Peckham Experiment 11 Growing Up

We have seen that the children of the Centre have been growing up in families which are themselves embedded in a society constantly increasing in richness and diversity.Here where tastes may be shared in the pursuit of varied activities, each family has been able to create a home-circle with its outer layer of casual contacts and acquaintances and its inner core of friends.Outside this wide circle there is the more general, and for the family alien, amorphous and unpatterned life of the great world, soon to act as a magnet for the child now coming to adolescence. As, step by step, the parents have penetrated the society that surrounds them, the child has little by little shared in their experience, not unlike the way in which as an infant when he began to be weaned from the breast he shared in the food of the family table. So now, again already equipped with familiar experience for a new exploratory journey, he stands on the threshold of adolescence. Eager for exploration and for the taste of more diverse and distant experience, he begins to reach out for new forms of nutriment. So we shall find that the chief sociological characteristic of adolescent development is rapid movement of the boy or girl towards the unexplored field that lies at and beyond the periphery of the home circle.

In our present disintegrated society we cannot of course expect to see a consistent picture of smooth weaning at adolescence. Where the parents in their functional dislocation from society have been egotistically spinning on their own axis,the child may long since have been shot from the centre of the family prematurely to find his own feet in an alien world;or where the parents, long the victims of social starvation, have found no food for their own development, they with binding tentacles will seek to grapple him closer to the family nucleus.In either of these cases, with the onset of puberty we shall expect to find signs of pathological reaction.But it is not on such pathological elements of society that we wish to focus attention. It is on the healthy; on those families in which at adolescence there is to be seen a smooth process of weaning leading to a functional re-orientation of the whole family.

What have been the broad lines of the child’s development up to this point? As foetus, in close tutelage at the placental bench, working in complete mutuality with the mother, his anatomical structure has been laid down. Then comes birth–the first weaning—which releases him into a wider field of action. Here he continues to be nurtured within the bipolar field of parental experience where the maleness and femaleness of the parents, resolved in the functional unity of parenthood, create a growing ‘home’. There, through the long course of infancy and childhood, unmoved by the stir of his own sex, he has been perfecting the facultisation of his anatomical and physiological endowment—his personalia.

Now comes adolescence when—as the foetus emerged from the womb into the outer world at birth—he emerges into the unknown world of society. Following a long gestation through infancy and childhood, at adolescence we witness the birth of the psyche, with all its potentialities for the establishment of the full functional relationships of adulthood. So youth, now gaining a consciousness of his individuality to the point of spiritual apprehension, begins to exercise his new-found capacity for the conscious direction of his own life in society.

It is unfortunate for a just appraisement of the facts that the development of the individual at this time is linked so vividly with the development of the sex-organs, so that the whole phase has gained an untoward sensual or ‘sex’ significance. To the biologist the physical unfolding of sex denotes not merely differentiation of certain specific anatomical and physiological features, but the differentiation of the whole individual, with all the attributes of full manhood and womanhood that this implies.

As we look at the process of puberty, therefore, we shall be watching behaviour. Indeed experience has shown us that the most delicate index to the emergence of puberty is to be found, not by the examination of the bodily features, but in the social action of the individual moving in a mixed society. The stir of puberty, which begins at any time from the age of 11 onwards, and is commonly ascribed to sex development in a very restricted sense, is in effect a general development, sociological and psychological as well as physical. It pervades the whole individual giving his or her every action ‘bias’, and so orientating each anew. Until this stir of puberty the children’s associations, particularly the boys’, appear to us to be determined not by their mutual sociability, but by shared interests. Companions will swim or skate together day after day, week after week, and then, if the period of application to a particular activity of one child ceases to coincide with that of his companion, the association breaks down and the two children in their now different activities pick up other companions. Although the ‘working partnership’ has broken down it is quite usual for there to be no break in friendliless between the two when they chance to meet. In girls it is not at all clear that an interest in the same activity is the chief reason for their association, for, even as far back the Nursery, they show a tendency to be concerned with persons and through them to be led to their choice of activities. Hatching in the gymnasium or elsewhere in the Centre a mixed roup of children congregated round some individual in process doing something or constructing something, we have almost consistently noted that when that individual moves on to do something else he will leave behind him the majority of the boys, fascinated by the construct or practising the action they have been watching; whereas the majority of girls will follow him (or her) to his next action. It would seem that in the sexes it is their approach to action and to things that differs; not the things they do nor their capacity to do them. Certainly the action-pattern of the girls in the Centre is different from and to us more complex than the action-pattern of the boys. These different manifestations, obvious from so early an age, lead us to suppose that there is here an inherent difference needing understanding and demanding experimental study. We are forced to ask ourselves the question—Can it be that our approach to development (Education.) in the female child should be not so much through things as through persons? This is a point that can only be studied in circumstances in which there is freedom of action, such as the Centre provides.

