Sunday, 1 March 2015
Willy Wainwright sat on the bench in the sun. Warmth spread through his bones and filled him with a sense of wellbeing. May was a lovely month full of hope and new beginnings and his eyes followed the family of ducks as they travelled up the canal in regimental order. He appreciated things like that. He unconsciously straightened his regimental tie and squared his shoulders in his smartly brushed blazer. The breeze tried to play with his white hair as it passed but it was cropped too close to his head and so it passed on to ruffle the grasses on the edge of the towpath, which were much more in the mood to join in. It was not that he did not know how to enjoy life, so much as he was not a fan of frivolity and did not brook fools lightly. He belonged to the dinosaur generation that did everything so differently. He found it difficult to understand why everything he had stood for, was now automatically discredited. It had all made sense once. He glanced at his watch and experienced a small flutter, soon now, soon.
His thoughts drifted back to those early summers of his prime. Hot sultry summers of smartly dressed ladies, parasols raised to keep the relentless sun away from their fair complexions. Rank upon rank of disciplined scarlet tunics and elephants wallowing at water holes. Sparkling Cricket whites and magnificent, horseflesh, performing for Polo. Brightly clad relatives of the local Nabobs and stunning backdrops of exotic Indian Palaces. He missed it, if truth be told. Sadly the miss was as much for the passing of an era and his youth, as a desire to go back to a country that had changed beyond recognition. He knew he could live very much more cheaply there than he did now, in his small lock keepers cottage in his English market town. Something had died with the end of Empire. He appreciated today belonged to the young with their hostile attitudes to India’s past, but his memories were his own. His eyes fell on his polished brown shoes and he took comfort in something he was in tune with. For all the pop music, current thinking and destruction of the past, no one seemed to be all that happy.
To his left movement. It was George rounding the curve of the water leading Goliath. Glossy chestnut coat and horse brasses catching the sun, he gently leaned into his collar taking the strain. Placing one sure foot at a time the Shire moved down the towpath towards the bench and slowly the big heavy barge eased into view. This was no dirty coal heaver but a jolly trip boat, alive with fluttering bunting, and chattering passengers. Willy rose to his feet and watched with anticipation as Goliath reached him and George slowed him down to a halt. Patting the beautiful animal on his neck, Major Wainwright stood erect, all of six feet tall in spite of a slight lean on his silver topped cane, which these days was becoming a necessity. He was still an impressive figure with his tanned face and full head of white hair. The passengers rose to greet him, friends of long standing, the ladies in their flowery dresses and the gentlemen as smartly turned out as he. The majority of them had shared that warm, colourful past of his and understood its passing. George held out a weathered brown hand to assist him onto the boat and an elegant lady moved to lightly kiss his cheek as he settled himself into a green and gold chair.
‘Lovely to see you again Snowdrop’ she whispered as she sat beside him and held his hand in hers. The blond hair was mostly silver now and the chiffon dress was gracing a plumper figure, but the smile was the same. The laughing eyes that had melted him on a hillside in Pondicherry wove their magic again on the boat to Stoke Bruerne.
His heart felt very full that afternoon, as comrades all, they smiled, conversed and took tea together. Life was not quite over yet, there was still some future to come.
He had big plans for Mr and Mrs ‘Snowdrop’.
The copyright of this post belongs to Geneva Grey.