Forty years ago this week, lucky travellers on the Liverpool Street Line were treated to the sight of Ma and I manoeuvring a sizeable, empty metal trunk on and off the train. I was about to start at Exeter and the trunk would soon be sent ahead with all that I considered precious: radio/cassette player, gold table-lamp with orange shade and books from the reading list, some of which still sit on my shelves, spines barely creased.
“Is Mrs Vestibule coming to camp?” asks an Elfin, over the washing-up.
I’m at the other end of the trestle tables, in arm to arm combat with a hefty pan which is coated with industrial quantities of baked bean sauce. So the question is picked up by Brian’s mate, Graham, who has taken a week’s leave from pen-pushing at the Civic Centre to be here, washing dishes in a cold, wet field with the Woodcraft Folk.
“No, she’s afraid of camping.” The entire rota group stops to gawp at this news. As does Sheila.
“Is that someone at the door?” says GenialHostess. The hubbub dies down; then we hear the door being knocked.
It is RuggerMan, whose height and dark hair win him the annual honour of being shoved out into the cold on the stroke of midnight.
“I’ve just thought,” says ActorLaddie, adjusting his rucksack on the platform. “That’s the first time she’s travelled on the underground.”
GrannieBorders would have like that. Being amused was her default setting. She was an easy audience: anything out of the ordinary would simply make her laugh. We are talking here about someone who once claimed their favourite film was On the Buses.
Linda stood up next. “Marjatta was a great believer in the power of nature. I remember shortly after I lost Roger, she took me to her allotment. We were planting potatoes and I had my back to her. Then I turned around and she was gone. I called her name and, when she answered, I saw that she was lying on her back between the beds. It turned out that, as she’d dug in her fork, it had somehow sprung back and she’d landed on the ground. ‘I’ve never seen the world from this angle,’ she said to me. ‘It’s very interesting.’ So, I lay down next to her and we both watched the world above us, and laughed and laughed.”
There must have been nearly 120 of us squeezed into the Quaker Meeting House yesterday morning for Marjatta’s funeral, and at Linda’s ministry we all smiled, imagining this elegant, elderly Finnish lady lying among the vegetables.
“Anyone want to choose the next song? … Anyone?”
YoungLochinvar and I look round the circle of Elfins and are met by slightly bemused stares. We have been asked by FellowKnitter to help out with a session singing campfire songs, leading up to the Whitsun camp in Epping Forest. Elfins are the youngest in our local Woodcraft Folk group – ages up to about 7 – and we are looking at a dozen or so of them. They’re a tough audience to get going, that’s for sure. I’m jolly grateful that YoungL has come along with his guitar, as otherwise you’d only be able to hear FellowKnitter and I laying our burdens down and refusing to study war (whatever Mr Gove may say).