I half closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I'd ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field and gradually get larger until I'd see it was Tommy, and he'd wave, and maybe even call.
That was the only time, as I stood there, looking at that strange rubbish, feeling the wind coming across those empty fields, that I started to imagine just a little fantasy thing, because this was Norfolk after all, and it was only a couple of weeks since I’d lost him. I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I'd ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I'd see it was Tommy, and he'd wave, maybe even call. The fantasy never got beyond that --I didn't let it-- and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn't sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.
What I'm not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time.
But what is the sense in forever speculating what might have happened had such and such a moment turned out differently? One could presumably drive oneself to distraction in this way. In any case, while it is all very well to talk of 'turning points', one can surely only recognize such moments in retrospect. Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable.
It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed.
If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.
Nos-tal-gic,’ Akira said, as though it were a word he had been struggling to find. Then he said a word in Japanese, perhaps the Japanese for ‘nostalgic.’ ‘Nos-tal-gic. It is good to be nos-tal-gic. Very important.’‘Really, old fellow?’‘Important. Very important. Nostalgic. When we nostalgic, we remember. A world better than this world we discover when we grow. We remember and wish good world come back again. So very important. Just now, I had dream. I was boy. Mother, Father, close to me. in our house.’He fell silent and continued to gaze across the rubble.‘Akira,’ I said, sensing that the longer this talk went on, the greater was some danger I did not wish fully to articulate. ‘We should move on. We have much to do.
Everything might scatter. You might be right. I suppose it's something we can't easily get away from. People need to feel they belong. To a nation, to a race. Otherwise, who knows what might happen? This civilisation of ours, perhaps it'll just collapse. And everything scatter, as you put it.
As I’ve said, it wasn’t until a long time afterwards—long after I’d left the Cottages—that I realized just how significant out little encounter in the churchyard had been. I was upset at the time, yes. But I didn’t believe it to be anything so different from other tiffs we’d had. It never occurred to me that our lives, until then so closely interwoven could unravel and separate over a thing like that.But the fact was, I suppose, there were powerful tides tugging us apart by then, and it only needed something like that to finish the task. If we’d understood that back then—who knows?—maybe we’d have kept a tighter hold of one another.
I can see,’ Miss Emily said, ‘that it might look as though you were simply pawns in a game. It can certainly be looked at like that. But think of it. You were lucky pawns. There was a certain climate and now it’s gone. You have to accept that sometimes that’s how things happen in the world. People’s opinions, their feelings, they go one way, then the other. It just so happens you grew up at a certain point in this process.’‘It might be just some trend that came and went,’ I said. ‘But for us, it’s our life.
I think of my pile of old paperbacks, their pages gone wobbly, like they'd once belonged to the sea.
And what made these heart-to-hearts possible--you might even say what made the whole friendship possible during that time--was this understanding we had that anything we told each other during these moments would be treated with careful respect: that we'd honor confidences, and that no matter how much we rowed, we wouldn't use against each other anything we'd talked about during those sessions.
Perhaps one day, all these conflicts will end, and it won't be because of great statesmen or churches or organisations like this one. It'll be because people have changed. They'll be like you, Puffin. More a mixture. So why not become a mongrel? It's healthy.
Where once we fought for land and God, we now fought to avenge fallen comrades, themselves slaughtered in vengeance. Where could it end? Babes growing to men knowing only days of war.
All you decent, well-meaning gentlemen, let me ask you, have you any idea what sort of place the world is becoming all around you? The days when you could act out of your noble instincts are over. Except of course, you here in Europe don't yet seem to know it.
All I know is that I've wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I'd get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don't want it anymore, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become. Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow's sky. That's what I want now, and I think it's what you should want too. But it will be too late soon. We'll become too set to change. If we don't take our chance now, another may never come for either of us.
The stranger thought it might be God himself had forgotten much from our pasts, events far distant, events of the same day. And if a thing is not in God’s mind, then what chance of it remaining in those of mortal men?
I suppose it had something to do with it being a secret, just how much it had meant to me. Maybe all of us at Hailsham had little secrets like that--little private nooks created out of thin air where we could go off alone with our fears and longings. But the very fact that we had such needs would have felt wrong to us at the time--like somehow we were letting the side down.
