Bill's Diary 1948 (Part 1)
First edition: 2013
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1948
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1948
Type: Continuation Books
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July 29th (Thur):
Leave granted. Didn't think there'd be a problem seeing it's been all 'Go' these last few months with free weekends being scarce as hens' teeth. Constanta/Sonora Operation laid to rest after many months; at least the British side is and the rest is up to the police and courts on the continent. That's what Bernie announced to us (cf. 17th entry) but we're still open for business should a request for information come through. If it does, Records can handle it.
Conference took up most of the afternoon but it degenerated into nothing more than general chat because we're up-to-date with most of the items on the agenda. Seems there's enough workers to cover all fronts - Olympics opening (none of my business), Palace bulletins re the Princess's pending baby will draw in larger crowds plus the pick-pockets but they're not my concern either so I'm disposable after handing over any relevant information. The Charles Walton investigation petered out ages ago and seeing our assistance to the Warwickshire Constabulary has now ended, Pete hasn't got all that much on his plate and he'll be able to spend time reviewing my other case notes.
Surprise this morning - a memo contained what could be welcome news, especially for little Lucy-Ann. Dennis passed it onto me because he knew my interest in the case. That black man who used to work for the Mannering children's aunt and uncle may have been found ... apparently a caver got the shock of his life when he lowered himself down a shaft on the moors near Bracknell Forest and found the remains of a body. It has to be officially identified but the suspicion is that it could be Jo-Jo, as he was known. There's rumour going round that a handful of warders knew he was there but had clammed up because the inmate was more trouble than he was worth. The forged document (cf: April 10th,'45 entry) that helped him escape was an embarrassment for one and all. Have to keep track of anything that unfolds. (23:40)
Received a card from the Sullivans' coastal enclave - Polly keeping in touch and thanking me for remembering Jocelyn's birthday. Allie had actually done the remembering and I contributed because he's a nice old man and needed a little something to make him look up, if only for a minute, from his manuscripts and memorabilia. An item to brighten up his study although whether he'll have room for it is doubtful ... Polly will probably place it in the sitting room. Wonder how her health is. According to Allie she's up and down although Jocelyn seems to keep himself free of anything that would force him into his bed. The book is still selling in dribs and drabs apparently, so the extra money will be welcomed.
p.m. Welcome break. Ferried the personage of Sir Frank Newsam to the police college at Ryton-O-D and if the helicopter hadn't been booked by another agency for a 17.00 call I would have detoured to Overton on the way back. Doesn't matter though because I'll be seeing them on Sunday - and I must remember to collect the papers Matt wants delivered.
The police school building nick-named "Hendon" for the last seven or eight years is about finished so the title will need to be struck from our vocabularies although it may end up being attached to the new college at Ryton by a few old timers. Sad, but that's progress. Pete thinks he can dig up a photograph taken of me when I gave a lecture there so I'll have to get on to him ... wonder why I haven't seen it before today.
Confirmation from Reading waiting in the box when I got home; Vernon's a gem ... the boarding house he found in Swansea a few years ago for the annual pilgrimage was top class so I'll take it that our mountain digs will be as good. He's even listed the extras available with all the various costs. He should go into business on his own as an agent for hotels and holiday homes because he knows the field so well ... in fact I'll suggest it to him next time we're in touch. Lounging about a farmhouse in mountain territory sounds pretty good. Proprietors are the Evans's and the cost is very reasonable although there'll be extra charges if we go over the limit, and that probably relates to food seeing we're lugging four kids with us. The farm has a name that's unpronounceable to the non-native, Dothgertoo something ... but that's the least of our worries.
Visited the Shapiro's this eve seeing I'll be away from London for a while. They're always complaining I don't go over there enough and my "heavy work load" excuse is becoming a little faded (true as it is) so after leaving Bow Street, went home, changed, then rang Lois and offered to pick her up. At exactly 19:32 she tripped down the steps of No. 24 looking particularly fetching and thanking me profusely for the unexpected invitation as I opened the door for her. Told me a party was just the thing to take her mind off all the packing and attending to last minute details. Made sense I suppose and I was glad to have her along - she looked like a Princess! Jon, and Esther turned on a spectacular 'Do' as always. Gwen and Charles were there, and Warren Prosser ("passing through"). Herbie, the Shapiros' next-door neighbour, called in ostensibly to complain about the noise but ended up being invited to stay ... and he was pleased to oblige. It beats sitting around by himself reading the newspaper he told us. Left the Hampstead venue just as the guests were beginning to thin out, and delivered Lois back to Cadogan Gardens at a few minutes after midnight although she didn't go in until 00:30 because she wanted a "Long Goodbye." As I'm off to Wales tomorrow and she's off to Durban on Sunday I didn't see why not. Lovely girl, attractive and intelligent - reckon she'll set a few African hearts racing when she rejoins her parents and links up with the party set. (01:05)
Nothing much to pack up - just replaced a few items of clothing in the bag taken to Crawley when the 'Haigh' rumour surfaced. If what we hear is true, there's going to be a major investigation soon but far as I'm concerned, it's cut-off time for me right now. Unloaded all the perishables onto Victor and Matilda, which means their pensions will stretch a little further this month.
