Monday, March 17, 2008

Saturday 18th June 1938

The first member of the family to congratulate me was Pepita. I met her, with Robin and Father, at The Oasis, Chelmsford. Pepita had been informed by letter, but not Father. He took me into a pub, having heard I had some news for him. I sipped my beer then said, “How old were you when you were engaged Father?” “Oh, I d’know. About sixteen, perhaps.” He added casually, “Why, are you engaged?” “Yes. Lois and I.” “What do you want me to do about it?” “Oh, I thought you’d like to know.” “Well, it’s not a bad idea. How old are you – twenty-five? Well, you’ve reached years of discretion; ought to know your own mind I suppose.” “Will you have another drink?” I inquired. “No thanks, I must be getting along.”

“I didn’t think you’d take it so calmly.” said I, as we got back into his car, (I feeling vastly relieved.) “H’m. I take most things calmly.” he said, grinning boyishly. How typical of NCD, all that!

Received a greetings telegram this afternoon, handed in at Aldeburgh, 3:30. “Congratulations and love to you both. Mother and Father.”

CHA Club All-Night Ramble. We met at Tilbury, 10:30. Crossed by the ferry. Lois was leading. John met us at Gravesend. I had soon told him the exciting news. “Who is she?” he demanded, naturally enough. I told him she was in tonight’s party, also that she was wearing my old silver ring. We tramped through the town, out into the dark country beyond. Sometimes John and I walked behind Lois; and as her right arm swung I saw the gleam of my ring on her right hand…

What a glorious night! The moon rode in an almost cloudless sky. When we paused for a rest, one Dorothy Duffield came to sit beside John and myself. John stared at her silently for a long time, furtively watching her hands! I’m writing more than a week afterwards; can’t recapture in words the magic of the night. Just a few incidents and pictures. The path through the hops; John and I drinking neat whisky and coughing fearsomely. The path through wet corn. “Swings the way still by hollow and hill?”

Supper in a valley between the woods. Dorothy and John and myself played “Snap” and “Donkey” whilst the rest lay still. Our light was – flashlight and the moon.
Lines of Omar Khayyam came to me as I saw pale rose creep into the eastern sky:-
“Dreaming when dawn’s left hand was in the sky…”

At last John’s all night search ended. Lois spread a map on the ground. John switched on his torch to help her, throwing a brilliant light onto the map, her hands and the ring. Soon afterwards he said casually, “How did you propose to Lois, then?” We had been in woods in the eerie half-light.

When we reached the further edge I remembered Omar Khayyam again:- “Awake! For Morning in the Bowl of Night has flung the stone that puts the Stars to flight…”
However John and I did not wait for sunrise. With Joan Yeaxlee and three others we went back to the woods and lit a fire on the broad pathway. When the main party came they found a blazing fire, of ash and fir. Twenty-four of us squatted there, singing songs, whilst the sun rose higher. A distant rifle shot made us realise it was day, and we were trespassing.

And that it was:


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