us.

I worked quietly in the physical methods lab until September. I had decided to do three months further study on the sandwich course and return to work at Christmas, as I found the frequent transfers unsettling and was anxious to get back to work.

The last three moths of my sandwich course was spent in doing as much organic chemistry as possible, especially preparing new compounds, known as synthesis. I was not very adept at this, and lacked the necessary experience, because unfortunately most of the instruction in this was concentrated in the last term's work each year, which people on the sandwich course missed. The sandwich course was not specifically tailored to our needs. We fitted into the degree course lectures, which were mostly attended by full-time students. Dr. Wyvill, our tutor, who was there specifically to deal with sandwich course students tried to fill in the gaps. He was a physical chemist. Thus the gaps in physical chemistry were well filled in. Inorganic chemistry was also well covered. But there was no-one available to fill in the gaps in our organic chemistry. Most of the students from the Atomic Energy Department were quite content with this, as their work was mostly unconnected with organic chemistry. I would have liked more organic chemistry, because I was a food analyst, and needed this to make progress in analytical chemistry. The gaps in organic chemistry meant that it was not easy for any of us to pass our exams in practical organic chemistry. Unlike theoretical knowledge, this could not be acquired by means of private study.

Just before Christmas I returned to work. I decided not to go back to the Polytechnic full-time, but still had a locker there, and was welcome to study in the library and work on practical chemistry at any time. The degree laboratory was never crowded in the evenings, and there was always a graduate research student there to give out "spots" and to tell us if we had succeeded in making a correct identification of the spot. Spots were either mixtures containing six inorganic radicals or a single organic substance.

Christmas 1960 passed quietly. I may have stayed with Eve and my father for Christmas. I did this from time to time. Here I met Mavis, Eve's sister. Eve and Mavis came from Yorkshire, and on one occasion Mavis cooked a typical Yorkshire meal for us, consisting of Yorkshire pudding with gravy as a separate dish, followed by roast meat and vegetables.

It was quite difficult to get to church in Colchester at Christmas time. I do not think my father and Eve managed this, though they had started attending the Church of St. James the Less on ordinary Sundays, going afterwards for a drink in the public house. My father continued to enjoy a glass of beer, but did not overdo the drinking, now that he was accompanied by Eve.


As soon as I had returned from the last session of the sandwich course, I was transferred to the pesticides division. I welcomed the opportunity to learn about new types of analysis. To start with I was transferred to a small section run by Dr. Webley. This was the first time I had met someone with a PH.D., as an immediate superior. Most of the food division staff managers were not qualified above B.Sc. in chemistry.

The pesticide division required more qualified staff, both for managers and among the routine staff. The lowest grade here was assistant experimental officer. There were no scientific assistants. I was now an experimental officer, and enjoying a huge increase in pay. Most of this I saved for the future; because I had been insecure financially until the age of 28, I was cautious. I think at this time I was earning about £1,000 p.a. This was a good salary in the year 1961.

In Dr. Webley's division we were engaged in analyzing samples of the pure pesticides. I think this was the most dangerous work in the division, because a spot of some of these compounds on the skin could be fatal. We wore rubber gloves when dealing with these compounds. Once diluted ready for analysis, they were less dangerous.

Dr. Webley was a good person to take charge of this type of work, because he never got excited about anything. Accidents were taken very calmly. He analyzed the most dangerous compounds himself. Some of these were akin to nerve gases. They were the volatile organo-phosphorus compounds.

Cholinesterase is an enzyme present in the body which aids the conversion of acetylcholine to choline. If this reaction is stopped completely the person dies, because then there is a fatal accumulation of acetylcholine, which is necessary in small amounts, but kills if present in large amounts. Acetylcholine is continuously produced in the body by other very complex reactions, which I have never fully understood. The Scientific Officer staff in the pesticide had the opportunity to make specialist study of this type of biochemistry, but this was not necessary for the analysts, whose main concern was to determine whether organo- phosphorous pesticide residues were actually present in the samples given to us. Most of this work was undertaken in another division, in the main lab just below Dr. Webley's small group of three rooms.

The building we worked in was called Cornwall House. I had been transferred there from the food labs, which were situated in the Main Government Chemist Building in Clement's Inn Passage. It was envisaged that the whole of the Government Chemist would eventually transfer to Cornwall House, but this had not yet happened. In the meantime we scattered in several buildings.

Organo-phosphorous insecticides are mostly cholinesterase inhibitors. They prevent cholinesterase doing its work of converting acetylcholine to choline. This was why they are so toxic, and cause rapid failure of the nervous system. There is no easily available antidote.

Organo-phosphorus compounds were widely used in agriculture and still are. They are not very stable, and disappear by the time the food is harvested, and it is hoped that the concentrations used are large enough to kill pests, but not large enough to kill birds and small mammals. It was one of the functions of the Government Chemist, and in particular the pesticide to give advice to farmers on these matters.

One day Dr Webley had a particularly toxic compound to analyze. I remember that it was called dimefox pronounced DI - ME - FOX (Di as in Diana, me and fox as in the common English words).

When I think about dimefox, it causes a "silent scream". In 1961 we had just heard about the book "The Silent Spring" written by Rachel Carson because of her concern over many small birds dying from insecticide poisoning. [Actually published 1962]. Would we wake up one day to silence, with no birds singing, because they were all dead? This was what our work was about - to prevent this happening, though as a Government Department, we got no publicity and were rarely mentioned in the newspapers. If mentioned in a serious way it would be at the end of an inside column, in small print.

In a scurrilous way, we had been mentioned.