Call out at 18.00 but a welcome one at that ... Johnnie's down from Northampton and wanted some company. He has a room for a couple of days so to turn down his offer would be a crime. Hadn't seen him for at least a year and it may have turned out longer because when I got to the bar of the Sloane Square Hotel he was nowhere to be seen. Checked at the desk and sure enough there was a J. Sorenson registered. Went back to the bar and there he was - told me he'd almost run out of gas when coming back from the branch office and had spent 'ages' searching for a garage. Exchanged news; he's going to man the company's Bristol office from September and if I'm any judge, he'll make a success of it thanks to his knowledge of circuits. I'd be happy on half his salary. Jenny's signed up as well; she'll be his secretary. He insisted on shouting me an excellent meal in the smaller, more exclusive, restaurant of the hotel and I didn't get away till just past midnight. Really pleased about his success - Johnnie's a great guy. (23:40)
As everything had been prepared I was able to jump into the car and tear away by 07:30. Took the Slough-Reading route so that Matt could have the advantage of a fast delivery service. Left his papers at the Maidenhead Magistrates Court (had to deliver them to the clerk's house as it was Sunday), then carried on through Reading to Oakley where I searched out Ibworth Lane to spend a little time with Cliff who was sunning himself in on his uncle's back lawn. He's on leave for three more days and then heads north to join Henry's investigation team. Introduced me to his uncle and aunt and it'd be difficult to find more hospitable people. They insisted on my partaking of a morning snack - tea, macaroons and cupcakes, whilst I admired the garden, and the cottage itself capped with a thatched roof that rivals the Mannerings' although it's of a slightly darker shade. Had to leave after about forty minutes if I was going to arrive at the Mannerings 'reasonably' on time but must visit them again one day to hear more of Uncle Wesley's piloting career. He's met Ken Cross, DFC, etc etc, and Doug Bader!!!
They saw me off at 11:20 and just over an hour and a half later I was cruising along at 30mph through the greenery of Silkmill Lane and feeling pretty good. It was Sunday afternoon, I was on leave, and about to join friends for a holiday in the country. Friends indeed. Looking forward to seeing the kids again, and Allie ... quickening pulse there! Stopped the car in a spot under some trees at the roadside and thought about Alison for a few moments. Those letters she sent separately from the children's had certain intensity about them. Have mine been the same? Casted my mind back trying to remember what I'd put but nothing stood out except that I'd signed off with "Yours lovingly," but only because she'd put it in her letter. Reasonable I suppose because we're good friends and we josh a little - a 'lot' actually. Be nice to know if Allie has made as many friends as the children. They'd have school mates of course but there are village fetes and church fairs where one mingles and Allie's a great one for 'helping out.' Evening invitations would be no problem seeing the kids are old enough to be left alone, so her social life is an open door. Not hard to imagine 'Mrs. Mannering' in a barn on one of the outlying farms waiting to be called for the Veleta by some yokel who works at the Gas Board. Do I feel jealous? Got out and checked the oil, water, and tyres. Also opened the suitcase - if there was anything needed it'd make good sense to call in at the village. Nothing missing. Brought the log up to date seeing the rest of the day is going to be busy and I want to be unfettered. (13:10)
Pulled up in the Mannerings' driveway a few minutes later and was treated to a shower of water that came from a hose propped up near a flower garden. Heard a shriek of laughter from inside the main door as Lucy-Ann ran out to greet me in her usual way. Gave out a hug and a kiss while she spilled all the latest news and led me round to the back where Allie was tying sweet peas to some stakes. She turned, and what a pleasure it was to see her looking so remarkably cool and pretty in a floral print frock that made her almost indistinguishable from the taller flowers. She looked so chic I felt like roughing her up a little ... my excuse would've been that I've already sorted out Jack and Philip and it was now her turn. Fortunately manners came to the fore and I just greeted her enthusiastically as she came over and responded by kissing my cheek. One thing I like about Allie is her expressiveness. Lucy-Ann smiled up at us and continued filling me in with all the details of her life and those of the others and Allie passed on her versions when Lucy-Ann stopped to take a few breaths. As we walked through the roses to the back door I thought a tiny cushion must have fallen from an upper window but when I felt my ear being rubbed by something soft and downy and heard a crackly voice repeating "Bill! Old Bill! Bill! Old Bill" I knew I was definitely in Mannering Country. The feathery bundle on my shoulder was Kiki of course. Fluttering her wings and whispering some unintelligible sounds, her claws dug into my shoulder as she raised herself up as high as possible and squawked "God Save The King!" I heard Allie laughing and then Lucy-Ann started dragging me down the side path to greet the others who were just wheeling their bicycles through the gate.
