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U3A Writing: To The Big City

...When we found a compartment it was already occupied by two elderly gentlemen, but once again in those days you never gave it a second thought. As we settled down to speculate about where we were going and what we were going to buy, we became aware that the two men were rehearsing some sort of script. We became curious and listened to them reading.

They realised that they were being watched so explained who they were. We were fascinated. They were Tom Forrest and Ned Larkin from 'The Archers'. Although we were both far too hip then to listen to the program, we had both been brought up on it and knew exactly who the characters were. Although The Archers was normally recorded in Birmingham, Tom and Ned were off to record an episode at the Smithfield Christmas Fat Stock Show...

Wendy Bower tells of meeting two famous radio characters on a shopping trip to London.

As junior secretaries, Sandy and I shared an office. Within a few weeks of meeting we were sharing almost everything else: packed lunches, clothes, make-up and secrets about boyfriends.

"Why don't we go Christmas shopping in London?" Sandy said over the clacking of the typewriter keys.

"What a good idea" I replied, grabbing for the Snopake to correct the umpteenth error of the day. That was another thing we shared - the workload. Sandy was a much better typist than I and would invariably help me out so that we could play a word game and giggle over some magazine. We were soon knocking on our respective bosses' doors to ask for a day off to make the shopping trip.

I lived out in the sticks and Sandy lived in the city, so I stayed at her house the night before our excursion, sleeping in the same double bed, as we did without question in those days, and probably giggling half the night.

The Number 6 bus took us straight to the train station the next morning, a bright and frosty December day. The 8.15am from Oxford to Paddington started from Birmingham and was already quite crowded when we joined it, so we had to walk right to the back of the train to find a compartment with two empty seats together. We couldn't possibly be separated for a whole hour's journey!

When we found a compartment it was already occupied by two elderly gentlemen, but once again in those days you never gave it a second thought. As we settled down to speculate about where we were going and what we were going to buy, we became aware that the two men were rehearsing some sort of script. We became curious and listened to them reading.

They realised that they were being watched so explained who they were. We were fascinated. They were Tom Forrest and Ned Larkin from 'The Archers'. Although we were both far too hip then to listen to the program, we had both been brought up on it and knew exactly who the characters were. Although The Archers was normally recorded in Birmingham, Tom and Ned were off to record an episode at the Smithfield Christmas Fat Stock Show.

The rest of the journey was highly entertaining as they told us stories about the show and the characters, and before we knew it we were pulling into Paddington Station, We said our goodbyes.

What a surprise, therefore, to find Tom and Ned again at the bus stop waiting for a bus to Oxford Street, just the same as us. At that time of day the buses were packed with people going to work or shopping so we all ended up standing on the platform. Imagine our surprise and amusement when Ned Larkin pulled out a hunting horn from under his overcoat and began blowing it all the way up Oxford Street.

Sandy and I were practically hysterical by now from so much giggling, but eventually Tom and Ned alighted and we never saw them again, although we could still hear the hunting horn!

The rest of our day was spent in a flurry of perfume, makeup and clothes departments, and we even managed to buy a few presents for other people. Both Sandy and I had set our hearts on very fashionable belted tweed coats with huge fur collars. Naturally we both wanted the same colour, but in the end I gave way because the red one we both coveted looked so good with Sandy's jet black hair, and the black and brown fleck looked fine on me. So we both went home with the same style coats but in different colours.

The journey home was uneventful, which was just as well because we were both tired out. By the time the bus got us back to Cowley, it was as much as we could do to eat our supper before falling into the double bed again. Naturally, tired as we were, within minutes we were recounting the adventures of the day and giggling ourselves silly again.

The Christmas shopping trips to London became an annual event for Sandy and me, but nothing ever matched that first one.

Ross on Wye U3A

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