Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday 22nd May 1938

Another day with Lois, in the open air and beneath the sun. Planning a ramble she is leading in Kent next month. Drove to Tilbury (25 mph all the way!), parked Zephyr and crossed the River by ferry to Gravesend. We walked through the streets and out into the fields beyond. Sultry weather. Soon my tie was in my pocket and my hat in the rucksack. Lunch on a hilltop, beneath an old windmill surrounded by gorse bushes.
(I was already exhausted.)

On, through beautiful country. The path ran from hill to hill, clear for miles. We felt very much au fait and responsive to each other’s moods. Once I knelt and put my face into some fragrant herbage, rather like clover. (It was on a hillside. Hops below, in straight rows, a ragged wood above.) When I looked up, Lois was lying full length nearby, face buried, drinking in the scent. Once Lois led me a few paces off the path, to the very edge of a great white quarry, which fell away vertically from the very roots of the trees. I sat and smoked a cigarette: threw a stone over the edge. Silent seconds before we heard the stone strike. In the distance, we saw a barge moving along the Medway.

We reached a little village below that precipitous hill and had tea at “The Robin Hood.” Lois had written a poem about us:- “The Launching”

We met and were attracted, Decided friends we’d ever be.
One night in ideal weather,
Launched our Friend Ship on the Sea.
She slid into the water,
Newly christened and a bride,
His arms now held her tightly,
His caresses round her sighed.

Sealed orders had her Captain,
Off she sailed with goodly breeze;
Destined for ever roving,
Night and day the seven seas.”

The landlady showed us round the house, “in case we’d like to come for a weekend sometime”. I’m sure she thought we were married! From one bedroom window we could see the great white quarry towering up towards the woods at the skyline. We took the road again, back over the hills. We had a faint quarrel and I became bad-tempered and taciturn. Cider at “The Leather Bottle” in Cobham.

Twilight. Silence and sulkiness and the cool evening breeze, made our pace grow more and more rapid. The path ran straight as a die, over level lands. Faster and faster…
“Why are you so pensive?” asked Lois, quietly. A crucial moment! I told her, “I detest any secrecy!” We talked, whilst everything trembled in the balance. “Oh!” said Lois suddenly, “Where is our Friend Ship bound now, after all?” “Round and round the Isle of Wight” I sneered. She put one hand quickly up to her face, “Oh, don’t!” “Well, let’s send it from Southend to Calais with a cargo of trippers. Banality… Cheap French Wine, seasickness, shouting, sweating trippers, peanuts and bananas…” “Don’t!” she cried, “Oh, why must you, why must you?”

And I knew I must not sneer, so foolishly: that she meant her poem: that there was really a Friend Ship: that once again I had found Response in a girl. Soon we were comrades again, soon there were no secrets. “I’m glad you’re talking again” said Lois, “That awful silence… The lump had gone from my throat now.”

Night; and we sat forward on the upper deck of the ferry boat. The seat was damp so I sat on a corner of Lois’ mac, which was open. Rucksack at my feet, a pleasant tingling in my limbs, wind-burn on my face. We both turned as the boat got under way, we both looked at the lights and at the dark, rippling river. “This is one of the things I can’t put into words”. “You should have been my brother. Our thoughts are always together.”

We drove back to Eastwoodbury happily, close to each other.


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