Greeted them all, and Kiki after rubbing her feathery breast against my cheek once more, flew back to her master's shoulder. Jack, Dinah and Philip all tanned and healthy, crowded round me in excitement ... Dinah and Jack carrying shopping bags so full of goods, it made me wonder if the grocer had anything left on his shelves. Jack showed me a pocketknife he'd purchased from the ironmongers and I duly admired it as he pulled out a gleaming blade and managed to score a cut on his index finger. We all moved inside and while he fetched a plaster from the bathroom, we congregated in the kitchen where Allie, helped by the girls, began preparing refreshments. She ordered me into the sitting room because I was the guest although Dinah, despite her mother's admonishment, placed a tray into my hands and told me to wheel the trolley out.
I did so. Thankfully it was cooler inside the house and the next half hour was spent over a relaxing afternoon tea while we covered the other newsworthy events in our lives, as well as our shortly to begin trip. Lucy-Ann remarked that their 'Uncle Geoffrey' had sent them both a letter and she dug it out for me to read.
"He only writes about once a year," she said, " ... but that's probably because he's not been well and needs looking after."
Asked her who 'Ella' was and she told me it was her Uncle's housekeeper Ella Miggles, who's been with him "for years and years, and years." Noticed a small magazine called Country-Side on the table which Lucy-Ann suddenly picked up, and after leafing through some pages, she handed it to me and pointed out an article by a "Liam O'Connor." Several beautiful studies of eagles with a fledgling told me that someone's talent has been recognized and the big smile on Lucy-Ann's face told me who it was. Jack leaned over my shoulder looking very pleased with himself although he tried to adopt a modest expression.
I read through the article that gave some background to the hard won photographs and a very interesting little piece it was. Jack said that three of his pictures have been forwarded to the Keystone agency so there may be some royalties in the wind. The Mannerings are a talented family all told. Allie has a little studio where she's been painting landscapes and even throwing a pot or two, which she sells to the local gift shop, and one of her 'better' pictures is hanging in the gallery of the art society.
"It's only a tiny establishment," Allie said looking at me nonchalantly, " ... an artist friend and myself started it up."
One or two sales have been conducted it appears and Allie's hoping a few more of her efforts will attract an interested clientele. Afterwards, she took me outside to a small stone outhouse I'd seen in the corner of the garden earlier on. It might be the envy of any artist, spic and span with lots of character and it has a window facing the 'Northern Light' which, according to Allie, is the best for her needs. Lucy-Ann who'd trailed along behind us broke in and told me that Vermeer insisted upon it in his day whereupon my ignorance was highlighted! What or who was a Vermeer and they both laughed. Allie explained so now I can hold my head up if I'm ever invited to a "showing" at the Tate.
Her eyes lit up when I admired some pictures that were in various stages of completion but it wasn't just because I knew her and wanted to encourage the hobby; I liked the pictures immensely even in their unfinished state but I couldn't exactly pinpoint why. Balance? Compactness? Maybe. They're very colourful and Allie seems to have a natural talent for introducing shades that draw attention to various parts of the canvas before they blend into the whole picture and I think that's a good summation for an amateur. Went out into the sunshine again and while Allie closed the window and locked up, Lucy-Ann took me to the small garage at the end of the driveway to show me 'their car,' although it wasn't really. Ran my eyes over a well kept Austin Ten belonging to friends who are temporarily overseas; in return for looking after it the Mannerings are allowed full use of the vehicle.
We went back into the house and whilst Allie was in the kitchen, I joined the kids in the sitting room where the sun was flooding the mantelpiece and highlighting various photographs. Asked after Philip's rats and he told me they'd became a little burdensome when adulthood visited upon all three, and not wanting to split the group, he'd taken them to the pet shop and from there they went to a good home according to the proprietor.
"Not so bad when they're young," Philip said, "But Dinah kept nagging at me ..."
"I don't nag!" said Dinah immediately.
"Yes you do!"
"No I don't! Anyway, I'm glad you got rid of them, otherwise I may have had to do something about them myself."
"Oh yeah?" retorted Philip. "You wouldn't risk having a spider put inside your bed, and you know it!"
Allie came in to restore some order and told the kids to show me the awards they received last year at the ceremony in London. I'd already seen them of course but the children are so proud of them and I was happy to gloss over the shiny little medals once again. Dinah then showed me her legs - there wasn't a single sign of the disease that had afflicted her on our return from the islands.
