A blessed day off thanks to a Cat’s Paw cancellation and a chance to catch up with washing, cleaning, letter writing and the myriad little things we all have to do to stay afloat. I imagine with my action list for the day in front of me now, the day will be gone in a flash. At least we’re having that little half hour longer in the day now which seems to make all the difference, if only psychologically. The promised snow didn’t arrive but the rain is pattering on the lorry roof and hissing as it hits the hot chimney cowl. A rather pleasant sound, amplifying the feeling of cosy warmth inside from the woodburner and the dogs having a lie-in on my bed. We’ve all been up at sparrow’s burp lately and it’s great to have an easy day for a change.
In re-reading the latest part of my ongoing saga of a former me, I am amazed how much my life has changed “in oh so many ways”. The boy I am writing about seems to be a very different person. I remember little about our escapade shoplifting in Horsham, but snatches keep coming back like a half-remembered dream. I have this feeling there were more boys doing it than the two of us who were expelled (although that has a fascinating aspect of the story yet to come). In the process of reviewing all the paperwork, which has been sitting in an old box file passed down to me when my Mum died a few years ago and which I left untouched until recently, I have discovered a mystery which will probably never be fully unravelled. It is fascinating though and I shall explore it a bit in the next few chapters. It’s like a detective story at a vast distance of time away. I am disguising the names of those involved as at least one of them is still around and I have tried to contact them on the internet. I wonder if they can remember any of what went on. I can only remember patches.
I had a very close friend at CH. He will be putting in an appearance in the story. I will call him Andrew. I don’t know whether Andrew knew what was going on in Horsham. I can’t remember how many boys took the short train ride from Christ’s Hospital (like Hogwart’s, it has its own railway station) into Horsham that July afternoon in 1965, but I have a feeling it was five. I will start from there in my next episode. What I am unsure about is whether Andrew was with us, and this is crucial for the story. If he wasn’t, did he know we were going into town to steal stuff? I am sure we did talk about it beforehand, and I think we split into two groups. I was with another friend and the other three went on a different route through the town. I think there was a rivalry between the two groups about what we could get away with, but this is really only conjecture. It was my friend and I who were caught, or at least observed and later identified. The other three denied it and weren’t punished. I think we would not have snitched on them. There was a code of honour in the Christ’s Hospital Alibi Club.
Back in the lorry in 2015, the phone calls and emails are starting to happen. The booking enquiries for Summer 2015 are coming in. It’s great because, almost for the first time ever, I have not been through a period of personal gloom through December and January. Partly it’s being so busy with Cat’s Paw and the DVD but also it’s because of the generous application of real help by a few good friends, several of them in Wallingford and one in Sheffield, who have made it their business to keep me feeling buoyant. They helped me “keep my feet back on the ground”.
They know who they are and I thank them for their real friendship.
All the best from a road near you,