Olden Times

An old friend – someone I haven’t, in fact, seen since 1991 – recently posted some ancient snaps to facebook, including some of me.


My first reaction was, predictably, “Oh my god, we were so young. What happened to her?”


Then, “Gosh, those boys were good friends. We certainly had some fun. And I really did love him, my first ever boyfriend.”

[That’s him, sitting next to me on the boat in the photo above, in the sunglasses. His name is Iain.]

“Oh wait, that weekend on the boat on the Broads, wasn’t that the weekend I lost my virginity? Yes, it was. I’m glad we lost our virginity to each other. It was romantic and comic at the same time. And very probably tragic, too, come to think of it.”

We’re still in touch although he now lives in the USA with his American wife and two beautiful children and has edged further towards the political right (which tends to happen to the children of armed forces families). His facebook status updates occasionally make me cringe because of their homophobic or racist undertones.

But still, at 17, he was a kind, gentle and sexy sweetheart. I was lucky.

It was 1990 and I was 17 years old. I had spent 8 years at an all-girl’s boarding school with a serious military bent (all the girls’ parents were in the armed forces, bar one, whose Dad was the local vicar), before attending this school which was mixed, for two years.

I remember being nervous before I started – mostly about what I should wear since the all-girls school had a uniform whereas the mixed college didn’t – and it took a good year before I was at all comfortable talking to the boys. But now, I look back and remember them most clearly.

I wish I were still in touch with Tim. That’s him, below, in the blue shirt and cardi (all the boys wore cardis, it was the cool thing. And they all had that ridiculous floppy fringe and short back and sides). Tim was my favourite, after Iain.


The boys all went skinny dipping off the boat later that night. I have a fond memory of a row of white bums against the rail as they counted down to their jump… And not one of them mentioned the blood on the sheet. Amazing how tactful 17 year old boys can be.

I miss that girl. She was blithe and bonny, way back then. Would I trade all my experiences and hard-won knowledge of myself to go back and try my adult life all over again? Yes. In a fucking heartbeat. And I’d do it all differently.

I know one is not supposed to say that, but I really would.

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11 Responses to Olden Times

  1. modestypress says:

    I’m feeling very sentimental tonight after viewing and reading your blog tonight. Turning into an old softy, I am.

  2. woo says:

    Yup, it made me rather sentimental, too. I was surprised that any photos from that far back survived, frankly – other than family ones. Its nice to think that our friendship meant as much to at least one of the chaps as it does to me, in that he kept those photos and took the trouble to scan them in and upload them.

  3. azahar says:

    Isn’t that lovely?

    Recently a couple of things have “taken me back” and I could even distinctly feel how I felt way back then for awhile … and yeah, a mix of gratitude and sadness came along with that. Sad that I know I will never be able to feel like that again, but glad that I once had and grateful for the few moments I was “that girl” again.

  4. It’s not often that I read about a broken hymen and think, “Oh, that’s so very heartwarming,” but this was, in fact, just such an occasion.

  5. modestypress says:

    David’s comment is so wonderful.

    If David and I had been in England at that time and around you, we would have had to fight a duel with swords over you.

    Each of us would have stabbed ourselves in the struggle.

  6. OmbudsBen says:

    Yes. In a fucking heartbeat. And I’d do it all differently.

    Wouldn’t it be fun if we all got a second round to accumulate new experiences–and new regrets? I wonder which version I’d prefer? Wait–in the second go-round do you get to know about the regrets you had from the first? I suppose so, otherwise it’d turn out the same.

  7. woo says:

    azahar – yes, its extraordinary how a few faded old photos can take you right back. Emotional memory is pretty long, I think. At least, mine is.

    David – I have no idea if ‘the first time’ is as important for boys as it is for girls, but I assume it must be – even without the breaching of the physical barrier part. 😉

    Mr Random – Oddly enough, at the time of those photos I was fencing for my county, so I would have been able to coach both of you and hopefully prevent any such sword-based accidents.

    Ombudsben – oh, we’d have to know about the regrets the second time around, so we could weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether to get ourselves hurt all over again or not!

  8. doctordi says:

    I was about to say something sniggery about not crossing swords, but then I got sidetracked by your fencing cred, Woo – wow! I absolutely love the idea of fencing – have never done it, but love the concept, gear and vocabulary of the sport.

    I’d go back and avoid some major mistakes if I could, no question. But thanks to this wonderfully endearing trip down memory lane, I’m feeling a little misty-eyed for the days when I was hellbent on making them.

  9. woo says:

    doctordi – sometimes I really miss fencing. It was incredibly hard, physically, (fencers are astonishingly fit) but I enjoyed that it was as much about speed and strategy as about strength. ‘Course, its also about astronomical insurance premiums… 😉

  10. doctordi says:

    I can imagine all of that.

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