Memories of my father’s pre-war Austin 10 (May 27) brought to mind pictures from its travels. They are very clear, though I cannot have been more than four years old. I was reunited with one image by Internet, only a few days ago: Meavy stepping stones, on Dartmoor in Devon. I remember them so clearly: how slippery and uneven they were, a bit scary to a small boy, but I clambered across them, the stream bubbling about them. Here is a link to a picture of them: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stepping_Stones_by_Meavy_Ford_-_geograph.org.uk_-_117540.jpg
Although the scene here is clearly a winter one, the stones are so much as I remember them, after 70 years (yes, really, as long as that), that I was delighted to see them again.
The war was coming. This must have been in the minds of my parents, though I knew nothing of that – and it would not have been part of the mores of the time to convey anxiety to me. They must have made the most of those months before it started – in the new car, as they drove about the county and to its coast: Mothecombe, Corsand, Bigbury-on-Sea – and inland, Hay Tor, Yelverton.
And Meavy itself with its pub, the Royal Oak and the tree after which it is named. There is a picture of it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meavy . I remember mention by my parents of ‘King Charles’ having hidden in it. I later learned that there are many ancient oak trees for which that honour is claimed.
And I remember the smell of the purple methylated spirits, as my mother pumped a little stove to boil a kettle and make tea.
And my father saying he was off to ‘see a man about a dog’ and disappearing behind the gorse bushes. At four years old I really believed there was a dog.
My mother was an artist and many of these impressions are contained in her pictures and embroideries. Perhaps when we were torn from it all by the war and the Plymouth bombs, the memories stayed in my imagination as an image of home – or a metaphor, by now, for a greater homecoming.
We stayed in Devon again sometime in the war as ‘evacuees’. I remember people talking about the para raid on Arnhem.
Sometimes there was fog on Dartmoor and news of a hunt for a prisoner who had escaped from the jail at Princeton. Sometimes the train from Paddington had a shuttered compartment and people spoke in awe of a prisoner being transported there.
More memories maybe, eventually