Reading Mrs Llew’s letters detailing our life together nearly 50 years ago is like lifting the curtain on a stage set. Here, in the theatre, we wait in the near darkness. Then the curtain rises – and, yes, behold: brilliance, life, a world forgotten if we ever knew it. And today we see on the stage a garden, its flowers and plants lush and abundant in the light.
And so it is that through the haze of time, Mrs. Llew and I look back at our life as a young family and the pageant of friends and relatives which passed through it, and belonged to it. Every aspect at this moment, is vibrant, alive, bright.
Were we that young .. ? Ever? We struggled then, for survival: my career, a young baby, the mortgage the rates – every Christmas my firm gave us two weeks’ wages as a present. We were paid weekly and I took the extra money straight round to the council offices to pay the quarter’s rates – nineteen pounds and ten shillings, the exact amount of my weekly wage.
We enjoyed our friends who visited constantly. Mrs Llew did wonderful things with the cheapest cuts of meat – and she made new collars for my shirts by cutting the material off their tails and refashioning the cloth. The immediacy of all this is dazzling as we read, as is the stage set in the sun.
And our first child, a daughter, infuriated and entranced us and captured the hearts of all our many friends who came to see her and brought her presents. One gift was from an old village councillor, retired quarryman and a veteran of the first war and my newspaper’s local correspondent, who pressed a ‘half crown’, two shillings and sixpence into her tiny palm – silver for luck, a tradition in those parts – and brought us red cabbage from his garden, so that we could pickle it.
Perhaps all the time we spend in our lives has this dimension, of brightness and vitality, which we barely grasp at the time. Thanks to Mrs L’s gift as a chronicler, here, today, we capture that time, in the 1960s, again.
But ‘capture’is maybe the wrong word. ‘Perceive’, ‘appreciate’ ‘experience’may be better terms: or, live again, indeed, as if now. And those moments are truly Now. Perhaps I could say ‘eternal’.
This evening Mrs Llew worked methodically along the borders of our garden, taking up the weeds, cutting back the roses and their blooms, rotten from the months of rain; giving some air and light to her sweet peas, as I sat in the light of the evening sun, nursing my aching knee and a glass of wine.
I’m no philosopher but it seems to me time is not linear, including our evening here, tonight, in the garden. There is without ceasing, as T.S. Eliot, says, a point of intersection with the timeless. May all be resolved there.