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Diary of a Reading University Student 1954-1956

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by Hazel K Macaulife

Many of the things I’ve said about Hazel Bell’s previous publications apply equally well to this one. Most of us would, I think, be too embarrassed to publish our early diary entries for scrutiny by all and sundry. Even the famous rarely have their diaries published while they are still living. If I were to reveal the contents of the diaries I kept while a student, they would not make interesting reading. "Saw B – he’s gorgeous", for example, or "Had a tutorial with Miss K".

Hazel Bell – or Hazel Macaulife as she was when she wrote the diary whose highlights are included in this little booklet – must see herself as a representative of a bygone age. Certainly undergraduate life in the 1950s bore little resemblance to the present day, and it might make salutary reading for those currently receiving a further education at public expense:

"Eng papers today – Lit in morning, super of course. Anglo Saxon in afternoon was unspeakable, tho wrote an essay on Chaucer’s use of rhetoric which was quite fun."

She also mixed with some big names: "Neville Coghill gave an excellent lecture on Chaucerian manners, at which J.B.W. [John Wain] was chairman and I was ecstatic…"

On the other hand, it is apparent that young Miss Macaulife led a very full social life. "Have spent a glorious day with Avril and Belinda, playing table tennis, rowing, cycling, and concluding with a visit to the swimming baths and coffee in Bindy’s room…"

One thing today’s students will find they have in common with young Hazel is the need to earn a bit of extra cash. She finds a job for the summer vacation, selling ice cream on the seafront at Bognor. No doubt she spent her income somewhat differently from a 21st century student.

The diary ends suddenly in October1956, our heroine having got married on July 14th to her first love, Colin Bell (not the footballer). I imagine she was far too busy to think about keeping a diary after that. I wonder how many newly-weds nowadays would be prepared to tackle their final year at university. Hazel seems to have taken it all in her stride!


ISBN 978-0-9552503-5-4
HKB Press, 2006
8pp, pamphlet
Retail price 2

Review by Deborah Fisher