It’s hard to describe where I’ve been, and it annoys her not to know. It’s rather the thing that she drops in on me unexpectedly, blowing through the door like autumn leaves and just as colourful to take my best chair and make demands on me for pots of tea and thickly buttered toast. To paint for me tales of her adventures with a very broad brush. I am not then according to her narrative, meant to be out. And I have been because of the sprouts and matters of the bruised mind and dull, horrid things that bore her and so I lie. Because as we all should be aware by now, better a colourful story than a dull explanation.
She listens wanting an excuse and so playing along says, ‘Physicists?’
‘Or physicians, I am never sure of the difference. Which is it that care deeply for Steven Hawkins?’
‘It was them, and his Daleks. Or rather them because I may have alluded he created them.’
‘Straight to hell,’ she says.
I am. She’s been around a lot recently. It used to be an event, an occasion. Ever since the Slide’s been opened and she’s been here weekly, more. I ask her about that. She feigns interest in a noise outside, hushing me until the noise there is not, has gone. She turns on me with her own questions, regarding Shrewton. Morning walks and people I used to meet. It’s been a while.
I used as I’ve lived everywhere, lived there. Shrewton, just up from Stonehenge and right on the plain. It was there that really I started to enjoy walking. Just a brisk mile or three, very early or somewhat late. And there in that village where paths change daily because paths might daily boast red flags and therefore artillery I was one of a pack. We were regulars who only met on our walks. The Colonel indeed so took to meeting up he began to bring a shooting stick. He was convinced I must know his daughter because she was in London. The Colonel was a veritable fount of war stories. Aden, Malaya, and all concerning how often he shat himself. He missed the army dreadfully he would tell me, all apart from the guns and the duller uniforms. Beastly things guns (he would say) and it never went well whenever anyone insisted he took one.
‘No, not the Colonel,’ though she wants to know why we stopped meeting up. Mostly because I moved away. But also because I varied my times a little when we started as a pack to meet up and people, oh yes, produced thermos flasks.
I got lost on one of these walks once. It was up on the lanes and fields, first by the old ROC shelter and then about and up to the Bustard, a pub, quite the landmark where there is and other than rows of little tanks – nothing else. I walked and after an hour turned about to find not ten yards behind me, a flag. You don’t go anywhere on Salisbury Plain where there’s a flag. Not only is Larkhill where V began his/her Vendetta but it’s also where all the artillery lives. And it likes to go bang. So I walked back and on and soon there was another flag and no way on other than into the fields – and so I did. It went on like this, all, day. I had to walk to so far and so alone I spotted Triffids. I walked the plain and five hours later made it home.
‘That was it,’ says Mme Roux.
I make the toast.