An Email I wrote and a Song I sung in February 2nd, 2017
I have been keeping my self to myself as much as possible in my NHS
prison, but it is very hard. ******* is shouldering nearly all the
weight that I cannot bear. I’m a lot healthier for my time here, but
my sanity is under extreme pressure. I know you do not have the power
or expertise to help me in my plight. But writing these emails is
helping build my confidence in my abilities. I find that patience is
the hardest of skills to try to master, I have hefty goals. Or at
least other people seem to think they are hefty. I just see it as hard
work to be relished. There are things to be written and arguments to
enjoy.. And as your **** ******* said at least once.. Bring. It. On….
The only real problem I face is finding out what “it” is.
Now for more of the words of R. F. Delderfield, I find copying out
other people’s text as quite therapeutic and it helps me absorb the
words easier. I’m hoping by the time I finish this exercise, that me
and my reading glasses will be able to read using more conventional
“Spion Kop” Stormed and Occupied
THE AMERICANS HAD OCCUPIED THE HOUSE SINCE 1942 AND
one glance at it was enough to convince anybody that Marshall Aid is
nothing but conscience money.
It was solid, red-brick structure, perched on the extreme edge of a
sandstone cliff, with a sea view extending from Torbay to Chesil
It had, in addition to the view, a number of advantages to a writer.
The approach drive was so steep that only the hardiest creditor would
essay a personal call and that part of the garden that hadn’t already
fallen into the sea seemed ideal for chickens, or so May assured me.
The principal disadvantage lay in the fact that American commandos
seemed to have played baseball all over the house with cannon shot
and, at one period during their occupation, appeared to have been
pitifully short of firewood, for every shelf in the house had
disappeared, together with the most of the dining-room panelling and
two-thirds of the banisters. The original owner had settled with Uncle
Sam for fourteen hundred compensation and May said Washington had
The man from the house agent’s told us that in these circumstances we
would have no difficulty whatever in getting a licence for extensive
renovations and we took his word for it, filling in the forms and
preparing to move in as soon as repairs were complete.
It was lucky for all of us that May destroyed the letter I wrote
giving our present landlord notice or we should have spent that winter
in a tent. The licence (for forty per cent of the sum solicited) came
through six months late and we had the builders in for twelve months
after that. Long after the act of moving had become a memory we heard
groups of men crawling across the roof, or came upon an odd decorator
mixing paint in the wine cellar. Once when I was taking a bath, an
elderly plumber popped his head out of the linen cupboard so that he
could track down suspicious noises in the cistern, and on another
occasion I had an urgent S O S from a tiler who had been marooned on
one of the chimney stacks, his mates having gone away with the ladder
immediately the whistle blew.
We had a good deal of trouble over the name. The house had been
completely roofed in a day–the day of Spion Kop, and the house had
been named after the engagement by a pro-Boer, who considered the
battle a moral victory for Kruger. I was writing a book about the
Grande Armée at the time and I wanted to change the name to
“Austerlitz,” but May wouldn’t hear of it. May was North-country and
said she found the name “Spion Kop” pretentious enough, and just
couldn’t face the prospect of telling the butcher to send the joint to
“Austerlitz,” it might arrive on a gun-carriage. So far as our house
was concerned Napoleon was out and “Spion Kop” remained a permanent
memorial to the tenancy of the Boers and to the days when builders
really could put a roof on in twenty-four hours, whistle
Watching the house become habitable was rather like waiting for Tower
Bridge to be finished. My father saw the first piers of Tower Bridge
sunk when he was a small boy, and as a grown man he fought in the
queue to be first over. We drove over to the new house about four
times a week to count how many new banister rails had been fitted
between visits. Sometimes May would despair and call Heaven to witness
that there was not one single change since our previous visit; then I
would find a new screw in a door-stop, or or another square inch or
two of chocolate paint burned from the kitchen door, and that would
always cheer her up and make her think she had misjudged the builder’s
One day, we took the two children over and had a staggering surprise.
The new drawing-room door (the Americans had burned the old one to
celebrate their comrades’ descent on Midway Island) was in place.
Veronica made the discovery, rushed to open it and promptly vanished
I thought at first that she had fallen through the floor. I had done
that myself once or twice in the last few months. Then I saw what had
happened. The carpenter must have been in the act of screwing the
hinges to the jamb when the whistle blew and at Veronica’s touch on
the doorhandle the door and Veronica had fallen forward and smitten
towards the floor. We raised the door and Veronica remained strangely
subdued until she discovered a mound of putty in one of the bedrooms.
After that threats picturing entire walls collapsing on her failed to
keep her from straying. She ultimately went into partnership with the
builder’s men and one of them, an elderly plasterer called Cecil, was
always entertaining her with putty modelling in out-of-the-way
corners. May remarked what a nice kind man he was to let a child make
so free with his materials, but Cecil’s stock fell several points
when, some months later, we had a large bill for putty, enough putty
to reglaze the Crystal Palace.
This sort of thing might have gone on for years if May hadn’t decided
that work would be speeded up if we actually moved in, but having
arrived with our furniture we discovered that we had overlooked a
small detail that was the means of slowing down the mad stampede in and
around “Spion Kop” — the drive entrance was much too narrow for the
moving van and most of the heavy stuff had to be off-loaded and
manhandled from the distant gate to the front porch.
The builder’s men were not slaves to trade union principles, Eager to
help they swarmed off the roof to assist the moving men and for two or
three days those of the the flower-beds that hadn’t already crumbled
to the beach presented the jolliest scene imaginable.
I dicovered that the green baize apron is a mantle of authority. Once
a man is wearing it he is utterly contemptuous of civilian advice, and
the fact that he is handling your property does not necessarily imply
that he will be polite to you, much less heed your feeble pleas.
I hovered about for the better part of two dayswatching the furniture
come come in. It reminded me of Swiss Family Robinson saving stuff
from the wreck between tides.
I shall never forget the initial entry into the lounge of our Louis
Because it was, so to speak, our first-born, purchased some ten days
in advance of receipt of our first appreciable royalty cheque from the
agent, May and I stood near the gate and saw it lowered into the
outstretched arms of one moving-man, a truant carpenter, the man
should have been laying carpets, and a boy loaned to the removals from
the undertaking department. The commode attracted him because it was
the nearest thing we had to a coffin and he rose from the garage
floor, with a meat sandwich clamped in his teeth, to give the other
men the benefit of his mortuary experience.
As soon as the weight was evenly distributed among the quartet the man
who should have been laying the carpets began to cough and the leg he
was holding dropped down and scraped along the gravel.
The carpenter said: “‘Old up, Fred. This is second-‘and and it never
does no good to drop second-‘and stuff, it can’t stand the jar!”
The carpet man’s paroxysm subsided, but just then the undertaker’s boy
bit through his sandwich and made a grab to save what remained. His
lurch put two legs into the gravel and caused the carpet man to shout:
“Keep yer mind on yer job, carncher!” which caused him to start
coughing again and threw the weight back on to the moving man and the
carpenter. As this pair was walking backwards uphill, the jerk brought
them down and all four crashed among a forest of last year’s
pea-sticks. The commode had successfully survived the French
Revolution and the Franco-Prussian war but this was asking too much of
it. All but the undertaker’s boy turned surly and, having brushed the
soil from their trousers, they left the commode on the lawn and went
in search of something they could tuck under the arm.”
“Maxinquaye” by “Tricky” is a very interesting album. The Bristol
music scene of the 90’s is very much worth learning about.