We’re pottering in the garden. It’s stopped raining for a moment during this wearisome summer of very unseasonable weather. Mrs Llew is meticulous in the way she trims the edges of what we call a lawn. I’m not ashamed – and nor is she – of daisies and feather-bed moss, and dandelions, which we trim to the surface level, and violets, in the spring. But Mrs Llew likes to keep the edges tidy. Our house is on what was once called Kingsey Meadow. Well, our lawn remains as a tiny patch of meadow.
There’s yellow lichen on the mulberry trees and our window sills, and even on the door of our car, which stands outside in all seasons. Yellow lichen is supposed to betoken good air quality. And so, indeed, is the air here, I thought tonight, as I looked out across ten miles of vale to the hills which rise and dip, like a tune, on the horizon.
And I mulled over our memories of nearly 50 years ago. We have been reading Mrs L’s letters to her mother, sent in the early 1960s, telling of our adventures in a provincial town, where I was a young reporter – and of the time leading to the arrival of our first-born.
It was an English provincial town out of another age, where husbands in raincoats thronged in their thousands on Saturdays to watch the City football club. And where the same men started work at 8 in the morning and went home for lunch, and returned to the shoe and hosiery factories for their afternoon shifts. It was a prosperous town.
Its redbrick terraces of industrial cottages were crisply maintained by these same people. The city had the motto ‘Semper Eadem’ – always the same.
And so it was at that time.
As Mrs Llew and I read those letters we relive them, as if they remain Now. They record Life: as it was then. But that life continues as I write: people, emotions, fun, love, hopes, the life lived by young people who are now old people. In those letters the young people live.
Who knows? They live still in a dimension unperceived by us; here and now.
The letters spoke of the impending arrival of our firstborn. And today we have delighted in pictures of her firstborn, at the seaside.