But marked as is the difference in the behaviour of male and female children, it is as nothing compared with the sudden change in that of both sexes as the girl or boy bursts into puberty. As a girl develops there is an abrupt assertion of her personality. She will quite suddenly stand apart from her friends and behave in what is for them an entirely unexpected manner. Instead of at once joining them and going with them into the swimming bath as had been her wont, she will perhaps sit alone, swim later or not at all, for she may shed her activities as suddenly and completely she deserts her friends. With her school hat coaxed into some semblance of fashion and her hair arranged in a more grownup style, she will take up with new companions usually more developed than herself and with them become occupied with their grown-up interests such as clothes, the art of make-up, etc. As she enters the building there now clings about her the flavour of her budding individuality; the passive immanence of her femininity. This is in some cases emphasised by an acute access of shyness or sometimes finds its expression in an almost insolent defiance. [Our knowledge of each family usually enables us to relate such over-emphasis of behaviour in this phase to distortion in the previous development of the family as a whole.]

It is not unusual to find that two girl children have for some years been absorbed in the same occupations and in each other’s society, unaware of any difference in their stages of development until sudden puberty in one reveals a gap that cannot be bridged. The subsequent abrupt separation is very distressing to the younger [We do not here refer to age in years, but to biological age—that is to say. stage in maturity] child, and may be so to the parents of both children, particularly if they lack understanding of what is happening. The parents of the more mature girl may feel that her behaviour denotes a fickleness in their child. This upsets them and may even seriously disturb a friendship previously existing between the two families.

Sudden and obvious as are these signs of budding adolescence in the female, we are not yet in a position to correlate them with the succession of physiological evidences of puberty; e.g., with the development of the breasts, the onset of menstruation, etc. The exigency of dealing with a constant influx of new member-families has made it impossible as yet to make a detailed study of this subject.

With the onset of puberty in the boy we see a temporary reversal of his previous behaviour with a marked transfer of allegiance from activities to people. He now often leaves his old companions and, finding a group of new associates, hunts in a pack with boys at a similar or slightly more advanced stage of development. He too will leave his previous companions with no trace of regret and may quite suddenly give up an activity that has been his absorbing interest for some months past. The pack now has become his paramount interest, claiming all his attention and loyalty. With the rest of its members he will probably begin to grease his hair, wield a comb concealed in his breast-pocket, and do a bit of surreptitious or even ostentatious smoking.

Such packs are very inco-ordinate and tentative. They seem to be distinguished by no formalised activities and usually become manifest in some sort of rough house in a secluded corner of the building. The pack will suddenly flare into activity on the edge of an adult party; at another time its members will express themselves in cat-calls, or in the sudden seizure of a girl’s hat—for small groups of girls are always to be found on the fringes of these packs when they settle down in one place for half an hour or so. Even if the parents are unaware of the pack activities they are likely to become distressed at the boy’s sudden desertion of his favourite sport or other interest, at his smoking and often rather crude behaviour. They feel uncertain about his new companions who seem to them to be leading him astray, and in the homes of both boys and girls at this time there is often uneasiness about what is afoot and what is going to happen. The observer for his part has difficulty at this stage in discerning the pattern of order underlying the adolescent’s action. It does not surprise us however that the action-pattern of the individual should now appear confused and its form undefined, for this is a time when differentiation is immanent.

But undefined though the pattern of order yet is, if the family is considered as a womb with the child a ‘foetal’ individuality growing within it, then all these signs of personal adornment and of accentuation of personality, as well as the developing aesthetic sense or spiritual apprehension which follow, will be recognised as signs heralding the birth of the psyche, or full and conscious individuality. These signs should tell us of the avidity with which the adolescent is now ready to learn from the adult. The warning too is there. If at this critical time there are only available to him promiscuous contacts and crude evidences of sex, such as in our present disintegrated state of society are only too evident in the films, the books, the dance halls that abound; if he finds about him no functionally integrated adult society into which he may legitimately penetrate, no invitation to the discretionate use of its appurtenances when his individuality should be emerging in its full expression and virility; then, for want of suitable nutriment, he is condemned to inco-ordinate action, and to precocious and stunted growth.

