Sunday, March 02, 2008

Friday 25th February 1938

In the morning, Wright and I made calls on the Suffolk border. Afternoon: Again drove right through Essex to Grays. Another enquiry had come in for Paripan Enamels in bulk – from a well known builders merchants. I interviewed the managing director, a ferocious, brusque individual who somehow did not overawe me in the least. “What are your maximum terms to merchants?” he demanded as soon as I’d closed the door.
“33 1/3% and 5% off trade prices” I replied with equal directness. “Sit down “ he sighed, “Now lets get down to brass tacks. What are your maximum terms?” I repeated the former statement, with some hauteur. From then onwards, the interview was joyfully diplomatic.

Mr Saunders carefully explained that a certain builder wanted to buy Paripan through them. This man had said he already bought it at trade less 33 1/3% and 5%! This sounded incredible but I naturally thought of Billings, the builder seen last Tuesday, who had considered using Paripan via his merchant brother-in-law, at Laindon. I remembered a remark of his, “Don’t worry, I can get full discounts anyhow.” Mr Saunders would not disclose his client’s name because if he did, and we as a result, stopped “Mr X’s” irregular source of supply, this might cause the loss of his custom for other materials. “Mr X’s” account with Beacon Store Co. was several thousands a year…

“I am going to mention a name to you,” I said suddenly and the director became tense.
“Was it ------ Billings?” As I snapped out the name, Mr Saunders eyelids flickered. He prevaricated cleverly but that was enough! (How the hell was Billings already getting full discounts. And in any case, why mention the matter to Beacon Store Co. if he intended to deal with Leonard’s Stores?) We continued to discuss the matter, referring to the client as Mr X. Once I casually (but deliberately!) used the name Billings in connection with this mysterious client. But the director was far too clever to be so easily trapped. He did not let it pass uncontradicted! This correction I politely acknowledged.

(A clerk tapped on the door. “Come in” rasped Mr Saunders. “Oh” quavered the clerk, stupidly apologetic in the doorway. I saw his heart thumping under his shabby jacket, poor devil. Mr Saunders glared at him. “I said come in” he snarled.) We parted on friendly terms. I agreeing to have discreet inquiries made. I’d do that in any case; don’t like mysterious sources of supply into my territory. That was the first thing to perplex and disturb me.

In the evening I called at Number 218. I felt very much at home. Wrote my report etc. The memo on the Beacon Store Co. was brief. I simply requested an interview with Mr FC Reddall at Sherwood House, “with reference to the above matter” adding a request that no further steps should be taken in the meantime.

Heard some good news tonight. I passed the Anti-Gas Exam. The paper was hardly criticised and was marked; “An excellent paper, showing keen interest and knowledge. Passed.”

After tea I amused myself removing black paint from a brass firepiece, using a filthy concoction which had been obtained from the Works. Pat solemnly watched as I crouched over the kitchen sink amid unpleasant strong fumes. She kept, “Hoping I’d soon be back.” Should I come back soon? Had I got some girl in Colchester? No, she didn’t want me to have one. Suddenly I said, “If you feel like that, you must be fond of me.” “Well, I am.” “You must be very fond.” “Perhaps I am.” She gazed at me demurely. (It was very romantic, with the strong reek of paint remover!) “Perhaps you are falling in love” I said, watching her. “Maybe I am, she said, a funny sort of look in her eyes. This sort of thing upset my plans! It made me imagine that I had won but I was wrong. Too soon!

We drove down Cherry Orchard Lane, got out of the Zephyr, and stood on the edge of the cornfield, under the stars.
I kissed her. But she did not kiss me. Not really. (“What, on the lips?” she said in surprise, at first. Unawakened!) We then sat in the car and talked a lot of rot whilst I smoked three cigarettes. I explained that I could see no reason for our meeting any more, except in the play, which would still go on. “You are not going to desert me?” she asked, and I thought inconsequently of Brooke’s “Desertion”… “So light we were, so right we were…” Then she said various nice things and fiddled about with my left sleeve. How she had taken me for granted until I went to Colchester and then she knew she’d miss me terribly. On Sunday morning, when I went, she woke up with a rotten feeling as though there was suddenly a gap somewhere.
But she didn’t say she loved me.

“You want us to meet again then?” “Yes, definitely.” (Oh, hell, I thought, this only makes it worse.) So I decided to say nothing more, then left her at 218 soon after 11 o’clock. I’d said “Think of me at midnight, if you’re still awake, cos I’ll be thinking of you, then.”

At 12 o’clock I was ordering supper at The Oasis. Stayed there till 1 o’clock.
Bed at 3 a.m.

I am writing this at 10 p.m. Saturday, in a car park at Bury St Edmunds. It is dark, of course, but I’ve propped up a flashlight, so that I can write. I think I’ve found serenity but it is only superficial. I am impatient! Impatient for Tuesday, when every thing may be smooth again. Perhaps on Tuesday, I shall clear up the Grays mystery. Perhaps on Tuesday I shall see Pat and tell her that it is alright, I do not love her, do not care the least bit. So we can be gay friends. Why not? (Though it will be untrue.)

Perhaps on Tuesday.


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