I needed to get familiar with sex, and it would be just as well to practise first with a boy I didn't care about too much. Then later on, if I was with someone special, I'd have more chance of doing everything right.
That's most interesting. But I was no more a mind-reader then than today. Iwas weeping for an altogether different reason. When I watched you dancing that day, I saw something else. I saw a new world coming rapidly. Morescientific, efficient, yes. More cures for the old sicknesses. Very good. But aharsh, cruel world. And I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could notremain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go. That is what I saw. It wasn't really you, what you were doing, I know that. But I saw you and it broke my heart. And I've never forgotten.
When I watched you dancing that day, I saw something else. I saw a new world coming rapidly. More scientific, efficient, yes. More cures for the old sicknesses. Very good. But a harsh, cruel world. And I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go. That is what I saw. It wasn't really you, what you were doing, I know that. But I saw you and it broke my heart.
Perhaps there are those who are able to go about their lives unfettered by such concerns. But for those like us, our fate is to face the world as orphans, chasing through long years the shadows of vanished parents. There is nothing for it but to try and see through our missions to the end, as best we can, for until we do so, we will be permitted no calm.
When we lost something precious, and we'd looked and looked and still couldn't find it, then we didn't have to be completely heartbroken. We still had that last bit of comfort, thinking one day, when we grow up, and we were free to travel around the counry, we would always go and find it in Norfolk...And that's why years and years later, that day Tommy and I found another copy of that lost tape of mine in a town on the Norfolk coast, we didn't just think it pretty funny; we both felt deep down some tug, some old wish to believe again in something that was once close to our hearts.
You see, because [Norfolk is] stuck out here on the east, on this hump jutting into the sea, it's not on the way to anywhere. People going north and south, they bypass it altogether. For that reason, it's a peaceful corner of England, rather nice. But it's also something of a lost corner.'Someone claimed after the lesson that Miss Emily had said Norfolk was England's 'lost corner' because that was were all the lost property found in the country ended up.Ruth said one evening, looking out at the sunset, that 'when we lost something precious, and we'd looked and looked and still couldn't find it, then we didn't have to be completely heartbroken. We still had that last bit of comfort, thinking one day, when we were grown up, and we were free to travel the country, we could always go and find it again in Norfolk.
For a great many people, the evening is the most enjoyable part of the day. Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished?
Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.
What he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood. He knew he was close to completing and so that's what he was doing: getting me to describe things to him, so they'd really sink in, so that maybe during those sleepless nights, with the drugs and the paint and the exhaustion, the line would blur between what were my memories and what were his.
This country awakens so many memories, though each seems like some restless sparrow I know will flee any moment into the breeze.
More fundamentally, I'm interested in memory because it's a filter through which we see our lives, and because it's foggy and obscure, the opportunities for self-deception are there. In the end, as a writer, I'm more interested in what people tell themselves happened rather than what actually happened.
Memory, I realize, can be an unreliable thing; often it is heavily coloured by the circumstances in which one remembers, and no doubt this applies to certain of the recollections I have gathered here.
But you play that passage like it's the -memory- of love. You're so young, yet you know desertion, abandonment. That's why you play that third movement the way you do. Most cellists, they play it with joy. But for you, it's not about joy, it's about the memory of a joyful time that's gone for ever.
It was a fine feeling indeed to be standing up there like that, with the sound of summer all around one and a light breeze on one's face. And I believe it was then, looking on that view, that I began for the first time to adopt a frame of mind appropriate for the journey before me. For it was then that I felt the first healthy flush of anticipation for the many interesting experiences I know these days ahead hold in store for me.
In any case, while it is all very well to talk of 'turning points', one can surely only recognise such moments in retrospect. Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable.
Naturally—and why should I not admit this—I have occasionally wondered to myself how things might have turned out in the long run.... I only speculate this now because in the light of subsequent events, it could well be argued that in making my decision...I was perhaps not entirely aware of the full implications of what I was doing. Indeed, it might even be said that this small decision of mine constituted something of a key turning point; that that decision set things on an inevitable course towards what eventually happened. But then, I suppose, when with the benefit of hindsight one begins to search one's past for such 'turning points', one is apt to start seeing them everywhere.... What would have transpired, one may ask, had one responded slightly differently...? And perhaps—occurring as it did around the same time as these events?