this came from a topic set in my face-to-face writing group. The topic was ‘Growing Old’
They’ve built an iron lattice-work mast on the top of the hill across the river. It must have something to do with radar, that new system that gives you an early warning of an air raid. Clement is pretending it’s something to do with telephones. He must think I’m a fool. I know what telephone wires look like. I suppose he has to keep hush-hush about it. He’s doing top secret work for the war effort, you know. Careless words cost lives. That’s what it says on the posters in the train stations.
I couldn’t find the wireless this morning. There’s something else on the corner table in the parlour. Clement must have taken it away. He tells me lies about what’s going on, he thinks I can’t deal with the truth any more. There’s no need for that. I’m not a fool. I can take bad news the same as the youngsters of his generation. I’m not ga-ga yet, you know. It looks a bit like a fish tank, this new thing, but there’s no water in it. It’s got a glass front. Some new-fangled nonsense. The boy doesn’t care that there’s a war on. Buys every foolish new toy that comes on the market. Loses interest in them ten minutes later. I want the wireless back again. This thing is no good to me.
Clement came in with a whole cooked dinner wrapped up in a bit of tinfoil today. You’d think they would need scrap metal like that for the war effort wouldn’t you? Fish pie, it was, made with potatoes and a white sauce. Peas and cabbage too. Must have been something he got on the black market. I don’t hold with that kind of thing myself. If ordinary people can’t have something then the likes of Clement and Maude shouldn’t be able to have it either. I bet the troops in France and Belgium don’t have fish pie for their dinners. It’s natural justice, soldiers need their food worse than we do. That’s where it should be going. I agree with rationing, I don’t have a problem with it. Mind you, the fish pie was good.
Clement has been away for a while. He came in today and said that he and Maude had been to Spain for a week. He had colour photographs (colour! Imagine what that must have cost!) of beaches with half naked girls running around, and hotels like the sky scrapers in New York, and bars with great big neon signs lit up above the doors. Who’d have thought Franco would put up with that kind of thing? I thought he cleaned up the country after the Civil War. That’s what we were told. Not that I would go over, no matter what it’s like. He’s Hitler’s right hand man. You’d think young Clement would know that, wouldn’t you? Maybe he and Maude were on a spying mission. Maybe that was it.
I went out for a walk last night. I haven’t done that for a long time. It’s peaceful around here, late at night. Only a couple of farmhouses in sight, and the latticework mast on the hill. I made sure no lights were showing from my place, naturally, but you’ll never believe what I saw over at Clement and Maude’s place. There was a light on in one of their windows, and another one on a post shining down into their yard. I couldn’t believe it. They’re obviously signalling to enemy aircraft. What should I do? I don’t know how you contact the Civil Defence people out here. I suppose there must be a fire warden. I phoned up the post office in Glendarragh but they didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Or maybe – just maybe – they’re in on it too. I don’t know what to do. I should never have left Hackney, bombs or no bombs. You know you can trust a London Bobbie. You don’t know who you can trust out here.