Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Dancing and Ice skating

It is February 1956 and very cold, with snow and freezing conditions.  Alice mentions a Varsity Fives match being played between Oxford and Cambridge in Bedford.  This was a Rugby Fives* match which was won 238-228 by Cambridge.  The Varsity Fives matches were played from1925 to the present day with the matches from 1949 to 1956 being held at Bedford Modern, so Alice met players from the final contest here in Bedford.

*Rugby Fives is a handball game similar to squash played in an enclosed court between two players (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles), the aim being to hit the ball above a ‘bar’ across the front wall in such a way that the opposition cannot return it before a second bounce.  The ball is slightly larger than a golf ball, leather-coated and hard.  Players wear leather padded gloves on both hands, with which they hit the ball.

The cold conditions mean that Alice experiences some different sporting activities in her week at college, with ice skating taking place instead of hockey.  Alice and other students often skated on the boating lake for fun, although it is unlikely that actual lessons took place there as students described having to jump onto the safe part of the ice!  We know that in the 1920s, ice skating took place on flooded fields in Goldington village.

Alice had the excitement of a first year dance to help warm up and in her previous letters, she describes decorating the gym with enormous back cloths made of pasted together newspapers with wall paper strips on top of them.  The theme of the dance was air travel and Alice sent the following request home for items to wear to the dance:-

Skating on flooded fields in Goldington, c.1920s

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