While the Curator, as he moves about the Centre, is watching the formation of these packs and many other changes occurring in the social excursion and activities of the growing children, the biologist and bio-chemist in the Physiological Department are studying these individuals from the physical point of view. The correlation of physical signs with behaviour in the sequence of adolescent development is one of the subjects scheduled by us for research when time has allowed children with the progress of whose growth we have full knowledge, to come to adolescence. The material collected by the observers on the social floors and the physiological knowledge gathered in the laboratory and consulting room, flow together in the Family Consultation under the direction of the biologist.Here, with the approach of adolescence, as the whole field of family function is once more surveyed in consultation, the relevant facts and information emerge in their topical prominence, and each member of the family can now make his individual use of them.It is here that parental anxieties and filial impatience can be dissolved;here that the whole family can find the knowledge and understanding to enable them to go forward with appetite and courage in this new phase of development which is affecting them all.

Such a consultation coming, for example, when the eldest boy is at the ‘pack’ stage, can be of great help to the family. The biologist has seen the pack at work, he is familiar with its actions and its meaning, and has seen the boy’s relation to that pack. To him these changes are an indication that the boy is seeking to expand his field of excursion, though commonly they are interpreted as a desire to break from the home—which in the case of the pathological family is probably the correct interpretation. The parents, familiar with all the same circumstances from a different aspect, are able to talk over the situation, and thus gaining knowledge and confidence, reach an understanding which enables them to deal with it constructively without the anxiety born of fear of the unknown. Here is a livery example of the mutual nature of synthesis between member-family and scientific staff of the Centre.

Perhaps at this consultation—though usually at an earlier one—the biologist, armed with knowledge of the developmental state of the child and of the sociological and psychological aspects of the family, will discuss the continuation of schooling for the child and will raise the question of the future career or employment suited to him, have the parents themselves not already brought up this subject. Into this discussion the parents enter withinterest, resourceand goodwill. Many firms employing labour who are in touch with the Centre, use it as an intermediary through which they can come into contact with young workers wishing to train for skilled occupations.Thesearevaluable contacts to us for they enable many of our adolescents to be launched into an industry of their choice for which they are physically and temperamentally suited, and they give a personal link between the boy or girl, the family, the firm and ourselves that may prove useful in dealing with any subsequent eventuality. The Centre staff, armed with a full knowledge both of the individual and of the family in which he grows up, are ideally equipped to fulfil the demands of vocational guidance of the young about to enter Industry and other fields of adult endeavour.

How the child’s initial experience of all sorts has come to him as he grows up will inevitably find expression in his adult activities, including his work. Whether he proceeds progressively and in harmony in all that he does, or is hampered by difficulties of his own making that render him temperamental and irresponsible, will to a large measure depend on the family in which he has grown up. Deficiencies due to his nurture may of course be compensated to a degree varying with his own understanding and intelligence. But if the functional organisation of ‘family’ is the biological mechanism in which the young naturally grow and, through progressive mutuality of synthesis of the whole ‘organisation’, acquire a physical altruism, which finds expression in social action, then the nature and conditions of the family from which the individual comes will prove to be of importance even in Industry—as modern researches are beginning to indicate.

To return to our observations of the adolescents. Usually in the Centre we see the first pack soon dissolve; it is only a transitory phase. Following its dissolution, its members either again take up an old interest and carry it on to a new phase of proficiency, or, and this is more usual, take up something new. This they may do with one or two companions only, or they may band themselves together in a new group. Sometimes these groupings consist of boys only, sometimes of boys and girls, and they vary considerably in size and in duration. But this next group is far more co-ordinate and purposeful than the original pack; its members have a common explicit objective and they are usually prepared to give considerable time and trouble to achieve proficiency. A group of boys in this stage rarely has any other basis for association than devotion to some accomplishment. Certain individuals of the group seem to be always on the fringe, others right in the centre, and there is movement between the centre and the periphery. These groups appear as spontaneous and self-originating zones of activity into which individuals can freely pass in response to the degree of attraction for them of the activity carried on there, or can unostentatiously withdraw to merge again with the general body of society, or perhaps temporarily to consort with some adolescent of the opposite sex. The groups are only exclusive in the sense that any individual attempting to enter for other purposes than that of the activity pursued, is immediately ejected. From the biologist’s point of view therefore we should perhaps not speak of them as groups of adolescents, but rather as foci of activity, each ‘focus’ having to some degree a roving capacity. So,for example, we may see a shift from say swimming—which might carry20 individuals—to an accomplishment like dancing, in which only 15 of these same individuals might be involved; and so on. Nevertheless the sociological aspect must not be overlooked, for we find that there is at each focus of activity a certain nucleus of individuals all of whom engage in each pursuit shared by the group. Thus it is no surprise to find that at the very centre of the zone there may be—though it is not always so—a leader. This young man whose versatility in skill focuses the other members’ efforts, is often a leader unbeknown to himself and unacknowledged by those he leads.He holds his position in virtue of the relevance of his skill to that particular situation. His leadership though real is as ephemeral as the group itself, and he as spontaneously emergent in the group as the group is in the society of the Centre.