"Civil Servants have been taking home enough paint to paint their houses" Chapman Pincher's headline screamed in a tabloid newspaper, such as "The Express". Since then I had never cared for this right-wing "Commie- hunter", even though, I believe he is in his later years supporting animal rights. This is a diversion; as I made clear before, analysts used sometimes to take home small paint, food, or other useful samples, which otherwise had to be thrown out after testing. After Chapman Pincher's diatribe, this was stopped and the samples were thrown out to be wasted, which benefited nobody.

Dr Webley's analysis of Dimefox was done entirely in the fume cupboard, but even so, I could see he was nervous of doing this analysis. Though it was a routine analysis handling this material was extremely dangerous. Dimefox was a highly volatile organo-phosphorous compound, which though classed as an insecticide, I think was used little in practice. The sample was in a tightly sealed aluminium flask, encased in a small wooden container, with a nailed-down lid. This lid was to prevent anyone opening it up through curiosity. It was hoped that the warning labels would be read before anyone removed the nails. I remember clearly Dr. Webley extracting the nails with pliers, then handling the flask in the fume cupboard and extracting samples into two identical beakers. The amount of phosphorus present was used as an indicator of the purity of the sample. This is theoretically a very simple analysis, and after Dr Webley had carefully recorked the flask, he proceeded with the analysis. This analysis was not an everyday occurrence, so Dr Webley was pleased to let me watch, while taking a break from doing my own samples on the bench.

He was evaporating both beakers, to which reactive chemicals had been added, until nearly dry, and adding more chemicals to them. In the course of this procedure one of the beakers tipped over, spilling about half the liquid. Dr Webley was devastated, and was nearly in tears. Usually he was a tight-lipped, rather dry person, though very pleasant to work for. He told me that the analyses had to performed that day without fail. He had already put this work off until the last minute. He was very unwilling to uncork the flask containing the highly toxic liquid again. If this vapour had escaped into the atmosphere of the lab, it would have killed us.

So he decided to proceed with the analysis marking one sample as correct, and the other as an "estimate". The estimate was obtained by doubling the result he obtained and calling this the "estimate". He was unhappy with this not very good procedure, which would not normally be allowed for ordinary routine samples. Nevertheless he proceeded. The results he got agreed tolerably well.

I felt highly relieved when he pronounced the work done!

Then he placed the sealed flask in its wooden box; got a hammer and nailed down the lid. I could not help feeling that this operation, though simple and unskilled was just as dangerous as performing the analysis. I worried about what would happen if one of the nails should accidentally pierce the flask. The image of Dr. Webley bending over and knocking away cheerfully with a hammer is one I have always retained. The box was then stored at the back of a steel cupboard, not to be touched and I did not see it again. At that time I did not worry about the eventual disposal of these dangerous samples.

I had made a few mistakes with pesticide solutions myself, though none of these were of the worst kind. I contaminated the environment slightly by pouring an unwanted solution of pesticide down the sink, instead of evaporating the residue in the fume cupboard, which Dr. Webley told me was the correct procedure, but these mistakes were comparatively minor, and certainly not fatal.

Meanwhile a new pesticide lab was being set up in the large room immediately below the floor on which Dr. Webley's lab was situated. There would be more sophisticated apparatus here, set up for the analysis of routine samples. When the preparations were complete new staff arrived. These were Marjorie Bland and Bernard Fleet. I was to come to know both these people very well, and retain friendship with Marjorie long after we had both left this lab.

There were two very long double-sided benches running the length of the room, fume cupboards and reflux apparatus along one long wall, and gas chromatographs along the opposite wall. Opening off the large lab was a small room for the senior supervisor, who was a Principal Scientific Officer. This was a very senior position. There were only two higher ranks in the service, that of Senior Principal Scientific Officer, and finally the Government Chemist himself.

The pesticide post was filled by Dr. Egan. He wore a short white coat. This was an unofficial designation of rank. But few Principal Scientific Officers bothered to wear them. Mostly they wore long white coats if still working on the bench, like the other staff. Or if they did entirely administrative they did not wear overalls.

I do not think Dr. Egan any longer did much bench work when he was our supervisor. The immediate supervisor was Mr Roburn. He did research into new methods, so when the gas chromatograph was first set up, spent a long time working on it. In 1960, the Experimental Officers like myself, Marjorie and Mr Fleet were not given a chance to use it. In March or April of that year I was transferred from Dr. Webley's lab to this main lab where I met Marjorie.

I have not said much about home life in 1960 because it was rather dull. On summer week-ends I sometimes visited Romford. One day I went to church on a Sunday evening with Leonard and his small daughter who was conveyed in a push-chair. Unfortunately, on the way home we had an accident. Leonard and I took turns to push the push-chair, containing Frances. I handed over to Leonard when halfway home from the church. He continued chatting to me. Unfortunately on ascending a kerb the pushchair went over and Frances fell out, cutting her forehead. He said that he should not have been talking to me so much. We went home very subdued. When we got home Teresa was upset and Frances had to be rushed to the hospital as she was bleeding. Luckily there was no serious damage.

I was using some of my annual leave to spend days studying practical techniques at the Polytechnic. But I saved two weeks for a holiday in August. I decided to go to Lourdes again. This was not such a successful trip as my first two trips to Lourdes in the 1950s, and it was to be my last foreign holiday for a very long time. It was supervised by a retired school-teacher, who said that she had taught maths, but was a fluent French speaker.

I guessed there was something odd about her, as in spite of the summer weather, she wore two long coats, one over the other. She was a stout woman, but this made her look even stouter. I asked her why she wore two coats, and she said that the outer one was to keep the inner one clean! There had been a little pamphlet handed to us about the small society which ran the pilgrimage, which was chiefly about the personality of the leader. The principal thing it said was that she never complained under adversity. On a previous trip we were told, all her spending money had been stolen by someone on the train and she had never complained. I thought this pamphlet was rather odd, especially as the woman kept on telling us over and over again about how someone had stolen her money on a previous trip. However her staunch woman friend, who was much quieter than the retired school- teacher, supported her strongly and kept telling the rest of us how good she was and how she never complained!

