Friday, March 23, 2007


6) Summer’s Fall

And he went to Wraysbury Church one summer afternoon. There was a cricket match being played nearby. White figures on green land… An owl hooted in the night coolness.

The digs was quite near the river… Morning plunge before going to works!

He sometimes cycled to London – along the hot noisy main road – alone.

He went to Datchet and saw a cricket match there. One of the players was Jack Hobbs. Afterwards he cycled to Marlow where old friends were in camp. Oh! It was nice to see them again, far from the snobbery and little suburban atmosphere of Egham. One of those who camped there at Whitsuntide was dead, killed by a bus in London. (Here today…)

He had supper there and came home when they went to bed - at midnight. Silent ride back. (Those tall dark trees on the hill above Great Marlow!)

(1982 Ah! The sad tricks of memory! I remember the cricket match; can still see Hobbs taking a last puff at his cigarette by the pavilion, before going in to bat. I can still hear the gasp of the spectators when the great man was dropped in mid field at six or seven. (I wondered then, as now, if the fielder dropped him from kindness or respect.)

But – forgotten for ever – who were the old friends in camp at Marlow? I met them also at Whitsuntide, camped with them and returned “bruised and limping”. Why are those friends blanked from my mind?

“Tanbe” Dove stayed at the digs a few weeks. Once they walked down the river, determined to have a swim. It was dark, uncanny, forbidding. Penton Hook. Jove! What a weird swim! The shallow water, rippling swiftly past, most sinister.

On a glorious afternoon, Dove and he took a boat out. “Tanbe” fished (without success) whilst the boy lay in the boat, greatly contented, lapping water just near his head. Saw two girls in a boat with a red dog. One of the girls was Pegs; she gave him that usual, strange look. He was not disturbed. A beautifully idle, dreamy afternoon!

Dove went away. They parked in High Street, Staines. “Bye, old man. See you again sometime”. The typical “au revoir”. They’d known each other well, been good comrades, probably would never meet again – “Bye, old man!”

He had no friends at the digs now. Sometimes he met Aud. Sometimes he wandered about alone. Occasionally, he visited pubs, gradually acquiring the taste for beer.


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