Throughout this period, as the packs form and dissolve again and in time give place to groups bent on achievement, the important point is that the rapidly successive groupings and activities are the individuals’ expression of their advance towards adult prowess and social competence, and of their growing capacity for selection in the social realm. It is of the greatest importance, therefore, that the society in which the adolescent moves should be sufficiently fluid in its organisation to allow youth the possibility of making many and varied contacts and. through the formation of successive groupings, to continue its development at its own tempo. This can only come about where the young are in contact with a society which includes people of varying degrees of maturity manifesting desirable achievements and accomplishments to master which the adolescent will go to considerable trouble.

It will be seen that all systems which by their very constitution effect a segregation of individuals by sex and age, and exert their influence to consolidate any interest stirred, are by foreshortening the individual’s natural excursion, militating against tis ultimate development. It is unfortunate that nearly all Youth Organisations operate in this manner, regarding continuity of effort and long duration of membership in a segregated society as signs of ‘character’ and loyalty. To the biologist it would seem that these organisations, in attempting to retain the adolescent in isolation from adult society and thus cut off from the source of stimulus to his next stage in development, are confirming him in immaturity. His continued membership is only too often a sign of arrested development. The biological urge to development however is in fact stronger than any systematisation, for all club organisers bemoan the fact that at the age of 17 or 18 or older, the boys on whom great effort has been expended tend to drift away in search of wider experience. In the presence of a vertical age-grouping of society on the other hand, where the adolescent is surrounded with every stage of maturity and every degree of skill, there is ever present the natural incentive to development that satisfies.

During the four and a half years that the Centre has been open, a number of groups such as we have described have come into existence. One of these, studied with particular care, arose as the young boys and girls who as children had been using the Centre continuously, began to grow up. Dancing, one of the chief cultural, athletic and social activities throughout history, is an important activity for people of all ages in the Centre. The facilities for it are excellent—long uninterrupted spaces, good floor surfaces and skilled dance bands formed by the members themselves. Regularly every Saturday evening there is dancing to a first-class band in the long open hall. Admission is free and open to all members over 14 years of age; the large company is widely representative of the total membership, and the dancing visible to all who enter the building for any purpose. There is ample room for the spectators in the aisles and between the pillars; the general tone is lively and gay, and incidentally the standard attained by the dancers very high. So Saturday evening has always a festive air.

The young boys and girls of 14 years and over gather in small groups on the fringe of this vortex of activity. Occasionally a girl will respond to the invitation of an older woman or girl to dance; the more mature girls will already have found male partners. For a long time the budding adolescent boys, far too shy and incapable to venture on the floor, used to stand by fascinated. After some months of watching, the scene became irresistible and these boys would be found in the darkest corner attempting to dance together when no-one was about. At last they had come to it; they wanted to learn to dance.

But being particularly sensitive to adult society at this time and not liking to appear without competence, in order to learn they had temporarily to withdraw. With that curious efficiency that often characterises what might be described as subjective group action, these adolescents proceeded to deal with their own difficulty. From among the members they found for themselves a dancing enthusiast; he,about four years their senior, was willing, even eager,to teach them.They arranged with the Curator for weekly use of floor space, for the loan of a gramophone and records, and they fixed on the night most convenient for their instructor. In a few months no fewer than fifty young adolescents—boys from12 to16 years old, proverbially the shyest and most awkward age—were learning their steps and dancing with girls of their own age with absorbed concentration. By this time their teacher had very cleverly divided up the big corridor-room allotted to them into several smaller sections by the use of chairs, so that the learners could be graded into separate groups between the pillars. He found helpers, girls as well as boys, from among his contemporaries and from among the learners themselves as they became proficient.