Admittedly the pilgrimage leader's strong point was her command of French and this helped us at stations, and on transferring to a hotel in Lourdes where she was able to engage taxis and porters and tell them where to go and what to do. Once in the hotel she grumbled again, as apparently she was not fit enough to walk round in the daily processions which is what Lourdes is all about. She also complained that no-one sat with her at meal- times and talked to her. Whereupon a small, nervous woman declared she would like to sit with her, but I believe her offer was refused. The lady pilgrimage leader was very eccentric.

After two days in Lourdes, half the pilgrims were departing for Fatima. The other half were staying in Lourdes. I was quite content to stay in Lourdes, which was the cheaper option. I enjoyed the daily ceremonies there and walking quietly through the town. Fatima sounded like being a very hot place in August, as it was in the middle of Portugal, while Lourdes was deliciously cool, being situated near the Pyrenees, in a valley which was just inside France, near the Spanish border. French was spoken here. We soon got to understand the main hymns in French, and were able to join in the singing during the evening torchlight procession. The tunes were well-known and very simple, so that even an unmusical person like myself could join in.

When I got back home, it was nearly time to take the Part Two examination for the Graduate Membership of the Royal Institute of Chemistry (GRIC), and all my evenings were given over to study, though I was no longer attending the Polytechnic.

In mid-September I took this examination which was gruelling. There were three days of theoretical exams, a three hour exam in each branch of chemistry, inorganic, organic and physical, on each of three consecutive days. The following week, we took a four day practical exam in the basement laboratory in Russell Square where the offices of the Royal Institute of Chemistry were situated. The practical exams were the worst ordeal. We started at ten o'clock and finished at three o'clock each day, with no lunch break. Sandwiches were allowed in the lab, but I did not take any. Eating wasted precious minutes, especially as hands had to be thoroughly washed before eating. On one day we were handling cyanide solutions in the synthesis of an organic compound. Even though the exact amount needed was placed in a measuring cylinder on each bench, so that there was no spare solution to create hazards, it was dangerous work. Partly because there were several different experiments to be completed each day, and some of these involved handling acids, which if mixed with cyanide produces a lethal gas.

However, students of the Royal Institute of Chemists were all workers, and had mostly been employed as lab technicians for many years before aspiring to become qualified chemists, which made most of us into very safety-conscious workers.

I thought that I had done quite well in the theoretical exam, but I doubted if I had passed the practical, as my organic chemistry was weak, and I found it very hard to hurry sufficiently to complete a full qualitative analysis of inorganic mixtures in a six-hour period. I was only confident of good results in my inorganic volumetric and gravimetric analysis, as I had not only had practise at classes, but much of my working life had been devoted to this type of work, and to much more complex analysis than was required in the exam.

It turned out that my prediction was true. At the end of October I was informed that I had passed the theoretical exam but not the practical. Earlier that year Mr Kirk had been informed that he had passed his practical but not the theory. Unfortunately passes in practical chemistry did not count alone. The theory had to be passed at the same time, which meant that Mr Kirk had to repeat his practical exam as well as his theory. The reverse was not true, so that I was credited with my pass in theory, and only required to repeat the practical. There were two opportunities in the year to take Royal Institute of Chemistry exams, May and December, so I resolved to take the practical again in December. When the polytechnic reopened in September, I attended most evenings, practising hard in the labs, trying to concentrate on organic analysis and synthesis in which I was weak. I also maintained my skill in the analysis of six-radical inorganic spots, and soon I was getting these absolutely right every time, and speeding up. I also became quite good at organic analysis, but never had enough practice in synthesis. But I thought I could pass on the next occasion.

In December, at exam time, I booked into a bed and breakfast hotel in Russell Square for three nights. This was not absolutely necessary, but I thought it would reduce the stress of travelling, and give me a better chance. There were many candidates staying in the small hotels around Russell Square, for many people came some distance to take the exam, although the Royal Institute of Chemistry did have other exam centres in various parts of the country.

On exit from the exam each evening I compared notes, and on the first day was pleased and invigorated because my result for the six-radical spot was exactly the same as someone else, so we both concluded that we had achieved a 100% correct result for the first day's work.

The inorganic analysis on the second day was easy. When I came out on the second day, I thought that even if I could get only half the organic chemistry right, it would be enough to achieve a pass. On the third day I thought I had done reasonably well though did not complete the whole of the organic analysis. On the fourth day I had to do two organic syntheses, and only succeeded in completing one of them, but thought it would be a pass. I came out quite well satisfied.

Christmas was approaching and I felt ready to enjoy it.


I started 1962 working full-time in the pesticide division. Marjorie and I did most of the routine work. Mr Fleet the Assistant Experimental Officer was still studying for his Graduate Membership of the Royal Institute of Chemistry. Mr Fleet often sat in a corner with his books, catching up on last-minute revision. He worked hard some days, but found routine analysis tedious, even though the methods were very complex. One day Mr Fleet devoted himself to building a meccano-like structure with clamps and rods to hold small flasks securely in the water-bath. Rather than do the routine analysis, he would find himself this kind of job. He was ten years younger than Marjorie and myself. He was fun to work with. Sometimes we visited a canteen in Somerset House which meant walking over Waterloo Bridge. When Mr Fleet accompanied us, we often had a long lunch hour and might be quarter of an hour late getting back. On other days we had a short lunch hour in order to complete the work. When I had not much private business, I would only take half an hour off for lunch. In the lunch hour I sometimes visited the local library to change books. There were no local food shops, so we could not use the lunch hour for shopping. It was dangerous to store food in the pesticide lab, and our clothes lockers in the corridor were small, so food shopping would have been incovenient.