"Philip's heard from Tassie," she told me and immediately her brother raced upstairs to fetch a postcard that showed a picture of the town centre at Porthcawl where the little gypsy girl goes to boarding school. Some rather scrawly writing on the back described how she'd won first place in the swimming sports, and that Sister Bernadine is very pleased with her poges - Philip said they've interpreted that as 'progress.' She was also in the school concert where she played a waf ('waif' according to Philip) and when Jesus touched her she had to perform a somersault. She did two circus flips one after the other and received tremendous applause from a stunned audience" - those last few words included by her monitor who adds things now and again to the correspondence. Tassie's parents are well she reports and the foundation managing the girl's school expenses actually arranged for them to travel from Scotland for a surprise visit during term time. Must have been quite an experience - especially for Mrs. Faa whom I don't think is all that worldly. All in all, it seems that Tassie is obtaining a fine education from a highly respected school.
I stood up and announced:
"Grab your glad-rags, grab your bags, and put up the sails. We're off to Wales!"
There was a frantic rush upstairs on the children's part as they went to get their belongings. Not Allie though because she's an organized woman - Dinah was instructed to bring her neatly packed bag down from the master room and to see that all windows were closed. Philip yelled down that he'd check them as well, which earned him what sounded like a slap from his sister for doubting her efficiency. A following "Ouch!" told us that Dinah had received due reaction to her violence. Will they ever learn? Kiki flew down the stairs and landed on Allie's shoulder to tell her Jack wouldn't be long, or she may have said something like that - I couldn't quite make it out because there was too much noise.
"I'll give them one minute," I said.
Allie nodded and went into the kitchen briefly for a last look round. After I'd checked the downstairs windows the kids at last clattered into the sitting room and surrounded us waiting for orders. The boys were dispatched to fetch a filled hamper from the larder and I told the girls that as we'd be stuck in the car for a few hours they might need some distractions. Lucy-Ann rummaged in the sideboard and extracted a few board games and a deck of playing cards.
We left the house with Kiki seeming even more excited than the kids. She began squawking out a repertoire of words that actually made sense while Allie was locking the door and then with Lucy-Ann and Dinah arguing as to who would sit by a window we all crowded into the car. The children waved to nothing in particular as I engaged the gear, moved out into the street, and turned right to begin the first installment of our holiday.
Writing this in a garden on the fringes of Ludlow. The kids were getting hungry and rather than opening the hamper which is really to supplement our hosts' supplies, we stopped at a house with a sign on the gate advertising "Teas." Suited us well and now we're having a break in the garden. Philip's already downed three sausage rolls and Kiki's making sure she's in on the meal in fact she seems to be doing better than any of us by flying from shoulder to shoulder and begging titbits from everyone. Jack's studying the map and informs us the road we're in is Temeside; he's useful when we're travelling because of his ability to figure out the best routes and shortcuts. Allie's lying back in her chair reading a month old "Life" and has informed me that Phyllis Calvert is playing Peter Pan on stage after being snubbed by the J. Arthur Rank mob. Never heard of her so Allie grabbed the pen from my hand and demanded some attention while she filled me in. Didn't mind that because when Allie looks directly at me I find the view attractive. Philip now seems like he's going to take a nap, and the girls are admiring the flowers. (13:50)
Set off again after a very pleasant forty minutes and headed west and then north with Jack consulting the map every now and again to locate the highways and byways. Kiki tried to repeat the names as he read them out but once the Welsh side of our trip began, she became a little confused. Jack read out some places at random such as Dolgellau, which Kiki interpreted as Ding Dong Bell. Ffestiniog - "Fusty dog," Porthcawl (where the gypsy girl Tassie goes to school) became "Pork caw," and I gave her an 'A' for effort. Dyffr˙ncoediog equaled "dirfy cod lig," and Pwllheli was enunciated as "piggy-wiggy." That came from her familiarity with The Three Little Pigs according to Jack.
Innovative as always, the kids passed the time with "I Spy" and number spotting, and a card game or two with Allie joining in and winning a game of "Strip Jack Naked" - accompanied every now and again by a loud gear-changing noise performed by Kiki until she was told to "Shut Up, or else!" Made good time and left Llangollen behind at about 19:00 and when the sun was well settled in the west, we entered our hosts' home village and passed a picturesque old church - St. Curig's according to Jack who had picked up the map again. Carried on up the road which is little more than a track, past stone walls and grassy uncultivated land, then turned left a little further on and drove to an old farmhouse that was our oasis after being cooped up in the car for so long.
Parked and as the engine silenced, a woman who looked forty-something emerged from the farmhouse calling to her husband as she hurried towards us with a big smile on her face. Her hair was tied at the back and a brooch with symbols encircling a dragon was fastened to the bodice of her flowing dress. Heavy white shoes clicked as she greeted us and then introduced her husband as 'Effans' who shook hands, although he didn't feel up to shaking the claw that Kiki held out. Effans has a pleasant pixyish face with twinkling eyes and looks to be in his early fifties. He had on a waistcoat and cotton shirt tucked into dark brown trousers and looked very much the part of a Welsh farmer
They escorted us into the house as if we were royalty with Jack and Philip lugging the hamper into the kitchen and it's just as well we had brought it because our hosts had prepared an enormous spread for us. The table groaned with an answer to the children's prayers ... food, food, and more food! Just as I was wondering if this might cost "extra" Mrs. Evans informed us that it was "high tea" served in place of a later meal, which meant it, was included, as far as I could see. I told her to use whatever she liked from the hamper because the kids often want snacks and plenty of their favourites have been included.
