Volume 4

Chapter 8

Dear Charles,

Part of me wishes I had taken more time too with my last reply. However, as you know, I struggle with waiting.

Having sent it I was not sure how to handle myself, less so now that I have told you. I hope you hold these words dearly as I am now so terrified by the thought of being near you, having waited so long and having still so long to wait.
I realise this fear does not excuse me and I am sorry for dismissing you. I know I write as if I were deranged, I felt slightly so yesterday.

In the end though, yesterday was delightful, certainly my best birthday in recent memory. My twenty-first and for the first time my birthday, to do with what I wanted. Usually it has been on other days, permitting school, weekends, exams, exams, exams. To displace it so only ever made it feel like a nonsense.

I enjoyed myself, showing face, calling family, writing out polite replies to the few I wanted to hear from and to those I would rather no longer know; again those expectations. Unfortunately not a word from my father and still nothing today.

I cried a lot about the ugliness of those memories and once again wished no-one cared. Your letter was a momentary release from these blue thoughts. Reading it, I though I could leave that past behind, unwanted, that your words would make it go away. In this silly bitterness I felt childish joy in your attention; another ugly part of me.

I doubt you would have cared for my tipsy, tearful, busied self. How I bother you when you sound so happy down there. I have spoilt it for you. That is how I felt when I first noticed your stare. Then, I tried to behave, now I find myself wanting more and more.

It has become almost unbearable to be here alone with all my doubts, to believe them and not have you to reassure me. If you are cold to this, I can only feel I deserve it. I find the vanity and weakness of it disturbing. I had decided to lockdown here, breaking off with him as I should have done long ago, thinking to be settled alone was to be sure of myself. I never wanted to be sat here wishing someone would care.

It may not be clear what I really want; such a thing has done little good for me before but what would be the point if we were otherwise; without confusion, frustration, anger and possible overcoming?
    I want you to care but I would just like to think you do not see me as your well-behaved plaything, to live under a list of rules, your likes and dislikes. It is not for me and really not for you either. You would never live if you settled with a woman who could not rise to you Charles.

Spoilt by the freedom of adulthood, I burden you with my miseries, my disappointments and my desires because, despite myself, there is only so long I can wait.
    For a while our correspondence was enough but neither of us are patient, so why wait? I have my car and what seemed so distant, seems so easy now. Bristol and Cornwall are not so far.
    As my father said to me, in the weeks before he forgot that I existed, before he went to lockdown elsewhere, ‘a young girl like you should not be alone.’

I can sleep on the sofa when I am nervous and you can sleep on the sofa when I am angry.



With her letter asprawl on the passenger seat, Charles drove down to the estuary. Without much thought, he felt that such a grey day would be fitting to finally see John Betjamen’s grave. A pilgrimage to a man he did not know; not so much for Betjamen as for the church, a place he had never truly looked at, only ever overlooked from the brae.
    In high winds Daymer was a fluttering, flying criss-cross of wind and kite surfers but, then, he found the water still and the tide indecently low. Nested above, jackdaws squawked as he went down the somber sandy path which kowtowed into the lychgate. The churchyard, clasped by naked hedges, flayed, pollarded and pleached in stark harmony, was sunk in a parliament of tombs; a couple lichen, Celtic crosses; a couple newer Christian ones, machine-cut granite; and there, to his right, Betjamen’s, faced by a tangle of rather tasteless flowered scrollwork and inflated gothic script.
    The church was dwarfish, buried deeper still. The spire, barely that, a stunted growth, bald without finial like the blunted horn of a fighting bull.
    There was a silence Charles heard often in these parts but rarely found elsewhere; not a car, not a soul, just the wind like chatter in a circle of intimates. In amongst them, Charles penned a thrilling letter. He had sought her out without shame and she would now have him.

Dear Ophelia,

Encapsulating your letter; I am fond of you and I should like to be with you. To read you so torn, trying to do what you think best, so unhappy for it, I am violently cursing that I cannot be by your side this instant.

I find small pleasures in each line, things I should like to answer but I delay knowing we shall enjoy them together with a little more patience.

Though I was happy here, Polzeath will soon be gruesomely packed with bucket and spaders and Rock with London Range Rovers. As summer comes, my idyll ends. I only longingly dreamed of what you now suggest but this passion seems to allow such a thing. I hope reading this upsets the heart of your being and releases you to that heady ecstasy, when two know they feel as one. Come down for the day and then in Bristol we can be alone. Let us have our tryst, let us be happy, let us end this lockdown.



P. S.
I would have been a fool not to expect a night on your sofa but it is worth every morning in your embrace.

Past the Montereys, out into the deepening blue, the coast threatened a sea-fog. It would come that evening, a whey-faced silence, and muffle the village into hoarse plaint, surrounding and separating each unsettled cottage.

When Charles awoke the village was still shrouded. Looking out, as he had for hours without sleep, he was still the same submariner lost in the senseless time of the deep; in the bone-like ruins of some drowned village; in the dreamy wonder and spartan solitude of exploring Atlantean mystery.
    Only the lamppost on the green was a tether to Home like the beacon of some deep sea machine, set up as a blip in an otherwise indifferent, never-ending darkness. It felt like nothing would come through that day and that the post would not leave.
    The birds cried though it was a more uncertain call, disquieted to find the land once theirs taken in this tidal mist which had waxed by moonlight as they slept.
    Slowly lights turned on for breakfast. Still wrapped in bedtime gowns with bleary eyes and hissing kettles, hot mugs and the soft bubble of boiling eggs, they could only wait for it to pass. It indifferent to the life it held.
    By mid-morning the sun did pierce through and the postman’s van came past.

Chargé D'affaires - Depuis 2020