1. University

21-year-old Amy writes home to her sister Irene during Amy’s final term studying Economics at Sheffield University

2nd May 1925

Dearest Reeny,

Well, you won’t believe it. I’ve done it. I’m free! Or at least, almost. A few more months of my degree to go but for now, I’m free of those awful student lodgings. I couldn’t stand it there. The darkness, the noise, the mess, the constant thrum of other people running up and downstairs, shouting each other – I had to get out. I have rented a cottage out in the countryside quite by myself in a quaint little village called Hathersage. Winifred and Gwyneth are still in shock. I think they might be offended. I tried to explain it’s not that I don’t want to be around them – they’re the best friends a girl could have – but I need some quiet to study. I need some time to myself but the girls just looked at me like I’m cuckoo and said they would miss the company, the parties, the life of the city. But Sheffield is draining the life out of me. Nearly three years is more than enough. The buildings drown me. I need the breeze on my face, the wind in my hair, the sun on my skin. How can people live without that feeling? There’s a glorious spot near here where you can see for miles across the Derwent and not meet another soul all day if you don’t want. Is it odd that sometimes I wish my whole life was like that, quite alone? Win and Gwyn (as I’ve started calling them – but don’t tell them!) don’t understand. You’re the only one who knows me truly as I am, the way only a sister can.

Of course I am not really as strange as people think. I’m not alone all the time. Last weekend Hans came on Saturday and Sunday – 76 miles a time! He took me out on his motorcycle and we went so fast it felt like we were about to take off. I threw my head back and looked up at the sky sprinkled with cotton wool clouds and felt like I was flying. Do you remember when we used to bike along the Humber, the banks of sand, the ice of the water and fire of the setting sun? It was like that. I felt alone – but alone with him, in the moment together. Does that make sense? I’m not sure any more. Everything is so muddled in my head. Being with Hans makes me feel… I can’t say. It fills me up but I am scared I am growing dependent on him. I’ve always thought I was independent but Hans has been there ever since I was 18, to write to, to tell everything, to rely on. What if I’m not that independent at all?

I suppose we shall see. The world awaits. Just a few more weeks to go, if I can make it through all the studying. Hans has sent me some tablets to help with the exhaustion – some Swiss herbal things – and they do seem to give me confidence. When I take them I’m certain I’m going to pass all my exams with flying colours! I must be careful with them though. I had a terrible burning head from taking too many last week and I was quite scared for a while.

Dad’s coming to visit next week, stopping in on his way to America. Some business trip. He wants to know what I’m going to do after graduation. So do I! Something will come along. It always does. I’ve told him and mum there’s no way I can stay here another year for my teaching certificate. Besides, teaching’s not for me, I know that. I haven’t got the patience. Other people don’t seem able to keep up with me and it frustrates me. Perhaps I’ll get father to look for something for me in America – what an adventure! I would miss you of course and Hans but with me in Sheffield and him in Hull, what difference would it make? You could come and visit, Reeny, imagine that! New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia. Coming back to Hull feels like a terrible compromise – no offence, dear old Hull. But to live at home again after three years of freedom… No – I must find something else. A real adventure. I wasn’t born to sit around. My feet itch to see the new places. One day the world will know Amy Johnson’s name. All I have to do now is figure out how. Ideas on a postcard.

With all my love,

Your sister Amy x


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