I’ve journeyed a long way in the past two days: into the past. The starting point was lunch with my sister in an angler’s pub beside a busy weir, and a garden where pollarded willows, so old and hollow that a child could hide in them, grow above the stream.
We were supposed to be a foursome but my sister’s husband and Mrs Llew were ill and so my sister and I travelled to the inn without them and there we sat in a quiet restaurant and ate and talked. Lest this seem too much of an idyll the beer cost a hefty £3.65 a pint. Beyond the window a buttercup-yellow field awaited the mower. In another direction there was a view into the distance across the fields of two counties.
For some reason we found ourselves talking about our father. My sister is nearly eight years younger than me and we both realised that there was much about the early years of our parents’ life together, that she could not know. I reminisced, from my childhood memories, and we both looked back to the death of our father 36 years ago, and its circumstances. It would be inappropriate to write in detail about our thoughts and discoveries and feelings about that time, about a father we both mourn, except to say that our talk was a great help to both of us.
And it was as if circumstances worked together towards enabling that to happen. Driving, heavy rain poured down outside, delaying our departure and prolonging our talk. And Mrs Llew quipped later that it seemed as if the indispositions suffered by my brother-in-law and by herself had also played their sacrificial part here.
My sister asked about our parents’ pre-war Austin 7 motor car. I told her it was actually an Austin 10 and that there is a picture of my father in immaculate office suit and my mother, wearing a smart fur cape, with the car as it gleamed at the kerbside in a suburb in Plymouth. I was there, aged about three, equally gleamingly presented and as I recall, wearing much hated button-up leggings.
I told my sister I could remember riding in the car and the house to which we were soon to move, before the war ended the idyll.
After a day’s reflection and some time with old photographs I go again to T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, especially, at this moment the lines in the section ‘Dry Salvages’:
‘And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back’
The air was sweet after weeks of drought and my sister and I paused, rested, to listen to the stream.