Settling in to Kent.
Betty had long since retired but was still very active. Freed from work she was free to travel to her friends in term time as well so I was freed from having to spend the holidays travelling and could go back to making more of my own work.
Betty went to visit her many friends in America, I knew them all because they often came to stay in Stevenage. Her main friend was Barbara Graves, who had directed relief work in Germany. Barbara had a keen wit and was always good company. She had a distinguished career, in America later in her life. I discovered today that she lived to 104 and only died last year.
Barbara Graves celebrating her 100th birthday
Now I was going to move, Betty who didn’t have much money (due to the amount of time she had spent in her life working without pension rights) decided to move with me, I owed it to her as I had so much time sharing her life.
We came down to Canterbury to look for a house, preferably by the sea because we knew it was close by. We were going to look at Whitstable and Herne Bay, the nearest seaside towns to Canterbury. We came to Herne Bay and were first drawn to a semi-detached house on the Downs. Then we learned that there was a serious subsidence issue. We went back to the centre of the town and sat on the sea front next to the bandstand to eat our sandwiches. Just behind us was the most handsome Regency type terrace house, with a curved front. We kept looking at it. The owner, a retired diplomat, was in the garden tending his roses, he could see our obvious interest and invited us in…well that was it, I was in love with this house. It was way beyond our price range but a dear friend gave me an interest free loan. We didn’t decide right away I had two more friends, husband and wife, that were renowned architects, Mary and Michael Medd, I showed them the details, the husband said don’t go near it with a barge pole, it will cost you a fortune to keep up, and the wife said go where your heart leads you. Naturally I followed the wife! It is true it does take a lot of upkeep and of late I haven’t cared for in the way that I should. I’m not including a photograph for obvious reasons.
I love this house and after all these years I still can’t believe that I have the fortune to live here. I still see people stopping to admire the whole terrace. I have now lived here longer than I have ever lived anywhere. We moved here in 1978. The removal men weren’t best pleased when they realised that a baby grand had to be taken upstairs. We didn’t have enough furniture,. so I spent some of the summer holidays going to auction houses, mainly the one in Herne Bay, buying the bits and pieces we needed cheaply. One wonderful thing for me was the amount of apace, excellent for setting up a studio.
When my colleagues asked me where I was going to live and I said Herne Bay, they threw up their hands in horror. ‘Herne Bay, nobody lives in Herne Bay’ From my point of view how wrong they were, I have always loved living here even when the town was grottier than it is now. After you have lived in a New Town, where absolutely everything is new, you long for something more age worn, somewhere that has been inhabited by other people before you. To be able to get home after work and walk along by the sea to the Kings Hall and beyond was a rare pleasure.
To hear the sea, listen to the swarms of Kentish Plovers on the tide line, to be aware of the spring and ebb of the tide brought a very real sense of continuity.
My studio at college wasn’t as big as the one I had been used to, but it did have the advantage of my tutorial room leading off from it (at Hockerill it had been in another block). The building was modern of course. The previous textiles lecturer had retired, she was a colourful and much loved person and of course you never feel that you can possibly fill their shoes…of course you can’t you are bringing new shoes that are bound to pinch a bit to start with until they get worn in.
Like most lecturers I went in well before term started, to get ready and in my case to find everything, and take stock of what I had and what I needed. I used to go into town at lunch time, and oh, the thrill of being able to go out of the main entrance, cross the road and enter the cathedral close via the Quenin Gate, it was just glorious, I had to keep pinching myself to believe I was there. It is very different now.
War Memorial Garden inside the Queningate.
One thing remained the same, I was the only female with two (somtimes three) men. They never quite treat you as equal there is always some (probably unrealised by them) putting you down. To start with there was also a male technician not that I was ever allowed to use him or later, her.