Boating in Peckham

Anyone who sees these self-arranged ‘classes’ for the first time is impressed by the extreme seriousness of the boys as they learn their steps and with the quiet straightforward way in which they invite a girl to be a partner. The girls too respond with gentleness and decorum. Yet in different circumstances these same boys and girls would have giggled and sneered and hung back awkwardly, their whole attitude—a cloak for their unfacultised ineptitude—expressing ridicule and contempt. Nor can one fail to be struck by the fact that these boys and girls are not only learning to dance, but that all unknown to themselves dancing has become for them an instrument of their discretionate social exploration.

This spontaneously created ‘dancing class’ is then a temporary segregation within a society for a specific purpose. The stimulus to the acquirement of this skill has been the dancing of a mixed community predominantly adult, and we have seen that the means of satisfying the adolescents’ desire to achieve this skill, their instructor, was drawn by them from within this more mature society. This young man for his part and some of his friends found an opening for a hitherto undisclosed talent for teaching that was most striking. Thus, this situation created in the dancing class fulfilled the needs of the adolescents and gave scope for the capabilities of their teachers, so engaging both in interrelated functional action—a situation which a physiologist might liken to a balance across an interfacial surface, or ‘living’ membrane. No better example than this of a topical method of education in a mixed society could be cited. We have found that this method applies not only to dancing but to the spread of knowledge and skill of many varieties, especially among those who do not respond to more formal methods of education. Indeed, it must be noted that before the dancing class just described came spontaneously into being, we had ourselves at different times made various efforts, with little or no result, to induce the young adolescents to learn dancing,. The important factor in the emergence of any form of activity is the subjective appetitive stir ; where this is successfully aroused, the individual, given the raw material to work with, will himself find the most appropriate and efficient means of accomplishment. This only confirms the principle upon which we are working : namely, that the potentiality is inherent in the organism, and that its spontaneous emergence in action depends upon the cultivation of the (family) environment.

Let us return to the boys and girls equipped with this new ability to dance. We next see them using their new found skill as a means of penetrating further into the society of their seniors. An instance can be given of this invasive process. In addition to Saturday night and party dances, on one other night of the week there is another dance known as the’Tuppenny Hop’, accessible by payment but open to all to watch from the window. To this come young married couples and young men and women who are expert at the most up-to-date dancing.They have assembled a small band of younger members who are masterly in their improvisation of jazz and swing, or, an alternative to the band is available to them in so far as the wireless enthusiasts can broadcast throughout the building, and will through a gramophone turn-table co-operate with the dance group in the absence of a band. [This again illustrates the easy interplay of group with group in the variety of action which is a feature of the life of the Centre.] Here in this gathering, band and dancers together express their own interpretation of modern dancing. This coterie of skilful exponents is not exclusive but it attracts only those who are also skilful and in tune with young people’s life of to-day. Into this slightly older group than themselves the adolescents who have learnt to dance are now able to penetrate. So bit by bit they move deeper into more grown-up society, at each stage their increasing skill in both technical and social accomplishment enabling them to absorb its content, and establish themselves in its milieu. As well as taking part in the ‘Tuppenny Hop’, they can also play their part now in the more general Saturday evening dancing and on such special occasions as the annual New Year’s Eve Party, and in any casual dancing that springs up in the Centre as a result of some boy or girl sitting down at the piano and beginning to play.

The older people love to watch it and in this way the young bring to them aspects of modern life of which they would otherwise remain in ignorance. It is well known how often people who cannot themselves manage such forms of dancing or who know nothing of its technique, condemn it out of hand. In the Centre however the older members show a lively and enjoyable interest in it, though they are by no means always uncritical. And there is reciprocity even here—in the dance—between the old and the young. Very few of the younger members dance the waltz in the old-fashioned way, but nobody is more enthusiastic in acclamation when the waltz or the valeta is so danced with old-time grace and skill, by some of the older husbands and wives. Here we have a further illustration of the very easy and natural intermixing of the young with the older and more mature elements in society that plays so important a part in the education of the adolescent for living.

