In My 70s.
These stories were written in the late 70s when, as a mature student, I was following an MA course in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. I was lucky enough to have as my tutor one of the founders of the course, Professor Malcolm Bradbury.
Now in my early 70s I’ve re-read these pieces and feel that they reflect some of the concerns of women at that time – sexual politics, independence, relationships, family life – which are still relevant now.
The first story, Plait, is set in the 19th century: The Cat’s Whiskers in the 1970s.
I hadn’t wanted to go to Luton market, but my brother and his wife insisted. Mrs Hunt had loaned them her carriage so that the three of us might travel in comfort and it would be a slight to her generosity if I stayed behind. I had only been at the vicarage a short time but I had made Mrs Hunt’s acquaintance and knew the power she enjoyed in my brother’s parish. So I let myself be carried off, though much against my will.
I was annoyed to find that on our arrival I was expected to sit with Esther in the carriage while James planned to saunter about. Esther looked put out when I insisted on going with my brother. But she soon smiled again when I said I wanted to see everything so that I could describe it all to Tom in my next letter. Esther would soften at the least mention of either of my children. She and James had none of their own.
Click here to read more of Plait.
THE CAT’S WHISKERS
Her mother came into the bedroom carrying a large, flower-decked hat, and stopped short in surprise.
‘Why Jennifer, you look really nice.’
Jen laughed at her.
‘Oh, I didn’t mean to sound rude,’ said Mrs Davidson. ‘It’s just that you usually wear such odd clothes, dear. That’s pretty, though – a lovely blue.’
Jen surveyed herself in the full-length wall mirror. Her father had fixed it up years ago, when this was her bedroom and not just the guest room. Her mother, hovering behind her, tweaked at the long skirt to give it a trailing effect. Then she stepped to one side with an approving look.
‘And what sort of hat are you wearing, dear? That dress really needs a wide-brimmed one to set it off.’
Click here to read more of The Cat’s Whiskers.