Dead pigeons were our main object of study. They had been dropping dead in all parts of the country, because of the ingestion of pesticide residues, mostly the organo-chlorine pesticides, which built up in the body, until they reached a toxic level, enough to kill small animals. These pesticides were widely used by cereal farmers in Spring, and following our work which established that there were considerable pesticide residues in the bodies of the dead birds, the government advised farmers not to spray their fields at certain times of the year, or to use a reduced amount.

The actual work was very routine, and to begin with, Marjorie and I were using paper chromatography to determine the organo-chlorine residues, which was a long, tedious method. We worked very hard to complete our samples during each day.

In the months that followed Marjorie, who had a degree in zoology, was preparing to take her Part 1 in chemistry for the Graduate Membership of the Royal Institute of Chemistry. She was 34, the same age as me. It was a late age to be studying for a professional qualification. Unfortunately, most people, especially women, were not able to make full use of these qualifications if they gained them in their 30s by part-time study. This attitude among employers applied to men also. One man came into the class and said he would just continue in the same old job as an analyst, though he might be given the most complicated parts of the work. At 32, he said that the employers considered him to be too old for promotion. Then one day, he breezed into the chemistry lab at Northern Polytechnic where I happened to be working, and said "I've passed my Part 2 Grad. RIC."

I said, "Congratulations!. Now you'll be better off."

He said, "Well, I rather wished I had not passed the exam this year."

I was very surprised to hear him say this, and asked why.

"Well, I told you before that I did not think my employer would take any notice when I passed the exam. And it is true. He has not. And I have to continue working in the same old job. I liked having one day off per week from it, to attend the Polytechnic. But now I have passed the exam, I'll no longer be able to do this."

I felt very sad to hear this, and wondered whether I would feel the same way when I passed the exam. It was not the case that I wanted to continue attending the Polytechnic; the Government Chemist was a pleasant place to work. But I did want to be given a better grade of work. Research into new analytical methods, for example!

The Royal Institute of Chemistry. Founded 1877. Incorporated by Royal Charter 1885. This is the Certify that Joan May Martin has passed the Final Examination for Graduate Membership of the Institute. Granted this 16th day of February 1962. By Direction of the Council.

At that time, I was waiting for the results of my Part 2 to come in. When the letter came in February it informed me that I had passed. As was the tradition, we took a long lunch hour and all went to the pub together to celebrate, including Dr. Egan the Principal Scientific Officer. Luckily I did not have to buy the drinks. I think I had a drink bought for me, possibly a Babycham, which was very popular in the 1960s.

Sure enough, a similar thing to that which happened to my fellow student, happened to me. All I got was a letter of congratulation from the Deputy Government Chemist, but no prospects of promotion to the "Scientific Officer Class", which was composed mainly of people with science degrees with grades of upper second or first class. There was no offer of more interesting work for me, and not even any training in the newest methods of analysis which were just coming on-stream at the Government Chemist. So I decided to leave.

The difficulty with the Graduate Membership examination was that this qualification revealed no grades. A person gaining 100% of possible marks in the exam would receive exactly the same certificate as a person gaining a bare pass. However, it was possible for marks to be revealed to academic institutions like Universities, when they were considering candidates for research grants or research posts, but not to the graduates or to employers in commerce or the civil service.

The Royal Institute of Chemistry maintained that the qualification was at least equal to a second-class degree. Their pass mark was at this level. However, definite proof on paper was not given, and employers did not regard it as being as good as chemistry degrees, even third-class degrees, which were in fact inferior, and acknowledged by the academic world as inferior.

I applied to a Technical Teacher Training College for mature students. There were three of these colleges in the country; one was in London and one was in Bolton. I'm not sure where the other was situated. I fancied a change of scene , so I applied to Bolton. I thought that if I could obtain a job teaching chemistry in a technical college, I would be able to do research part-time. Little did I know that this course of action would not lead to any opportunity for research in chemistry, and would not even lead to a job teaching chemistry.

All that Spring and Summer I relaxed. I took up Legion of Mary work again. The Legion of Mary met in a wooden shed next to St. Joan of Arc Church. The Church was also pre-fabricated, and not large enough for the congregation. Land adjoining had been acquired, and the church was in the process of raising funds to finance the building of a larger church. Construction work had started.

The Legion of Mary's was not connected with fund-raising. Indeed the Legion always emphasised that it was a purely spiritual organisation, and could not offer any material help to anyone. However, it appeared that there was an indirect way of offering help to parishioners, as long as this did not involve money. One of the Legion's main functions involved visiting parishioners and asking them if they were attending Mass. If they were not doing so, we were asked to encourage them to do so, and offer any help needed.

The Legion of Mary meetings at this church were more informal than those I had attended in other churches. About twelve people attended regularly. They were all Irish except me. Mostly they were young, single women in their twenties. However the leader was a young man, and there was one woman, aged about 40. The Legion of Mary was open to all, but we found that married people rarely joined or remained members. Two evenings per week had to be devoted to Legion of Mary work. I do not think I ever kept this up for more than six months at a time.

On Tuesday evenings we had the Legion of Mary prayers. These were said round a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary arranged on a white cloth with a vase of flowers placed in front. There was a "secret bag" collection after prayers, and the money collected used to pay for small items such as fresh flowers for the meeting. We were supposed to have a Chaplain, and at other churches one of the priests used to attend. But in this church, the chaplain rarely attended. The prayers lasted half an hour; then we discussed business for an hour.

