Fate Steps In

The University of Liverpool was housed in The Victoria Building which was completed in 1892. It was a red brick building that my Professor Allison Peers named The Redbrick University, because it was the first of its kind. The Department of Hispanic Studies was very small. It trained students for an honours degree in The Faculty of Arts which took four years to complete.

When I went up in 1947 the total number of students in all four years was about forty. Our lecture rooms were at the very top of the building. We all had to climb a spiral staircase. The steps were made of stone and very hard on the legs and feet. Young as we were, few of us could get to the top without at least one pause to take breath.

I was in the first year; one woman with seven men. Did I make friends with them? No. Not really. I had not yet learned the art of getting to know other people. Not only that, we did not share the same interests despite the fact that we were doing the same course. I was back to my situation at school.

I had some doubts that I had chosen the right subject. It was possible to change it after the first year, but I could not think of anything else I wanted to do.

At all universities there were lots of groups to join. I tried one or two of them and turned them all down except The Spanish Society. We met occasionally for social purposes and sometimes a visit and short talk by someone associated with our subject. For one year I was the one who made the sandwiches and tea and welcomed the visitor in Spanish.

The Students’ Union arranged all sorts of diversions, dances and day-trips out, usually into Wales which was so close and full of beautiful landscapes. I went to most of them. Right from the first day I had noticed one particular man who was in the third year. He was one of those who had completed one year at university and had returned to finish his degree after five years in the army. He reached the rank of Captain. I was impressed by his kindness and courtesy when we had our meetings together, especially to several old people who were parents of some of the students.

At the top of the stairs there were always a few people leaning against the steel rail, chatting together and watching other students appearing, taking a breather as they waited for their lecturers to arrive. Robert Pain was often there on his own. There was something about this young man that intrigued me. He seemed to be more like me than like most of the rest. It took a while before the penny dropped. I suddenly realised that when I got to the top of the stairs he was always there. He was interested in me. At last he spoke.

“Would you like to come out to dinner with me?”

I was astounded. This was the first time such a question had been posed to me. Would I like to have dinner with him? What could I say but “Yes”. I would love to be taken out to dinner for the first time. Never did I think for a moment that he would be my husband. I was still at the stage when I was doubtful whether or not I should marry. But I also wanted to have an intelligent boyfriend.

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