The call to place: Hampshire

Anabel and Becky, Winchester 2018

Last week, I left you with a bit of a riddle. I said I would soon be off for a short break to the south coast of England with John who was visiting a university in a city where I lived briefly as a young woman. I also told you that it was near the home of a blogging friend whom I was going to meet, and invited you to guess where and who. By the time my scheduled post was published, that meeting had already taken place. The university was Southampton and the blogger was Becky who lives in nearby Winchester, when she’s not in the Algarve, and writes at The life of B and It caught my eye in Portugal.

Becky and I had been discussing a meetup for some months, envisaging that we would both travel to somewhere in-between our homes, but John’s trip was too good an opportunity to miss. He’s a regular, if infrequent, visitor to Southampton and I’ve wanted to accompany him for years, long before I knew Becky. Somehow, it never worked out, but this visit was on a Monday allowing us to make a weekend of it. Why was I so keen?

Let me take you back 40 years to 1978. I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Sheffield and hoping to study Librarianship at postgraduate level. To do this, you had to have a year’s experience working in a library. At that time, many councils and universities had Graduate Trainee posts which allowed you to experience all aspects of library work. I applied for several and accepted the first one I was offered – Hampshire County Council. I thus spent four months each working in Southampton, Winchester and Farnborough. Apart from one short visit a couple of years later, I’ve never been back until now. What would be different? What had stayed the same?

I have very few photographs of that time. Forgive the quality of this one, scanned from an old slide, which shows me standing outside Southampton Central Library in the autumn of 1978. My very first library job. Could I replicate this picture?

Anabel in Southampton, 1978

We had a wonderful weekend searching for the answers to these questions. On Saturday, we met Becky in Winchester. I can report that she is an excellent tour guide, and I’m very grateful to her for taking a few hours out of her busy schedule to show us around. On Sunday, John and I took a walk through Southampton’s Old Town and on Monday, while John was working, I did some more exploring myself and hunted down some old haunts. Full posts on Southampton and Winchester will appear in due course*.

As for my year in Hampshire, it passed very quickly and in October 1979 I returned to Sheffield to study for my MA. While there, I met John as I’ve already described in a previous post. He had another year to go on his PhD in Sheffield, but I was going back to Hampshire. Part of the traineeship arrangement was that I (and 5 other trainees) would work for the council for at least two years after university. The library would save up librarian vacancies during our year out and slot us in when we returned. However, in May 1979 a Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher had been elected and all the talk was of cuts, cuts, cuts. Much like now.

In the early summer of 1980, Hampshire wrote to say they had no librarian vacancies but would appoint returning trainees to library assistant posts and we would all have to compete for anything better that came up. This was a blow. When I told John, he said “You could write and tell them you’re getting married and don’t want to come back.” What! This was the first time the M word had been mentioned between us, so I took it as a proposal and, well, here we still are.

I didn’t actually say that to Hampshire, but I suggested that, as they were obviously having difficulty finding jobs for us all, it was in everyone’s interests if I applied elsewhere. Luckily, I got a job in Nottinghamshire – much nearer Sheffield! But I did wonder as I toured Winchester last week what our lives would have been like if I had gone back.

Many of you will know Cathy who has created several blogs over the years but is now settling down as ~wander.essence~. She’s revamping her approach to travel writing and is encouraging us to do so too. One of her challenges is Call to PlaceI invite you to write a 700-900 word (or less) post on your own blog about what enticed you to choose a recently visited or a future particular destination. I’m linking this post to that invitation – Cathy’s own most recent call to place is to the Four Corners area of the USA. Follow the link to find out more.

*See:

How we met

21st March 1981. The minister is my Dad.

It was our wedding anniversary last week. I celebrated in Glasgow, and John celebrated by flying to China on business. Oh well, we’ve celebrated a few anniversaries already (36 of them, mostly together) and hopefully have quite a few more to come, so I’m not complaining. Too much.

