It was September 1966 and I was sixteen. I had left school and was working in an office. I started out in the traffic office and then moved to the accounts office, with a fairly hefty load of responsibility for a 16 year old--putting through wages every two weeks for a fleet of transport drivers.
My preoccupation, judging from my diary, was boys. No entry is without reference to one boy or another. On the brink of adulthood, my friends and I were trying our relational wings. At work and after work, this involved catching glimpses of the current object of our admiration, usually from afar, and giggling about chance encounters, during which the girls and boys tossed humourous statements at one another--our attempts at witty repartee--a safe way to test out true feelings, which we were never quite sure of.
My friends, Elaine and Eileen, in the photo below, were doing what we often did; just hanging out in my room, listening to music and catching up on our latest adventures.
On September 24th I noted in my diary that my 13 year old brother Robert and I went into the churchyard that was across from our house on Bear Hill, after dark, in the autumn mist and moonlight, just to see what it would be like. I have a faint recollection of that spooky adventure and clutching at each other's courage in the cold and dark as the old church clock chimed out in lonely tones, the quarter hour. Fortunately we didn't meet anyone else in the mist. I can only imagine our mad gallop home if we had.
In October, Eileen and I started going, sporadically at first, to an Assemblies of God church in nearby Redditch. This was after we had gone to a Billy Graham movie at the local college at the invitation of Mr. Burston, my office manager. We had both gone forward together at the end of the movie, to the hymn, Just as I Am, but I really wasn't sure what it meant, other than responding, "Yes," to God, which I would do at every opportunity. We fit in churchgoing with our other activities as another thing to do, along with the folk club; art club; college night school classes in German and short-hand and typing and dances.
Although I always had a spiritual connection with God, we didn't attend church as a family. I often went to St. Laurence Church across the road, at Easter, but was not confirmed in the Church of England. I felt unsure when I went, of when to sit and stand, and a little like an outsider. The church in Redditch was very different. It was in a rather ramshackle building behind some petrol pumps and the small congregation was a racially mixed group of people of all ages, that were passionate about their faith. Eileen and I found out later that the boys in the youth group had been praying for girls and we were seen to be the answer to their prayers!
In October I also started dating another friend's brother, Peter. He was five years older than me and rode a motorbike. Although he was nice, we didn't have much in common, and I had drifted into it more out of surprise that anyone would actually ask me out.
At our work Christmas party on December 23rd that year, Peter didn't come, but Paul was there with his Dad, Mr. Burston, as his mum didn't come. I noted in my little diary that I had danced with Paul all evening. Exactly a year later, on the same day, I would go to a party with someone else, but go home with Paul, having danced with him all evening.
Peter was becoming more serious and talking about marriage in the future. I handled it the only way I knew, with humour, deflecting all attempts at seriousness with jokes.
Mum came to church with me that Christmas, and at the end of the service she acknowledged, with a raised hand, that she wanted Christ to be Lord of her life. Like me she had always had a simple but strong faith in God, and this public acknowledgement was a step forward in her journey of faith. She became friends with Paul's mum, and quietly they both hoped that we would get together.
Paul did ask me out after the Sunday School Christmas party, where I helped out, but I was already seeing Peter, and besides, the spark that one day would burst into love for Paul, had not yet been ignited...
On December 31st, my little green diary was retired after four years, in favour of a small red one with Collins Diary 1967 on the front in gold letters, and with a whole page for each day.