On Thursday evenings, we did two hours Legion of Mary work. This consisted in taking a few local streets, knocking on all doors and asking if any Catholics lived there. The older woman, called Eileen, usually accompanied me. We always did our Legion work in pairs, and women were not allowed to accompany men. This sometimes meant that three people of the same sex went out together.

At one house, Eileen and I met a young woman who asked us in, and told us that she had been a Legion of Mary worker for many years before she got married. She was holding her six-month son, Colin and said, "Now I don't go to Mass, and have no connection with the church."

When we asked why, she told us that her husband refused to look after Colin while she went out, and she did not feel able to take him to Mass with her. Eileen offered to look after the baby for an hour on Sunday mornings while the young woman went to Mass. She seemed mollified by this offer and agreed to go to Mass next Sunday, at 11 o'clock.

Eileen looked after the baby for the next three Sundays as arranged, while the woman went to Mass. Then the following week while we were doing the visiting, Eileen said that she did not feel able to do this unpaid baby-sitting any longer.

"I think it is an imposition and that Mary is taking advantage of me" she said.

Eileen had to do her full-time work, and her hours were long, then look after herself and do the Legion of Mary work, and she said she felt unable to continue helping Mary.

"Other mothers bring their babies to Mass," she said, "And I don't see why this young woman should not do so."

When we called at Mary's house Eileen explained that she felt unable to continue with the baby-sitting. I do not know if Mary went to Mass again.

I did other work for the church besides Legion work. I continued selling football tickets to raise funds for the church in my local street. I visited several more houses for this purpose.

That summer I also saw more films, both in local cinemas with Aunt May in the evenings after work, and at the National Film Theatre, where old classic films were shown. The National Film Theatre on the South Bank was nearly next to the Government Laboratory in Cornwall House, so I joined and saw a few films in the evenings after work. I was glad to have a rest after studying for examinations.

In August 1962, I handed in my month's notice ready to start the course at the Technical Teacher Training College in Bolton. The ease with which I was accepted with a grant for a year surprised me. After books and accommodation were paid for, this allowed most of us about £3 per week spending money. Married men were given support for the whole family. It surprised me because up to this time, I had never been given a grant for any study in chemistry. Books and fees for the course always had to be paid for; even when I was in very low-paid technician's jobs. At the Government Chemist I received sufficient salary to be able to pay for these things easily but in my early days it had been very hard. Receiving a grant at the age of 34 was agreeable; but it would have benefitted me even more in earlier years.

I gave up my tenancy of the London flat and for that coming year, had no fixed abode, only my room in college -in which I was not allowed to stay either for the Christmas or Easter holidays. However, I had arranged to stay with my cousin in Romford for Christmas.

The first term included 7 weeks of theoretical teaching and two 3-week periods of teaching practice. I found that I was allocated to two technical colleges on the outskirts of Manchester. One was in Bury, one in Eccles. I found that teaching A-level chemistry in these colleges was quite easy. I also had to teach one class to Part 2 of Grad RIC. I lectured on the hydrides of boron and other esoteric subjects and enjoyed it. The only low-level class I taught was a class of 15 year-old boys for O-level chemistry. These boys were all very subdued and nervous. Though I do not know whether I made much impression on these students, at least the class did not get out of order. We did not have to set homework.

In the college I was given a large bedroom with Pat and Barbara. I was 34, Pat was only about 27, and Barbara was 25, one of the youngest students of this college. As this was a college for mature students, who had to have several years previous experience at work in their chosen subject, the age range was 25 to 45, and there was nobody there under 25.

Pat came from Birmingham and was a sensible woman; I got on very well with her, and she became my closest friend at the college. She had a degree in pharmacology; was very intelligent; was a member of the Baptist Church. She was one of the most successful members on the course. She had worked for Parke Davis, where I believe she assisted with research on new drugs. When she concluded the course she obtained a post as a university lecturer in biochemistry and pharmacology, and I do not think anyone else on the course did as well as this. She had the advantage of youth, being 28 when the course concluded, yet had had a few years of high-grade experience. Most of us were not so well-qualified, and were older. The average age was about 30 to 35; the women tended to be younger, except for the experienced shorthand typing teachers. Two of these were 45, the maximum age. There were a number of women employed as secretaries approaching the maximum age of 45, who hoped to move into teaching. Edith was one of these and one of the few who was unsuccessful. She passed the exams; in fact I do not think there were any failures. After 6 weeks in her first teaching job Edith had to abandon it; she felt very unhappy standing in front of the class.

We were all sympathetic when we heard this; though at this stage I was one of the three people who had not been unsuccessful in obtaining any job. One unsuccessful person was a married man of about 35. There did not appear to be anything wrong with his experience or qualifications. The last time I spoke to him, he sounded desperate, but was spending the last of his savings going on a motoring holiday with his wife. We did not hear from him again, and I felt sad about his situation. He had worked hard, passed the exams with flying colours. But was qualified in science, and the truth became clear. Science teachers in colleges were not in short supply, though we had been lead to believe that they were.

We had a visit from Edith who had left college some months before, being on the previous intake of students, whose courses overlapped with ours. She had settled down happily as a secretary to a University lecturer in Latin.

Barbara was only 25. She had been a victim of polio when young and had one leg in irons, and was wearing a special shoe. She was fiercely independent. She was a student of engineering, the only woman on the engineering course, but she was brilliant, and obtained a high grade post teaching electrical engineering in a College of Advanced Technology to all- male classes.