First we were taken upstairs and shown rooms that contained the basics, and were very clean. Allie and I have one each with the kids doubling up as usual - comfortable, old fashioned accommodation. We all washed away any grime that may have been picked up and then it was downstairs for a really satisfying meal with Kiki as usual supplying the entertainment. She was into a bowl of raspberries with zeal until it was decided she'd had enough so she concentrated on picking up some of the Welsh phrases that were uttered by our hosts while we wolfed away at ham, tongue, chicken and bacon with accompanying garnishments of salad and side dishes containing boiled potatoes, peas, tomatoes and added dressing.
Hens wandered in to look for scraps while we indulged and the children welcomed them because they added charm to the rustic surroundings. The boys who had obviously left some room, consumed most of the scones that were topped with various jams, and what looked like homegrown honey. The Evans's disappeared into the kitchen after we'd been served and could be heard moving about clearing up pots and pans with the sound of a radio beaming out one of my favourite oldies - Yr Eneth Ga'dd ei Gwrthod. How did they know? There were no fights because everyone was too busy tucking in although Kiki almost got into one when a rooster jumped up on the table to challenge her after hearing the parrot speaking his language. Fortunately for her, Kiki has powerful friends, and the rooster was given short sharp shift!
Feeling utterly sated we thanked our hosts and went outside to relax awhile in the last of the sunlight that lit up the farmyard and surrounding hillside. The kids wandered off to look at the animals while Allie and I sat on a low wall and relaxed in the peace and tranquility. I realized we were holding hands but it seemed perfectly ordinary although I couldn't remember whether I'd grabbed hers or vice versa. Watched the children examining the livestock and then clambering further up to a rocky part of the hillside where we heard Philip utter one of his weird sounds. He has a repertoire of noises the others refer to as his 'animal talk,' and when a young goat that was grazing further up heard the sound, it sprang down he slope, trotted up to him, and literally jumped into his outspread arms!
Philip magic at work once again! The kid wouldn't leave him and when the children went to look at the horses it followed close behind trying to get the boy's attention and later on tagged behind when the children went back into the farm house. The Evans's didn't seem to mind. We were all tired so it was decided an early night would be beneficial despite one or two objections and Mrs. Evans gathered scones and milk for the kids to take up with them. How they could eat anything else was a mystery to we adults but seeing it was holiday time, dispensation was given. Allie and I spent about ten minutes with the Evans's discussing the various options available for tourists such as ourselves and after a little Welsh mead we were ready to hit the hay with a thump.
Saw Allie to her room and would have lingered if I hadn't felt so doggoned tired. It was pleasant to enter my own chamber and see the bed already prepared with a decanter of water and a glass on the side locker. The linen smelt of lavender or something so I opened the window and let cool air waft in and then heard a maa-ing noise from the direction of the boys' room! Bet a pound to a penny Philip has that goat in there but if he wants to invite an animal into his bed he's welcome. Can't think of any other child being allowed to get away with harbouring such a variety of pets but his position is an exceptional one and sometimes I suspect Allie's nurturing his abilities. Wouldn't surprise me because apparently his father also had a highly developed affinity with animals and Allie probably sees a lot of him in Philip so apart from a token objection every now and again, she basically lets him have his own way in that field. One thing we can be sure of - there's little chance of a family member being attacked by a dog when out shopping if Philip's nearby, or a bull, if they strayed into a field. Anyway, I for one won't be objecting to any guests in the boys' room because wild horses wouldn't drag me out of where I am right now. (22:11)
Maa-aaa! That's what woke me this morning after a refreshing eight hours. Lay there awhile and then got up after listening to a muffled "gear change" from Kiki. Allie appeared in the passage as I reached the stairs and she looked just as happy as the kids. We went down to greet the day and found the children had almost finished breakfast with the Evans's looking as if they'd been up for ages judging by their conversation. Philip had the baby goat on his lap and, for the record, its name is "Snowy." Bacon and eggs went down well and the talk was about donkeys. The riding side of the holiday has been taken care of for agreed costs and the kids are looking forward to the experience. Lucy-Ann should be all right but I've instructed the boys to help her if she experiences any difficulty. Doubt if anyone else will have problems despite the steep terrain but if Allie does, I'll look after her all right.