Last year I mentioned our anniversary in my March Gallivanting post, and had originally included a section on how we met. As the post grew longer and longer, I had to cut it out. I think this year’s March post might be a long one too and, as I have nothing else written for this week, here’s that section now.

How we met

Anabel and John, March 81

In autumn 1979 I went to Sheffield to do my Masters in Librarianship. I moved into a student flat in Victoria House which I shared with four other young women: two more postgraduates and two first-year undergraduates. We felt quite sorry for the first-years, who seemed to have nothing in common, and decided they needed more friends. We were thinking female and their own age (18 – we were looking down at them from the lofty height of 22). Between us, we leafleted all the flats in the block inviting people to meet in our kitchen to set up some social events.

What we didn’t know was that our flat was not typical and, apart from us and two women downstairs, the occupants were all men. Postgraduate men. As our kitchen filled up with them I answered the door to the last arrival. Readers, I would have been astonished to know it, but this was my future husband. However, I can report that my very first thought was “Oh no, not another old man!” Not a promising start.

After a bit of discussion, our large group of men and a few women hit the nearest pub then dispersed in smaller groups to various other destinations, the local curry-house in my case. I didn’t see John again that evening and, apart from the odd hello when passing on the stairs, didn’t speak to him again all term. He admits to a flicker of interest but noticed that I had a boyfriend already.

By January that relationship was over. One evening, my flatmate and I returned from the cinema to find John and his friends had tied climbing ropes to their balcony and were abseiling down the building. (This photo of me on the balcony outside our kitchen gives you some idea of how it worked. There were three floors, we were on the middle one and John was immediately above.) Conversation ensued, and we were invited to a concert the following night for which John was doing the “on-stage visuals” (remember this was 1980, it meant he was operating the slide projector). We became friendly as a group,  John and I soon became a couple and we got married the following March.

Romantic? I think so! Let me know in the comments if you have a better story.

On being 90

Last month, we celebrated my Mum’s 90th birthday. Here, she describes the weekend on her own blog.

It was always sunny

Chris Mitchell 90thOn the 21st October 2016 I became a nonagenarian. When I was a wee girl I was very proud to have been born on Trafalgar Day, which in these far-off times was celebrated widely. I was also exactly six months younger than Princess Elizabeth of York, which pleased me when I was old enough to know. When I began to feel I might make it to ninety I had a trawl through the internet to see who, apart from Nessie and Nancy, Paisley Methodist friends, might be sharing the occasion. There were quite a lot, most of whom I’d never heard of, but two appealed to me.

John and I were tremendous fans of the first and had a great admiration for him. He is now regarded as a National Treasure, not surprisingly. He opened our eyes to the wonderful wildlife in many places in the world which few of…

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3 Day Quote #3: Dad

John Mitchell 1929-2015
John Mitchell 1929-2015

To a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter. -Euripides, playwright (c. 480-406 BCE)

I subscribe to Anu Garg’s A.Word.A.Day email – every day a new word defined with examples of usage and a (usually unrelated) quote at the end. This one jumped out at me on 15th June. Why? A couple of weeks before, on 31st May, my dear Dad died and I hoped the quote was true. I wanted to pay tribute to him on this blog somehow, and La Sabrosona‘s challenge allows me to do that.

Dad would have been 86 on July 3rd and had been a minister and a preacher for over 60 years. When he gave up preaching a few years ago I started a blog with him, and to mark his birthday I posted his obituary, as written by his friend and colleague Wes Blakey. If you want to know more, head over to John Mitchell – called and sent. But this IS a travel blog, so I thought I’d celebrate Dad’s life with some childhood photos of us having fun at the seaside and in the country. I’m the big sister. And check out our Harry Potter-style Ford Anglia! I can still remember its registration, 823 LPP.

So thank you once again to La Sabrosona for her nomination. I find that these challenges can be valuable if they make you think. They can encourage you to post something you wouldn’t normally write about, or maybe to tackle a subject from a slightly different angle. However, as before, I’m not passing the nomination on to specific bloggers although I encourage anyone who has quotes to share to take part. You are all stars!