After a few weeks in the room I shared with Pat and Barbara, I became very uncomfortable, and rarely got any sleep, as I felt too hot in bed. The fault was with the radiator which was on at full blast throughout the night. My bed was alongside this radiator. I asked to be transferred. There was no other vacancy in the regular rooms. However, the janitor of this building knew about a small room which contained an unused bath in one corner. It was an attic room and was just overhead the room where I had been sleeping. A bed was put in one corner, and I slept there for the rest of the first term. At Christmas some students were leaving, so there would be a chance of a vacancy in one of the regular rooms then. I retained my books in a shared study with Pat and Barbara as before. With this arrangement I was reasonably comfortable.

The teaching included lectures on the theory and practice of Piaget, Rousseau and Dewey. These were concerned with development of children, and how they learned, especially in early years. Some attenuated version of these ideas eventually became accepted as useful in teacher training. However, I do not think it helped us, because we were not intending to teach anyone under 16 years, or possibly 15 years of age. We were all hoping to obtain posts at technical colleges teaching up to A-level and Ordinary and Higher National certificates, or even some degree standard work; failing this, at colleges of further education, where the less advanced work was done. If we were exceptionally well-qualified, we might even hope to obtain posts in colleges of advanced technology, which was the new name for some of the old polytechnics. They did not keep this name for long; but changed back to being called polytechnics. Today they have become Universities. The names of these colleges has been changing continually. Most people think that a change of name will improve a college, but in my experience this has not happened. The old polytechnics had been teaching to degree level as long as I had known them, and continued to do so. However, with the new names, they sometimes abandoned their less advanced work, and transferred this to the colleges of further education.

I enjoyed the life at the hostel and the lectures in teaching method at Bolton Technical Teachers training college. The canteen where we had breakfast in the hostel was very pleasant. This was the only meal we took there. The men had to walk down from their hostel where there was no canteen to share these breakfasts. I remember the red plastic chairs well. I had not seen any plastic chairs as gay as these before, and I thought they were the beginning of a new, improving world. They reminded me of artificial tulips, and I thought this canteen was the best place I had ever eaten a meal in. The college canteen was equally relaxing. I enjoyed tasting Lancashire cheese for the first time.

At the college, we were seated on wooden benches, arranged in tiers for the larger lectures, which we took together with most other members of our year. There were always two years in the college at the same time. One group started in September, and the other group in January. I was with a September group. There were always a total of about 180 students in the college.

For smaller tutorials in teaching methods, the science students occupied a room the size of a classroom, where we numbered about 30. There were separate groups for engineering students, and for the group known as "Arts", who were mostly shorthand typists.

Science included biology, chemistry and physics. We did not have anyone teaching what were then less well-known subjects, like geology. I had an A-level in geology.

Engineering was divided into electrical, mechanical and production engineering. I had only a hazy idea what was meant by production engineering, and imagined men in overalls with spanners, standing in a very noisy factory. But the following year I was going to fall in love with a production engineer, named Edward. This was in the future, and for the time being was my head was full of work.

The arts side of technical teacher training consisted mainly of shorthand and typing, and any vocational skills which could be allocated to arts. The teaching of languages was not usually included in the syllabus of the technical colleges, apart from an occasional course in "Scientific" German or Russian, and in these courses literature was never studied. So I am not sure whether our Arts side was truly arts. Sociology and media studies was not taught or even heard about by us. No-one in technical teacher training colleges was trained to teach these subjects.

There was far more leisure in my life during the year of full-time study for teaching, than I had known previously. Wednesday afternoons were free, and the students were encouraged to take part in some club or hobby at this time. When I first arrived at college, some clubs, established in previous years were announced. There was a music club, an astronomy club and other such activities. These clubs were run wholly by the students, and if talks or lectures were given, these were prepared and given by the students. No staff were present.

As an alternative to the clubs, an afternoon walk through the countryside near Bolton was available on fine afternoons.

I looked at the list of clubs available, and decided to take the initiative and form a Christian club. I was surprised at my success. The time of the meeting was arranged for Thursday evenings. Rooms were available for clubs to meet any evening in the college, as well as on Wednesday afternoons.

Soon there was a core of ten or twelve people meeting regularly. We put on talks given by members. One of the first was entitled, "Should Christians support the Death Penalty?"

A talk on this subject was given by an earnest Methodist who opposed the death penalty, and I was convinced by his arguments.

There were several Catholics present, at our meetings.. One was called Mr French, who came from Northern Ireland, and began talking about the employment and housing injustices in his area. He deplored the fact that Catholics were just as unfair as Protestants when they were in charge on the Board of a local company or on a local council. In Protestant run enterprises, Catholics got few jobs, and no opportunities for promotion. The same applied to Protestants in Catholic run enterprises. We talked about ending this state of affairs, which in England was not experienced by most of us. In Lancashire where there were many Catholics, religion was not asked about by employers or housing authorities.

One of the lectures given by a Catholic member of the Christian society was about the "Holy Shroud of Turin". This was supposed to be an image of the face of Christ preserved from Biblical times. Though I was a Catholic, I was doubtful of the Shroud's authenticity. Most of the members whether Catholic or not were interested in discussing this question.

The dead sea scrolls had just been discovered and this was another subject of interest. Most meetings of the club were enjoyable, and by Christmas it was in full swing.

It would astonish people to know that in these days preceding the Vatican 2 Council, there was hesitation by Catholics in joining Christams Carol singing in the college hall just before the Christmas holidays. I decided that this was not a religious service, so was able to attend. This was one ofs the last events before the college broke up for Christmas, and was followed by a dance in the evening.

