Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday 17th April 1937

A long day, this! Had intended to go to the office by tube, but it was a wet morning and I was late and altogether it seemed a bit silly to join the underground throng when I had a car. From Sheperd’s Bush onwards, I felt pretty scared. Grim streams of traffic, bloody big buses, drizzling rain, slippery roads. Had to pull up on traffic lights at Notting Hill and the car skidded badly. Marble Arch, Oxford Street.
I pulled out of the stream and found a garage in Poland Street. Following signs and circling up steep ramps I at last came out high on the roof. About seven floors up!

Left the office about 2 o’clock. Lunch at The Austrian (once again affluent) then met John at Charing Cross. We had arranged to survey the Coronation route but as it was still drizzling and we felt lazy, we went to the Forum, Villiers Street, instead. Afterwards we had tea at an Italian café nearby and tried to pretend we had done a hell of a lot of preliminary surveying.

John left me at 7 o’clock and I then phoned Gwyn and said I wanted to see her. Arranged to meet her at Wimbledon, 8:30. Got the car off the roof park (after I’d had a refreshing wash-and-brush-up) and drove south. Lighting up time. The roads were treacherous, there were delays, and the way was difficult to find. However I reached Wimbledon about 8:45 and eventually found Gwyn. Her astonishment when she saw the car! Did not know whether to get in or run away!

We got clear of Wimbledon and reached Kingston. Then, thank heavens, I was on familiar roads again. Staines. Egham. Past the works I came out of the 30 limit for the first time and was able to touch the accelerator a little. It was strangely thrilling to be driving along with a girl beside me. Rather snug. Somehow snug.
The reason I wanted to see Gwyneth Elaine was to say goodbye. Several months ago, at the end of the summer, Gwyneth and I made a solemn pact that if we ever parted, the parting should be gay. I thought we were reaching the edge of boredom with each other, so I wanted to see Gwyn.

It was still drizzling and the windscreen wiper clicked steadily as the car sped along familiar country roads. Windsor, Virginia Water, headlights throwing a beam ahead. Amazing! Gwyn had the same thought about parting, the same remembrance of our heart – to - heart pledge. She wrote me a letter to say as much, this week. Presumably it is still in the post. (Actually at this time the letter had just reached Hawthorn Court, by the night delivery.)

Memo. for a sales man: If I had been hesitant instead of imperative when telephoning, she would not have come at all tonight, as there was another engagement.
Parked the car on Chobham Common. We made love but – it was too true! – the thrill had vanished. Both realised it. We were just below the clump of pines. I felt the rush of wind against the car; when I opened the door I heard wind booming in the trees above.

Half past eleven; we turned homewards. At 12 o’clock, near Walton-on-Thames, I solemnly moved the hands of the clock forward to 1 a.m. Summer time begun.
Country roads to Epson and Sutton. Gwyn lit cigarettes for me as we went along. At the gate of a house in a silent road, she waved as I backed, then drove away – second, top.

It was all over. A cup of tea; petrol; frustration. Slowly I found my way home. Few people to direct me, few signposts. Click, click, from the windscreen wiper!

Ealing 4 o’clock.


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