It’s our 48th wedding anniversary today! Somehow it’s prompted a day of reflection going back to 1969 when we first met, further prompted by our age, the state of our health, and the state of our country. But no politics in this post!
After we opened our single anniversary card this morning (yes, one card between us …… we’ve also only ever had one bank account between us in 48 years!) I went out for my 4 miles morning walk and Dr C began her unfathomable Tai Chi stuff in the garden. Living in the English Cotswolds we have villages, fields, rivers, all connected by footpaths having existed for centuries, and it’s an unmindful person who can walk past churches, cottages, hedges, walls that are over a thousand years old in most cases.
Today my Buddhist mindfulness and Sartre existentialism was disturbed by my reminiscences and I record them here for our daughter as part of my family history research and records.
Dr C and I both come from humble, poor, hard working backgrounds. Hers in Kathmandu at a time when young girls weren’t permitted to go to school, and mine from a tin mining, iron ore mining, iron making village in south Cumbria. Somehow we fought our way to university, C in 1968, myself in 1969, to Strathclyde University in Glasgow. We were postgraduate students in the renowned Department of Analytical Chemistry run by Professor John Ottaway. Previously the Royal College of Science and Technology, our department was a “factory” globally for the best analytical chemists on the planet so quite how two previously impoverished kids from poor backgrounds ended up here at the same time only Sid (Buddha) knows. There were twists and turns in our time at Glasgow, I finished my MSc and C her PhD in 1971, the year we married. We had several options open to us, but decided to remain in Glasgow at Strathclyde for me to do a PhD as well. Dr C was immediately offered a Post Doctoral Fellowship at the university in the Department of Public Health, a three year tenure which she excitedly accepted. I began my PhD in Chemistry.
One issue worth mentioning here is perhaps the rather quaint, old fashioned decisions we took: First that we would only ever have ONE bank account into which our grants and salaries would be paid and from which ALL bills would be met. Second, and still a gob smacker to most young people today, we would start planning and saving for our first house and for our retirement! Yes, you read that right, two students in their mid twenties planning for retirement! Values inculcated from our parents on two different continents.
I finished my PhD in 1974 so we were now Dr B and Dr C as we became known. The world was truly our oyster as scientists and I remember reading somewhere at the time that only the TOP 2% of science students with an honours degree BSc first or 2.1, went on to gain a doctorate. My dear old departed mum was beside herself, unbelievable! But it went further than merely feeling good ….. Strathclyde University department of analytical chemistry was the science head hunters first port of call: Every year they came to Professor Ottaway with a job opportunity list for his postgrads ….. a research scientist in fibre optics at ICI Bellingham, analytical chemists on oil exploration vessels with Esso, BP, Shell, analysts for copper mining in Zambia ….. these were just in 1974! Dr C was also offered the chance to return to Nepal working for the government in geological surveys across the Himalaya, I was offered the post of Deputy Chief Chemist at one of the largest steelworks in Britain, plus the opportunity for us TOGETHER in the Zambian copper mines. We were experts in atomic absorption spectroscopy, UV/Infra Red spectroscopy, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Mass Spectrometry, Gas Liquid Chromatography…. the list went on, and looking back today ……… we hardly realised it!
So we chose NONE of those, but returned to the steelworks in North Wales where I had worked before going to university, they had helped me beyond belief, I owed them. And before we knew it, Dr C was offered a job as a chemistry lecturer at the North East Wales College of Science and Technology where I had studied in my earlier years. We battled our way through massive mortgage rates, inflation rates, redundancies and the loss of a son. But, here we are two years to go for Gold and two months to Brexit (oops) but will we make it to either?