Information was not easy to come by at my Girls’ Grammar School. Biology lessons focused mainly how rabbits reproduced and raised more questions than they answered. At one point there was a book in a plain brown wrapper (yes, really!), called something like Married Love, though I don’t think it can have been exactly that. It was in illicit circulation, and I certainly saw it, but I can’t remember anything about its contents. And then there was Lady Chatterley’s Lover – this was the end of the sixties – which also circulated surreptitiously.
But looking back it seems to me that I learnt a lot from The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1918. My copy was the 1939 edition, chosen and edited by Sir Arthur-Quiller Couch. It had been my mother’s school prize and had the stamp of Staveley Grammar School on the cover. Did they know what was inside it? It was full of wonderful love poetry. ‘Western wind, when will thou blow / The small rain down can rain / Christ, if my love were in my arms / And I in my bed again!’ It was all there: Wyatt, Donne, Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress,’ the Cavalier Poets, Browning, Tennyson and what amazingly sexy stuff some of it was. And there was quite a bit of information, too, if you knew where to look. Today’s youth just don’t know what they are missing.