Posted by Tania Kindersley.
My sister and I walk round the block. The sky is the colour of granite on one side, light and glimmering on the other. At one moment I think, shall I suggest we go back in case there is rain? Bugger it, I think, we shall walk on. This now all strikes me as madly symbolic; at the time it was just a walk and a talk. (I was talking in an absurd, throaty parody of Marlene Dietrich, on account of the laryngitis.)
We spoke of vulnerability. We do not necessarily love it, but we are old enough to acknowledge it. I told her: I actually had to say to someone the sentence ‘I am very vulnerable at the moment’.
It was on Saturday night. It was the kind of thing that I used to think would send people screaming from the room. Now I think: it’s not ideal, but it does have the merit of being true.
When I was in the south just now, I had to go in and out of Paddington station, a couple of times. Paddington was the station of my childhood; it was where we came to see a pantomime or do our Christmas shopping. We came into it on the old clanking trains, the kind that had discrete carriages with wooden doors and antimacassars on the headrests and those rather hard, tufty seats. It was, until his death, my father’s station.
I said to my sister: I stood in that station, and I could see the figure in the little blue suit, as clear as if he were there before me. My voice cracked and broke.
The blue suit was a thing. My father was a countryman, really, to his bones. He had a bit of wild sophistication, in the sixties and seventies, when he would go to smart parties and tony restaurants and expensive clubs. He was not a hayseed. But he had grown up running wild in the hills of Wicklow, and he settled in the downland of the Lambourn Valley, and the open spaces were in his blood. So his clothes were mostly baggy, very worn corduroy trousers, and soft cotton shirts with the sleeves rolled up. When he went up to London, which he sometimes did, out would come the little blue suit. It was actually a rather smart suit, but for some reason it made us children sentimental. ‘Look at you in your special blue suit,’ I would say, rubbing his arm, as we sat in the Groucho, where I would take him for lunch. He was not a media fellow, but he loved it there, because they knew how to make a proper gin and tonic. (Secret, in his book: not too much tonic.)
I don’t know what it was about that suit, but it is how I see him, even now, in the crowds of living people who moved about that station concourse. They were walking back and forth, looking anxiously at the departure boards, greeting each other with affectionate embraces, talking quietly over their suitcases. The thing about stations is that all human life is there. And, through it all, was the ghost of my old dad.
I think that is a thing that happens now. It is the time for the remembering. I think that is as it should be.
The Sister went home. I walked round the garden and looked at the flowers. There was a sudden shaft of evening light on the marjoram. I threw a stick for the Pigeon. The Man in the Hat suddenly roared up. How funny, I said, I was just talking about how much I love you. (This was true; my sister and I had been saying, oh we do love that Man in that Hat.) The MITH looked slightly startled. He is almost used to my not having an edit button. Almost.
Well, he said, it’s all about the love. Yes, I yelled; THE LOVE. That’s what is called for just now. Then I laughed quite a lot.
He was after mint. I have a surfeit of mint. So we picked the mint and he went away with it, and the evening light fell all around and the Pigeon smiled her doggy smile, and I thought: that’s all right then.
Pictures of what I saw in the garden this evening:
One of the Dear Readers asked if the Pigeon actually smiles for her close-ups. This particular face is how she looks after we have done a bit of stick catching. I think it is partly sheer pleasure, but it is also because she is a little bit breathless, and so her mouth is open. Of course I would like to think of it as a special canine grin, and perhaps in some ways it is:
On the other hand, when she is doing her ultimate elegance Grace Kelly look, I am quite convinced that is entirely for the camera:
Particularly lovely comments yesterday; thank you so much for them.
Oh, and one more thing about Paddington Station. As I was feeling a little melancholy about my dad in his blue suit, and slightly rocked by the fact that I should still miss him so much, after all these months, I saw something quite wonderful.
It was a very young man, not more than nineteen, in a green velvet jacket. I love green velvet almost more than life itself, and so was very struck with him. I was also delighted by the fact that he was carrying a rather beautiful ukulele. As I watched, fascinated, he took the instrument and started to play it. He was not busking or showing off; he was quite oblivious to the fact that he was in a crowded place. I think he was just playing it for sheer pleasure. So now, when I think of that station, I shall not just think of my father, who is no longer here, but of that youthful stranger with the green velvet and the ukulele and the soulful eyes, who is.