Thursday, April 17, 2008

Saturday 12th November 1938

Baffled through the B and AV’s erratic temperament, Lois and I could not go to Wolfhampcote to celebrate the anniversary of our meeting. However –

A squall of rain as we tramped through stinking Gravesend (a foul place but the gateway to Kent). Afterwards, warm winds. At dusk we came to a little house – in a lane that would fade away into the hills and woods. “Teas and Refreshments. Key of the Dode Chapel” We had tea there. When the room became dark, candles with long twisted sticks were brought in. Two ladies with gentle voices sat at the next table. We lit our cigarettes from the candles flame. It was quite dark now. Far away from Gravesend and yet we sat there unhurried? Oh! But this was different! We hadn’t to go back until tomorrow!

Angel led me through the dark woods, up and down steep hills, along leafy pathways; from Buckland to the edge of Halling. For no particular reason we stood close together and kissed. Then, singing, we swung down the hard road to the Robin Hood Inn. Yes, they could put us up! Mrs Ife showed us over the old barn-like house. “The Lady” could have this inner room and I could have the adjoining one. “That’s if you don’t mind us coming through, Sir.” My room therefore would be a passage through which everyone else had to go! I assured them that I was used to that sort of thing – indeed, I had a similar room at Magna Charta, Egham, years ago.

Away from our people, independent and free, we made ourselves “at home”, sitting by the fire in the little parlour behind the bar. Muddy shoes and rucksacks put away; comfy slippers; we lazily listened to the radio. We were happy. After a jolly good supper we scrambled up the steep hillside near the great quarry in Wingate Wood. We sat down on a pile of wood shavings, where the cutters had been at work. Amazing coincidence! At our feet, Angel found the old hat I threw away in these woods during the all-night ramble, last June!

Back at the pub we listened to the story of Mr Ife’s darts match. (The atmosphere was most reminiscent of the Red Lion.) Then we all went to bed. Mr and Mrs Ife marched through my room and into theirs. Lois glided through my room, paused as she passed me, and whispered, “If you come into my room afterwards, you can have some chocolate”. “Don’t want any chocolate,” I muttered, with pseudo-sulkiness. However I did sit on her bed and have a bite of chocolate before turning in… …at four twenty. Then, Milady came back with me and crept into my bed, cos “It must be so cold”.
It was lovely for her to be there, snuggling close to me, a very golden head on my chest. The head, I knew, must be very golden, although it was too dark for me to see. It was thrilling once, when Mr Ife came through the room, en-route to the bathroom; we lay very still, hardly daring to breathe. Because – what seemed so innocent to ourselves might not appear to be innocent to people who did not know us.

Milady left me at 6:30. Whilst we lay together, I’d made her promise that when we had a few days holiday together, we’d be, - in the eyes of the world! – a married couple. And you, who may someday read this book, remember that that suggestion was, to both of us, as simple, innocent and natural as this night-adventure had been.

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