By the Seaside

We’ve a black and white photograph from 1968. It shows our family at Eastbourne. Mrs Llew and I are seated in deckchairs, while our small daughters potter on the sand. I am stripped to the waist but  wear long trousers. I have my shoes on. I am slim – and  remain relatively so for the next 40 years. I did not know then that this would place me now in the higher ranks of the virtuous.

I am smoking a pipe – which I did not know then would place me one day  somewhere beyond murderers as the most wicked of human beings. But it’s a cosy picture of family unity.

I remember persuading Mrs Llew to venture into the shallows and try to float on her back. This she valiantly did but in her terror she forgot to remove her little wind-up watch, a present from her father. It died in the surf. She had only had it for a few weeks. Grandparents and an uncle and aunt are on the beach, though not in this picture.

Now, as I look at that photograph, I am looking not out to sea but from the sea to the shore. The water is blue and green. I can see our little family there, on the sand. Around me are the friends of a lifetime and the parents and grandparents of Mrs Llew and me. And the uncles and aunts. I am with them, and they with me and Mrs Llew, as we look back on our lives: together and separately.

I take a moment to remember the future Mrs Llew at a Chelsea Jazz Club.

Under the sea skies I look back at that tiny, young  family, on the beach at Eastbourne more than 40 years ago; I want to bring it to where we and our many life friends are now. And those who have died.

The scene contained an embryo of what we are now, in old age, for which I thank our guardian angels. And again, I think of our old friend who left us the bronze of Shakespeare, whom I mentioned yesterday.

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