May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
I met you six weeks before Chamberlain declared war – my father, stalking the kitchen wireless and lecturing at nobody; strange weighted pauses between glances, transactions, salutations – when I found you along with your brother. We were making that trip to Lincolnshire through apocalyptic fog. Do you remember? Hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous, things suddenly appearing before one. We were going to see Richard Holcomb. Holcomb had aggressively advertised his intention to paint, and said that was why he took on a duck farm after Cambridge. But still, we kept up the ‘chap’ even after Antwerp; old boys and insignias as far as the eye could see at the funeral and not a single mention of the bloody ducks. You were upset that day, about the shooting, the guns in the back. But you came anyway, protesting and clinging on – remember Bertie’s driving? – stretched across the back seat of that dinky little Morris with your knees up and your ankles crossed, dressed in public school brown. I could see your eyes trying to catch details in the whizzing treeline whenever I looked backwards, but occasionally you would lean forwards, to check on the men as if we were carrying you across the desert on a covered stretcher. Bearing exclusion, you made your own jokes and laughed at them. It was tumbling and artless, your laugh, and its formation with lips and eyes morphed an unshatterable vision of pink and blue that I did everything not to be religiously obsessed by; glimpses – or maybe I was staring – in the grubby oval of the chipped side mirror. I don’t know why he kept that old thing up, actually. I remember thinking, even though Bert and I were locked in our standard exchange, half in German and constantly threatening teenage politics, how much better everything was with you there. And that you were exactly, though I would never have known it before, what a woman should be like.