Sunday, February 03, 2008

Monday 10th January 1938

There were few calls to make in the Southend area so I soon decided to seek pastures new, in the shape of Burnham on Crouch. Lunch at a snug little café at Rayleigh.
A winsome, dark-eyed girl served me quietly. Presently, a man entered carefully, leading a terrier. Foreign accent, thick spectacles. Interesting. We soon entered into conversation. Had he been in Essex long? Eight months. He lived at South Woodham. “I shall stay until I have done one certain thing”, he said deliberately. “Perhaps that will be September.” Several times, as we talked, the girl came through. Each time she looked at me, unreadable. Once, as she went out I looked straight at her. I could see and feel her eyes in the shadowy corridor, as the door slowly closed. Weird!

And what was that certain thing? The strangers name was George Sinclair – a very English name! He gave me his address, asked me to call sometime. “And this is not a Chinese invitation,” he added, “I really hope you will come.” We shook hands politely. In the passage, I paid my bill. Without speaking, the quiet girl opened the street door for me.

Outside, it was raining. Soon as I dashed along beyond the river, water was beginning to drip through the roof onto my right ankle. Burnham on Crouch. Forgetting strange fancies, I made four calls. In each case I talked smoothly and confidently, to the right man. Four promising contacts, two orders, both from yacht builders. Then – half past four – the road homewards. The winding, darkling road towards Battlesbridge… Until it was night and the headlights swung.

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