There is a great happiness and vigour about these young people as their social capacity grows. They take part in the drama and concert parties, they play badminton and table tennis with friends they made at dancing, in the swimming bath or at the Country Camp; they rally to help at every sort of special occasion and emergency. The remarkable feature of their vigour is that it finds expression not in exclusiveness but in acceptance and participation in the general life of the Centre. [ As an instance of this we might cite the invaluable help given by these very adolescents at the outbreak of war. It was they who were untiring in running messages, in making ceaseless journeys between the Centre and the farm, in carrying parcels and heavier loads, in erecting barricades against blast, helping without stint in the manifold tasks incidental to the evacuation of the mothers and their babies to the farm.] Ready at any moment to forge ahead for themselves, they are equally ready to help in any undertaking of the older members. There is mutuality here too, for the activities in which only the young excel—water polo, high and fancy diving, acrobatics, hot jazz—are enjoyed and furthered by the other and older members in their various roles as helpers and spectators. In this way the gathering skill and capacity of the adolescents makes its continuous contribution to the growing vigour and diversity of the society of the Centre as a whole.

But experience leads us to think that the adolescents’ association with adults needs to find its expression not only in leisure but in every activity. Going out to work should play a most important part in the unfolding of adolescence, for association with adults in responsible work is in itself an educative factor of primary importance. It is concrete evidence to the adolescent of the growing up of which he is so conscious and of which he so eagerly seeks tangible confirmation.

In this connection we have been very impressed with the difference we have observed in the physique and balance of development of boys who go to work at 14 as compared with those who remain at school until they are 16, 17 or 18. In the former there is an all-round robust functional development, often in spite of adverse industrial conditions, while those who continue at school seem overgrown—rather like an etiolated shoot—as though their development were distorted as a result of the sequestered atmosphere of school.

This was an unexpected observation to us and will, we believe, prove so to the reader. First, it was arresting in view of the almost universal acceptance of the policy of extending school education, with its present age and sex segregation, up to 16 or even 18 years of age; and second, in view of the acknowledged shortcomings of the modern industrial field in producing what we conceive to be healthy conditions for the adolescent.

But before generalising let us look also at the girls. Our experience so far shows us that the effect of early entry into industry on the female is very different. Whereas with the boys who enter industry young there is a development towards maturity which is to be seen in their physique as well as in their general conduct, in the girls it is marked in many cases by a persistent general immaturity accompanied by a precocious development of femininity. These conclusions can of course only be tentative, but such evidence as we have is striking and conspicuous. Here we have a subject that needs most careful and penetrating study. Upon the due  sequential and smooth emergence of full facultative maturity of both sexes depends the vitality and so the future of the race, and no educational policy can be surely grounded without knowledge of the biological processes at stake.Neither industry and the circumstances of entry into it, nor the circumstances of education can with impunity be left out of the scope of the health administration of the future.

As they stand, both industry and the schools are inadequate to meet the needs of health for the developing adolescent.

The knowledge, experience and skill acquired in the rich social milieu of the Centre, and inextricably woven into every action, provides a framework for a social education in which the development of masculinity and femininity can go forward to full manhood and womanhood. The desire to become socially co-ordinate seems at first to be the dominant note in the melody of adolescent growth, but once the individuals ‘feel at home’ in their society— and such an adolescent ‘establishment’ [cf. the ‘establishment’ of the baby after birth. Chap. 9] shows very clearly in their bearing and their actions—they begin to use their newly acquired competence in the instrumentation of their developing masculinity and femininity. This is so unconscious a process that its mechanism can best be appreciated through a picture of the life in which they are immersed as they spend their evening leisure when not otherwise occupied in the Centre.

Let us look at the swimming bath at about 9 o’clock on a summer evening. It is packed with young men and women, some of them already brown after their summer holidays or weekend camping, the girls very smart in their well-cut swim suits, and there is to be seen every degree of good diving and swimming. They are not all young adolescents. As well as three or four engaged couples and some who are ‘walking out’ there are a dozen married couples, some with their babies asleep in the night nursery below. Nearly everybody knows everybody else. Groups of three or four girls and as many young men are ragging and teasing, and the whole Bath appears one big party.

This 9 o’clock half-hour in the Bath is not, then, just the chance association of those who can manage to swim at that time. For the majority it is the chosen time when either by mutual arrangement or by undisclosed design those who wish to be together go swimming. On most evenings this trio of girls or that bunch of boys or that girl on her own, will stroll up and down and around the bath putting off taking swimming tickets until sure that a certain group or individual has already taken theirs. In the Cafeteria and Long Room there will be some of the younger adolescents who do not swim so late, watching the fun, mostly unaware of, but perhaps not unaffected by the patterns of courting interplay going on in front of them.