The kids tore off to introduce themselves to the shepherd of the hills and enquire about the donkeys while Allie and I thought we'd immerse ourselves in the farming life. She got talking with Mrs. Evans and began learning all kinds of household short cuts and she even copied down some recipes after a heavenly smell began pervading the kitchen and scullery. I accompanied Effans but missed out on the farm-walk because he'd already finished it by 0:700 - he treks right round the property each morning to check on all the animals. Helped him with a few tasks and found it an enjoyable change from detective work to such an extent that I imagined retiring one day to a small farm somewhere in the country.
Cornered Allie in the barn where she was helping to gather eggs from various crannies and suggested we go for a stroll down the hillside. She welcomed the chance to see more of our surroundings and we set off for a bracing walk in the sun with fresh breezes balancing the heat. Rested under a tree before coming back and it was a splendid opportunity to find out a little more about each other. As we lay on our backs looking up at the sky the talk turned to various aspects of a personal nature and it was surprising how interested Allie was when I related a few of my own.
She mentioned her husband a few times and the loneliness she'd felt when he was away, which was often because there'd been a shortage of veterinary surgeons in their area and he'd often had to stay over at various farms and institutions. He was a good and kind man she told me, and had even placed some funds in a reserved account so the whole family could partake on a voyage once the children were a little older. She turned and faced me as she said this and added that her husband had always wanted to be a vet because he was drawn to animals but, just as he was making enough money to support them all, an early morning encounter with a car driven by an elderly man who hadn't realized he was in a one-way street, ended the dream. A sad note to ponder on this lonely Welsh hillside, but I was glad Allie felt able to confide in me.
For her part, Alison has an arts degree from Birmingham Uni, and to change the subject, we began exchanging various anecdotes from our scholastic days. A pleasant half-hour ensued, and at one stage I found myself thinking of the gift I 'd purchased overseas for her and which, so far, has been kept under wraps. An impulsive act, yet there may have been an accompanying touch of clairvoyance about it because there could be an occasion in the not so distant future when I really want to make Allie's eyes light up with happiness. We finished the candid conversation on a high note and hiked our way back to the farmhouse for a cuppa with Mrs. Evans.
The kids returned with a confirmation that the donkeys will be along tomorrow and the shepherd's brother will be bringing them. Readied for dinner and sat down to another delicious meal with second helpings being offered to one and all. The boys are loving it and as for Kiki, she's at her best these days with hens and lambs and goats around the place. Snowy the kid can't understand her of course and gets quite excited when the irrepressible bird begins maa-ing. Philip introduced Allie and I to a pet he'd found up in the hills. I have absolute faith in his ability to tame rabbits and foxes and birds but my belief would have been stretched if someone had suggested his latest conquest; but sure enough, he's managed to cast his magical powers over a slow-worm! He held it on his hand and we both peered at the tiny creature that blinked its eyes every now and again while surveying us all. Extraordinary! Allie told me that Philip once had a stag beetle for a pet and had somehow managed to get it to do tricks and he's even kept earwigs although he had them in a cage. I guess there's a limit to what you can let loose in your clothing.
In the afternoon we accompanied the kids on an exploratory walk round the farm perimeters, stopping now and again for swigs of fruit juice from a large vacuum flask kindly supplied by our hosts. The fresh air sharpens the appetite and it was pleasing to return at about 18:00 for another hearty meal. Must say that Effans who had looked rather warily at Kiki when he first set eyes on her, is now very much a fan and laughs like anything when the bird talks and shows off. Took it easy later on ... listened to the 6 o'clock news and Jack's Games interest was fueled by a delayed report that Wembley Stadium was packed when the Olympics were opened by the King on Thursday. The Shah's there as well. Don Finlay took the oath - his name cropped up during flight training and I also met him at a social last year. Wonder if Wing Commander Finlay would remember Det. Inspector Cunningham. Probably not! (23:50)
After breakfast this morning, the donkeys arrived. The kids ran down the track as the animals approached the house escorted by a bearded, elderly looking man who looked at us rather apprehensively out of bright blue eyes. He seemed a little overwhelmed as the kids all exclaimed over his animals and made their choices before jumping up onto the donkeys' backs and riding them up to Allie and myself who were looking on in amusement. The shepherd arrived as well and we were introduced to him and his brother - Trefor, and David. They're both very much alike although Trefor's life on the mountainside has weathered him considerably. They conversed in Welsh and were surprised to hear me join in although I had to concentrate a bit trying to interpret their sharp accents. A camping trip was discussed and we began looking forward to it because Trefor has suggested we head for a place that all the children should appreciate - 'The Vale of Butterflies.' We'll take a couple of extra donkeys to carry tents and other stuff but as some riding practice is desirable it was arranged that we start our trip on Wednesday week. David will guide us there and he seems happy enough seeing he'll earn a good sum of money for his time, and the donkey-hire fees. He seems on the 'timid' side and has little command of English but I guess he knows the mountains well enough. Philip's goat seemed affected by the presence of the animals and ran all over the place narrowly missing being stamped on and as for Kiki, she flew around and added another animal noise to her collection - a donkey's bray!