It was at these meetings of the Christian club that I met Edward, a production engineer. I did not meet him often socially in the normal course of events, as he was a local man, living in Manchester, and was a day student at the college. There was no need for him to stay at the student hostel. There were as many local people on this course, as residents. However, it was possible for a local student to be a resident if they wished. There appeared to be no shortage of accommodation. One of the residents was Celia who came from South Manchester. She was unfairly criticised for this by the domestic staff. They thought she should have stayed at home and travelled into college each day. Apparently her mother was ill and was presently in a nursing home. Celia was herself disabled and the criticism was very unfair. She had lost one leg in a riding accident and had a false leg. She walked very well, and no of us would have known about this, had she not told us.

Leonard and Teresa agreed to have me for the Christmas holidays. I slept downstairs in Leonard's work-room. There was not much room in their house, and I do not think it was very convenient for them to have me staying, so I decided that next Easter I would make other arrangements.


There was snow on the ground in early January in 1963. The small garden square which I crossed daily when walking from hostel to college was frosty and mantled in white. On the days when I was not at college, I was doing teaching practice at Bolton Technical College. I took the organic chemistry class for Higher National Certificate. The regular lecturer was reluctant to let me do so; he said that I could watch, and he would tell the teachers' training college that I was satisfactory. I said that this was not in order and insisted on teaching, after sitting in one of his classes and watching closely, and promising to follow his methods. I went home and practised imitating Dr. Davies. I said to myself that I would do more than imitate him; to his class I would "become Dr. Davies!" When I entered the class I did all that I could to follow his methods. Dr. Davies sat in on the class. I had not been watched before. I think that I succeeded, as reluctantly he confessed that he was satisfied. Nevertheless there was one- slip-up on my part, during the course of my three weeks of lectures.

There was one reaction which I put on the board, but told the class not to carry out during the practical session. The reaction produced toxic fumes of isocyanides; though this reaction could be safely performed if minute quantities of chemicals were used, I was not sure that the class would do the reaction safely.

Unfortunately the class carried out the reaction, from my theoretical notes. It was not mentioned on their practical sheets. Fortunately everyone was very careful, and used minute quantities, as I had emphasised the dangerous nature of the products of the reaction in my lecture. Nevertheless the nauseating smell of isocyanides soon filled the air. We had to open all the windows. Some highly toxic chemicals give warnings. Isocyanides stinks! Hydrogen sulphide stinks! Long before their concentrations reach danger levels. Unfortunately ordinary cyanides do not smell. I have not ever smelt them, during the infrequent occasions when I have had to use them. We kept cyanides out of all our labs in this college.

Afterwards, the regular lecturer told me that he did not mention the reaction at all, not even in chalk upon the board! This was his way of avoiding trouble.

At the Technical Teachers' Training College, half the students left at Christmas, mostly with good qualifications. I did not hear of any one failing the college exam; mainly because only students who had already obtained technical qualifications were accepted, so they were all previously experienced in the technique of passing examinations. There was a new intake of students. These would leave next December. My year would leave in July.

The winter term was busy. For the second three-week bout of teaching practise, I had to travel into Manchester to a College of Further Education. This was work of a lower academic standard than i had yet experienced; but entailed much more physical effort in dealing with the students. Most of these were craft technicians, such as male classes of dental technicians and female classes of 16-years olds doing a 2-year pre- nursing course. This was the most crucial teaching practise, being the last of my year which had to be assessed by two examiners. One of these was one of our college tutors; there was also an external assessor. They sat at the back of the class during my maths lesson for 15-year old boys. This class was very good, though rather nervous. They answered questions reasonably intelligently. I passed my assessment with good marks. Little did I know, that in a real job, I would not have such good classes; I had not yet experienced a rough class.

During the Easter holidays I took a temporary flat in Manchester. I had little luggage, only clothes and a few chemistry books. Most of my books I had left with Aunt Violet in London or in the college hostel, which though closed for the holiday was a safe storage place. My temporary flat belonged to a University student who had gone home for the Easter holidays, and was pleased for the landlady to re-let it temporarily, thus saving rent. The clothes and books of the student were still in the cupboards, and I took the flat on the understanding that I would not touch them.

I enjoyed my three weeks holiday in Manchester, and attended Easter services in St. Mary's Church; otherwise known as "the hidden gem". The church was in the High Street, between two shops with a very small frontage, so from the outside did not look like a church. Inside were marvellous Victorian carvings and stained-glass windows; the church was large and extended as far back as the large, adjoining department stores.

I also Visited St. Peter's Square and the huge Central Library. The Central Library was much more convenient than any library in London. Any Mancunian was entitled to belong to it, and it contained massive amounts of books on all subjects. There was a large amount of seating space for private study.

St Peter's Square had been the scene of Peterloo and was steeped in history, Edward had told me. I had not heard of Peterloo before, which had been a massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Victorian times by police or army. This was never mentioned in conventional history lessons during my schooldays - though Luddite riots and disturbances by Trade Unionists and Chartists had been mentioned, it was always in a general way without details of exact locations. But Manchester people knew about Peterloo. One day during the holidays I glimpsed Edward walking through this square, after coming out of the Central library.

The final term after Easter was enjoyable. We relaxed because there was no more teaching practise. We had to attend lectures, complete our project, which was a 5,000 word essay on a technical subject and enjoy some social life. The weather was good so I usually went out on Wednesday afternoon walks with other students in the countryside around Bolton. These walks were most popular with day-students who lived in Manchester. Edward was often there. A young woman called Enid usually came. She was 25, very quiet and had a very casual attitude to her studies. She never attempted the 5,000 word essay on a technical subject and got away with it!

My friend Pat had become engaged to Joe Bainbridge, who was the same age as her and also in the science group. He had formerly been a chemist, but had been successful at a recent interview for a Grade B lectureship in physics in Wrexham. ThIs was probably his sixth interview. He was reluctant to move to the South of England and had been unable to get a Grade B post in chemistry in the North. The B.Sc. in chemistry had included study in physics to above "A" level but not up to the standard of a physics degree. Yet a Grade B post in physics involved teaching some physics to degree level. When I asked Joe how he would manage, he said that he would keep just one lesson ahead of his students. He agreed that he would have to put in some very hard work to do this, but thought he was lucky to obtain a well-paid Grade B post in North Wales. Pat and Joe married that summer, put down the deposit on a house and moved in very quickly.

