I can still remember the first time I met Barbara in 1976. She sat as always alone in the canteen of the CCAT (Cambridge College of Art and Technology), and as always she was writing in a black book. She never sat in the popular coffee shop of the CCAT, The Batman. She made me curious, this solitary Chinese girl with long hair till her waste. I went to sit opposite her and asked what she was writing. With a northern London accent she told me that it was her dairy and she showed it to me. I couldn't read the Chinese letters but I recognized the words 'leaving on a jet plan' of the song of John Denver. I also recognized the sentence 'You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows ' from the song Without You by Harry Nillson.
A few days after some of my friends joined us in the canteen. In this group Barbara easily blended in. She was very cheerful and stood up for herself. She pronounced some words with a typical London accent that with her Chinese appearance made was a surprisingly combination. Barbara soon discovered that the coffee shop the Batman was a much nicer place to be. Often I would find her there with my friends. One of these friends was Sue, she had long blond hair also till her waste and she was about the same size as Barbara. It was lovely to see Barbara and Sue from behind when they walked next to each other. Both long hair, hanging lose but in different colours.
The problem was that I couldn't see Barbara alone. There was always someone around. Several times I had asked her to go out with me in the weekend. Every time she told me that she couldn't come. She had to work at the fish and chip shop.
Then I discovered that Barbara went to the library after school. She didn't want to go home immediately and went to the library to look at picture books for ideas for her drawings. I went also to the library to join her. This time there were no friends around, just the two of us. The first few times I came she was doing her school work, later she pretended she was working, after that she didn't even pretend and after a few weeks she didn't even bother to go the library and waited outside for me. We were very pleased with each other's company. We told each about each other life's. Our life's were completely different from each other. She told me about the Chinese culture and her way of life in England and I told her about my Dutch way of life in England. We had great fun telling each other these stories.
When it was time to go home we walked together to the Cambridge bus station, from there she took the bus to Histon. During these walks Barbara told me more about her life. About her father who had died when she was young, that she had to leave Hong Kong to go to London. How difficult it was for her then to leave her friends. She also explained how she finally ended up in the fish and chip shop in Histon.
(I remember that Barbara was working on this drawing when I first visited her in the library)
(translated by Zhi)
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