There was plenty of discussion as to personal mounts and it was eventually sorted out with Allie choosing one that seemed more patient and quieter than the rest. Kiki sat on Jack's shoulder and tried to memorize the names (Buttercup, Clover, Daisy, Dapple, Grayling and Patience) and then we all mounted and began riding towards the back of the farm and up into a steeper bit of the hillside. Snowy the kid clambered after us with the skill for which mountain goats are famous. It was an enjoyable journey getting used to the ups and downs of donkey locomotion but we made it short because I was sure there'd be a few stiff joints the next day, and we had plenty of time to practice.
Games this evening after an excellent meal. I beat Philip at 'Battleships.' Allie beat Jack, and Dinah beat Lucy-Ann. On the second round, Allie beat me, Lucy-Ann lost to Philip, and Jack lost to Dinah. Lucy-Ann insisted on my recording the results when we were playing Snakes and Ladders - she won twice, with the third game going to Dinah (closely followed by Lucy-Ann) so the females were well represented and everyone made a fuss of our youngest member. (23:15)
August 4th (Wednesday):
My prediction was right ... to an extent. I felt fine after the short donkey ride and the boys endured practically no after effects but the ladies were suffering. Lucy-Ann and Dinah complained of stiffness in their lower backs and Alison was much the same with added aching around the hips - I put it down to the differences in our bodies. The girls, who had slept in, took it easy all morning and as the day wore on the aches and pains settled down and gradually disappeared. Spent half an hour applying a robust massage to Allie's lower back while she lay face down on her bed and it had an effect ... at least she said it did.
Later on we drove through the village and had afternoon tea in a small cafeteria that features a display of ancient bottles festooned with flowers, and ivy weaving its way up the walls and along the ceiling. Stayed longer than we meant to because the tea was so good and the kids were allowed to over indulge as a result. Allie and I didn't eat all that much but it was nice to relax in such attractive surroundings. Filled the car and drove west along country roads that were little more than tracks with one stop near a stream where Dinah and the boys took of their shoes for a wade to the other side. Lucy-Ann sat on the running board and watched them as she was still aching a bit after previously thinking she was 100%. Philip's pet goat had been left behind so Kiki had no rival and made us fully aware of it by flying back and forth between the three splashing round in the stream, and Lucy-Ann's shoulder - giving us all a running commentary of nonsense. When Philip's slow-worm made a sudden appearance from one of his pockets on our way back to the farmhouse, Dinah was permitted to wrest a window seat from Jack despite his protests. That girl must be blossoming a little because she didn't scream. (22:40)
August 5th - 9th:
Behind with the log because of full days but it doesn't matter seeing life has been more or less the same - donkey rides into the mountains, picnics, sheer delight for one and all. Early beds are the norm seeing each day is so full. The aches and pains have gone and everyone's looking forward to Wednesday when we'll 'gallop' off to the Butterfly Valley.
Something had to happen!
Everything's been running so smoothly and now this: Allie's left hand is all bandaged up and that puts her right out of action. This afternoon she was in the barn with Mrs. Evans and as she leaned against the hinge side of the door, the wind blew it shut. Fortunately the barn is old and the door edges are worn so they don't fit flush with the beam. Mrs. Evans brought her back to the house and it was distressing to see how bruised her hand was but fortunately there was no major damage. Whisked her down to the Evans's GP initially and after he'd replaced my rough bandage, we were sent on to the Memorial Hospital at Blaenau Ffestiniog where an x-ray was taken. After the plates had been developed a small fracture in a bone at the base of her little finger was discovered. Got back to the farm round the six mark and, although the damage is not all that serious, it was saddening to think this had happened the day before we were about to set off into the mountains.
The kids returned from another of their exploratory rides and Allie had to contend with four anxious children crowding round her in the kitchen where she sat with her arm in a sling. Must say she took it well and smiled round at them so they wouldn't be too worried. Kiki flew to her shoulder and nestled comfortingly against her cheek. The kid (Snowy) was not allowed near in case she was a little too boisterous for the patient. Plans were redrawn and it was decided that David should be asked to supervise the children and they've accepted the state of play with the understanding we can all go on another trip at a later date.
There were a lot of last minute preparations this evening and Mrs. Evans outdid herself in the food department ... tongue, boiled eggs, vegetables and even a whole ham. I'll reimburse her for that. Lucy-Ann quoted her ageless saw about 'how food tastes so much nicer, etc etc!' Allie is making light of her plight and even said she could probably go on the trip after all but I wasn't going to have that. Her hand is still painful so I'll take her to the GP in a day or two and, as if to balance the proceedings, it was decided we adults will be able to enjoy a period of peace once the 'noisy' kids have disappeared into the hills.