I had about 6 interviews for Grade B posts in chemistry, but had not gained an appointment during my third term. In desperation, I applied for a Grade A post in a College of Further Education in Manchester and obtained this post. It was not so well paid as a Grade B post, but this was not my main concern, as the money was almost equal to my salary at the Government Chemist.

My main disappointment concern was the fact that the post included no chemistry teaching, even at "O" level. There would be general science for pre-nursing students. These courses contained little chemistry; maybe a lesson devoted to preparing blue copper sulphate crystals. A whole lesson devoted to the clinical thermometer would have been most suitable, but I had little experience of preparing lessons at an elementary level, and always tried to cram too much into my lectures.

In the summer holidays I tried to prepare lessons for "O" level physics. I found this very difficult. I had some "O" level text books but no syllabus or schedule of lessons had been given to me. I found it difficult because I had never studied physics or chemistry at "O" level myself, but had started directly on "A" levels at evening classes, helped by the considerable experience I had already had as a lab technician. I modelled my lessons on those I had received in the past at evening classes, which meant that I included far too much subject matter in one lesson.

Meanwhile I rented quite a nice flat in Whalley Range and had eight weeks holiday ahead of me.

It was during this period that I went out with Edward twice. On the first occasion he bought me a tin of chocolates to take home. I kept the tin for a long time afterwards. I had been impressed with Edward's devotion to the church and thought he must be a very good man. On the last occasion I saw him he visited the flat in Whalley Range for tea.

However, he said that he must say good-bye now. He had no intention of ever getting married and lived with his brother and nephew in an all-male household. When I asked him the reason for this he informed me that his brother's wife had left him, and the brother had had to bring up his young son on his own. The son was now aged 15. They formed an agreeable all- male family, and Edward said he wished to keep it this way, as he did not trust women. So I said good-bye to him, regretfully and occupied the next three weeks in partially redecorating the flat. I bought some new wallpaper and repapered the kitchen, which had been left in a very bad state. I repapered one wall of the living-room, and believe that it was only this new paper which was holding up the plaster.

The flat looked like the best I had ever had. The sun streamed into it. The kitchen was separate, not big enough to eat in, as it was long and narrow, but there was a good gas stove in there.

While I was spending much time alone in the flat, waiting to start work, I talked to a few other tenants. These were mostly elderly women, living alone. There was an elderly woman living in one room, who seemed rather badly off. On my gas-stove, I made a large steamed pudding. It was the first one I had ever made; I had never had time to make cakes or puddings, or the facilities to make them during my working life. I was following a recipe in a book, and was rather surprised when the pudding turned out successfully and proved to be good to eat. Thinking I was doing the elderly woman a good turn, I offered her half the pudding. She seemed very reluctant to accept it, but eventually did so. I suppose she enjoyed it, but she was not very anxious to talk to me, so I left her alone.

I tried to prepare some lecture notes for general science lessons, but got rather upset, because I did not know exactly what I should be doing.

Unfortunately the Head of the College never gave me any assistance, and later on I always found when I asked him about anything, he always said, "It is up to you". Or, "It is your responsibility".

In the meantime I had kept in touch with several of the Bolton graduates, including Audrey, a shorthand typing teacher and a Christian, aged 45. I visited her in St. Annes on Sea. She lived alone in a house with a pleasant garden, gave me tea, and told me about her next-door neighbours, who were having great difficulties in life. I saw these neighbours, who were two sister living together. One of the sisters was gardening; the other was crawling on her hands and knees, following her around. The sisters did not work. One was intelligent , fit and well, but had to devote her life entirely to looking after her sister, who was mentally handicapped, now aged about 40, but unable to look after herself.

Audrey spoke to the elder sister and asked how she was getting on.

"All right", she said.

I felt very sorry for her, as Audrey said that the handicapped sister followed her round all the time, and she never had any leisure, or a chance to get on with any work in peace. In these circumstances it was a miracle to see how tidy the garden was kept.

"At least the sisters are not short of money, " Audrey said. Otherwise it would be even harder for Ellen, the older sister, who did the caring.

I also visited Celia, who lived with her brother in South Manchester. Celia had not obtained a shorthand and typing teachers' post. She was considering teaching English to children, but was dubious about whether she could do this, as she was 45, unmarried and had not had any experience with children. It appeared that a substantial number of graduates from Bolton were doing badly, and wished they had remained in their old jobs, and never thought about teaching.

I visited Pat and Joe in Wrexham, and stayed for the week-end in their new house. All the furniture and kitchen equipment was new, except for the gas-stove, which was second-hand. Pat was very proud of her non-stick saucepan. These were just beginning to appear in the shops, as a new invention, and I had not seen one before. When I helped with the washing-up after breakfast, Pat emphasised how gently I should wash out this special saucepan. It was expensive and she did not want it scratched.

I phoned Aunt May in London and asked her to visit me in Manchester. Aunt May was about 64, and said she thought she was too old to travel, but I persuaded her to make the trip. When she got to Manchester, She said she liked the flat and thought it was the best place I had yet occupied. She stayed overnight and went back the next day. She enjoyed the meals I cooked for her on the gas stove, which was in good working order.

Not all my visitors liked the flat, but Aunt May who lived in one room in the basement at her employer's house would have liked a place of her own like mine.

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Copyright Joan Hughes 1993-1997. Published with permission.