My friend Valerie died suddenly at Christmas.

We first met 60 years ago in the second form at the Manning School in Nottingham. In our first year we were separated into four forms purely on the initial of our surnames, and then in the second form we were streamed on our first year exam results, and Val and I were luckily put in the A stream and soon became friends.  We eventually discovered that our fathers had been schoolfriends too and had started work together.

Val had lived in the same house from birth, which was less than a mile from the house I first lived in, but we had moved into town when I was about 2-3 years old. We were also born in the same week in July 1939 so if you believe in astrology we should have had very similar characteristics. No!  We could not have been more opposite!

We shared similar appearance, similar height, build and colouring, but there the similarities ended. Val was quiet, studious and never in trouble. I don’t think she ever had a detention or skipped her homework. This makes her sound a bit dull but she wasn’t. She had a great sense of humour, but was just a bit quieter about it than some of us!

She was one of the few people who were happy in their own skin from a very early age and had no great ambition to change things. I always had dreams of travelling to the places I had dreamt about, and when I decided to become a nurse I had no ambition to climb up the career ladder to become a Matron (then the top rung), just to be a good nurse and use it to travel!

Valerie left school when she was sixteen and went to work at a bank, which she enjoyed and then one year later she met Derek there  and they were “an item” from then for the rest of her life. They had a long courtship while they saved up to buy their first home, got married and had two sons. She was contented and, as far as I know, never regretted her choice.

She was quite bewildered by my period of wandering and used to tease me that she had a separate address book for me. I had six different addresses in Birmingham while I was training, then three in Geilo, one in Oslo, three while I did midwifery training, Edinburgh, Peebles,North London, South London, West London, Nottingham, North Kent, West Wickham, West Wales where we stayed for 20 years! and finally here in Cardiff! Val lived in two houses all her life. Her parents’ house and the house she and Derek bought!

Despite the different paths we took we both ended up happily married with lovely families and contented with our lots.

Although we had not seen each other for some time, I shall miss her letters and news of her family and friends, but I am glad that I have such happy memories of our schooldays together.