Even forty plus years ago, people rushed, (power walking, as we would say today) to work across Putney bridge. Not so much lycra clad but wearing trainers and nylon track suits with Nike ticks. Oblivious to visiting girls on training courses, they squeezed the obligatory Mr Motivator or Jane Fonda’s suggested amount of exercise into their day. All the while plugged into a personal tape player; an early mobile distraction.😄😃😂
I was fifteen on my first adventure to The Olive Brown’s school of beauty, where I took the Revlon Manicurist’s course. My first journey on a train alone. From rural Berkshire to London. From a niave girl to sophisticated young woman.
There were many firsts ticked off in those three weeks. My first, first, was a carriage full of dark-skinned men who laughed and spoke in a way I’d never heard. The first time I looked at the underground map but couldn’t find any coloured tracks … surely if it shows a red line the track it stands to reason, the tracks would be painted red …
I tapped the arm of a uniformed man with a shock of grey hair. My chin dropped when he turned, another face as black as can be showing perfect dazzling white teeth. His jovial demeanour and beautiful smile; chased away any fear. Being lost in London, terrified of being impossibly late and wondering if It would be better to just go home; vanished with his kindness.
My first lesson in how to look ‘chic’ came crashing in at the first class. I was used as an example of how not to dress. Red-faced I stood before a sophisticated collection of Young women, it was painful, almost more than I could bear.
My first trip to Selfridges, my first makeover quickly followed by my first glass of Mead. I experienced my first hangover and my first and last unexpected unwanted grope by a stranger. My first excursion to a club, where cage dancers were stunning. The beautiful people with no inhibitions seemed like fun, with their magazine fashion looks and money to buy anything. Yes, I learned more than how to beautify peoples nails on that first adventure.
Lessons learned in the first four days were crucial, even pivotal, in my life. Those lessons stayed forever. Lessons engraved into my soul.
1. Skin colour is not a measure of the man.
2. Sophistication does not automatically bring Kindness.
3. I know how to get around London using the underground better than most … above ground is another matter.
4. Never get in the path of exercising tracksuit wearing commuter on Putney bridge, unless you can seriously swim!
5. Do not .. ever drink Mead.
6. Never lean in to hear what the man is whispering to you while in a nightclub.
7. Raising my knee with speed, while being held close to a persistent man will make him wince and buy me time.
8 I am an excellent runner when I need to be.
9. I am as good as anyone and better than some.
10. Though qualified, a manicurist position is not for me.
11. I have more to fear from ignorance than anything I may encounter.
12 . Travel is a great way to get educated and have adventures.
13. Nightclubs and the gamut of substances found within, don’t hold any attraction for me.
14. All is not always as it seems.
15. The Brownie leader was right! Being prepared is the best way.
14. Fascinating people come in all shapes colours sizes and creeds.
15. Makeup and expensive clothes will not change the you you are inside.
16. The memory of a pale pink suit with contrasting baby blue rick rack, purchased by my fifteen-year-old self in Selfridges, will be remembered … even when I reach the ripe age of sixty.
The photo of Putney bridge is on loan from the independent newspaper, and the rest are free photos from Pixabay.
Do you remember your first learning curve into maturity? I would love to hear, drop me a comment I love to chat.