Early night for all (must get a card for Jim tomorrow). (21:07)
Everyone was up early to greet a perfect day and after dressing and sorting out a few things I went along to Alison's room. The door opened just as I got there and she came out looking fresh and pretty with a smile on her face when she saw me waiting. Had an urge to kiss her instead of just saying "Hello" but decided it might be a little reckless. Wonder if she'd have minded. She linked her arm in mine as we went down the stairs and said she was looking forward to a break from the kids - "Just the two of us and the Evans's," she said gaily. I felt in the same state of elation, and we wouldn't lose out - once Allie's hand has repaired we can look forward to accompanying the kids on another expedition into the mountains. Snowy left Philip and clattered over to us as we approached the kitchen but his welcome was forestalled by Kiki, who flew down from a curtain rail and began screeching at him. The little kid ran back to his friend and protector followed by Kiki who'd spotted Jack from the corner of her eye emptying hemp seeds into a small bowl. Mrs. Evans was packing up food for the children's trip and adding cups and containers to the bundle. Lively breakfast, but that was only to be expected with a parrot, turkeys, and a goat vying for attention. Kiki's imitation gobbling caused Effans to choke with laughter - there's no doubt about it, that bird has an avid admirer.
The shepherd's brother David, appeared at the door with the donkeys just as we were finishing and there was a mad rush to start packing everything onto the animals. Excitement reigned and it was infectious because everyone wanted to lend a hand. Mrs. Evans's came out with more food and Effans joined us to look the donkeys over and check the harnesses before setting off on his delayed morning walk round the farm. I lent a hand where I could whilst Allie stood in the doorway laughing at Snowy who was trying to butt the donkeys with his little head. Just before they were ready to leave I had a word with the kids who were mounted on their donkeys, impatient to get going. According to Effans it's very easy to get lost because of how the tracks overlap and go off in all directions.
"Everything looks the same," he had told me, " ... and once you're surrounded by cliffs and crags, the only spots where a reference point may be obtained, are inaccessible."
David doesn't seem at ease with the responsibility that's been thrust upon him - I don't think he likes the thought of being in charge with no back up. However, the children are sensible so maybe he'll just defer to their wishes. I told the boys to keep their eyes and ears open and if they felt at all uneasy, to ask that they be taken back before they get too far away. Philip said they want to visit the Vale of Butterflies and then set up camp in some idyllic spot and bask in their surroundings for a few days so everything's organized.
Hugs all round and finally with a lot of "Goodbyes" and "Look after your hand, Mother," the convoy of donkeys, children and ragged looking guardian set off down the track with the little goat cantering after them. Effans doesn't mind - he's seems quite intrigued with Philip's power to lure the kid from it's mother.
"It can always come back if it wants to," he said.
They'd arranged to call on Trefor the shepherd and then make their way along a northerly route for the views. It'll take them a deal longer but there's no hurry. Once they get to the hills in line with the butterfly place, they'll head straight to it taking as direct a course as possible. Wondered if I should have gotten a more detailed itinerary but Mrs. Evans seems confident that nothing will go wrong and they won't have any other people around them to cause trouble. The trip will take them up into some high locations and according to Effans, they'll basically crawl along when it starts getting steep. Short of being caught in a downpour or having an accident, they should be all right.
Nipped down to the village later for a card and posted it off to Jim thereby fulfilling our tradition of keeping in touch whenever we travel to another centre on duty or on holiday. Should reach Aberdeen by Friday or Saturday. (22.50)
An uncanny quietness has descended upon the farm. The children are missed but it's nice to sleep in without being woken by the bangs of the washroom door at six in the morning or arguments coming from the next chamber when the kids jump out of bed long before the lazier adults are ready to rise. Today a friend of the Evans' heard there were new faces in town and called in - he's weather-beaten old chap called Eifion who always wears a straw hat and according to Mrs. Evans, he's never seen without it.
"Wears it in bed!" she said to us.
The old codger didn't deny the statement but he may have not understood her all that well. After he'd stayed to lunch, Allie and I were offered a trip in his rattletrap of a truck so we took him up on it and were treated to a rollicking journey along the bumpy road to Dolgellau. Stopped near the centre where Eifion disappeared to visit the corn chandlers and various outlets while Allie and I made for more touristy venues such as the old Abbey ruins. Enjoyable company ... Allie makes intercourse easy by seeming to anticipate what I'm about to say and then coming in with rejoinders that means we usually end up laughing at something ridiculous one of us might have said. Pure compatibility! Snacked at a cafe and after a short conversation with some nearby diners who were interested in the 'foreigners' we left and met up with our driver at a prearranged spot - namely the Post Office. Back to the farm by a slightly different route and, if anything, it was more hair-raising than the trip in. Allie and I were bounced around and at one stage the door opened and I almost fell out! All got back in one piece though and after having a few words with Effans, our new friend waved and made off. (23:15)