Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sunday 2nd April 1939

These amazing digs! At 10 o’clock, Iris came into my bedroom and lay and lit a fire. A few minutes later she arrived again with a breakfast tray of ham and egg, bread, butter and marmalade and a pot of tea. And the morning paper! So I was able to eat leisurely, have several cups of tea, then lie lazily, smoking and reading, whilst the fire burned merrily.

A leisurely dressing, wash and shave. Writing and office work until lunchtime.
Faint sunshine and warmth. Feeling like a boy playing truant (ie. Delightfully guilty!) I sped, in Slinky B, along the old Southend – London road. Guilty because – I was not alone in the car. April was with me, on an April afternoon!

April, chattering quickly in her high-pitched voice; April C, with her sudden laughters and impetuous gestures. (Oh, we’ve know each a longish time and yet only superficially until recently. We didn’t each know that the other was attracted; we didn’t each know that the other was engaged.) Later this day our attitude to this escapade was to be clearly defined in three little sentences in the midst of light conversation.

“I’m known as a breaker of hearts!” she was to announce impressively.
“I hope you don’t maintain your reputation and break mine,” I was to reply, drily.
“Oh, but I can’t break your heart because it belongs to someone else” she would then say with sudden calm seriousness.

Meanwhile, on the road to Tilbury, I suddenly realised that an Austin Ten was stubbornly keeping ahead of me. But a Ford Ten is just a little faster than the fastest Austin Ten! So my right foot moves gently downward, the engine sounds quicken and the speedometer needle flickers upwards. The song of the engine has risen to crescendo, the needle has swung and steadied at 64. The wheel moves right, steadies, moves left, steadies – and the Austin is behind Slinky B.

Kent again and grey Essex behind! Our mackintoshes slung like cloaks on our shoulders, we trudged along muddy pathways that rose gradually. I smoked the old cracked pipe. Although it’s supposed to be on the retired list, it still tastes good.
We explored some caves in a hollow. My torch was useful. At the far end of the longest cave she scrambled onto the stone and scrawled on the wall, with a lump of chalky stone: “APRIL. APRIL 2 1939” and I then wrote below: “STEPHEN”. We both blew our noses. “I always blow my nose with gusto” she said enthusiastically.

Later we sat on a fence and munched apples. April mentioned that she liked to munch loudly and annoy prim people! We found the path I knew. Next time we blew our noses we discovered that our handkerchiefs smelt deuced earthy – graveyard effect, in fact. The country became more beautiful but as it was becoming loveliest we had to turn aside towards Cobham.

At teatime, at the Leather Bottle, part of the conversation I’ve already mentioned occurred and we both tacitly knew this was one of the delightful “platonic friendships” beloved of novelists and others.

Tilbury Ferry again and the lights on the river. Essex again. “Lovely day” wrote April on the misty offside window.


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