He lives up the road, and I visit him and his wife regularly, always taking along any knitting, darning, mending that needs doing, so as not to waste time.
He is round about sixty, a small, agile, lively man with grey-black hair, a short beard, a big head altogether; the type of person who makes one forget that he is small once he starts talking to one. He is capable of enthusiasm and prepared, more than the average Englishman, to give an opinion on things. He is in fact a very strong personality with a low-pitched voice, a bass probably, we should try and rope him in with the G.H. singers. He forms strong views on various issues in his daily life or in politics, and I want to see the person who would dare challenge him on them ! I challenged him once quite by accident and shall never do it again. We were discussing the miners’ strike and I put forward a few arguments which I thought were intelligent; they certainly were thought up entirely by me. He looked at me disconcerted. I noticed his wife was developing a red face. Then he threw one sentence at me, and it nearly knocked me out : “you are a Tory !” I felt like being marked for life. In vain did I protest my innocence. I could see he did not believe me. I left them bewildered that day, and he was in a state as well, because really he was supposed to like me.
I had to unburden myself to my family who comforted me and told me I should forget the incident, behave as though nothing had happened. This is what I usually recommend when one of them has a problem of relationship. I tried and found it worked. A day after, he passed me in his car and waved as hard as he could. Maybe he was trying to forget, too …
He has a thing in common with me : he is a great lover of language, well-cared for, polished, esthetically pleasing, grammatically correct, pure and clean language, English in this case, unspoilt, unadulterated by nasty outside influences and technical jargons. He writes books with the help of a word-processor – I am afraid I am too simple for that -, so far about technical subjects, but hopes to produce a real bestseller once he finds the time to write about his great hobby : riding. He is one of the few gentleman-riders I know, this sport being mainly adopted by girls and ladies. He took up riding about two years ago, much to his wife’s dismay, but has survived so far. He subscribes to any horse-magazine, there are large piles of them in his house, and has friendly feelings towards my eldest daughter – she is a rider, too. Looking at him in his riding-gear – short, black, determined – I cannot help thinking about Genghis-Khan and his hordes who used to transport their supply of meat under their saddle, so as to ride it tender before consumption.
Once on a beautiful summer’s day I bumped into him as he was coming back from an equestrian outing. He stopped at my side, looked at me – I was on my way home from the garden, armed with bucket and spade, riding my bicycle – and said “how lovely to see you first!” .
I kissed him for his birthday and he said he would like a birthday every day.
He is, by the way, of Jewish descent. I am German. He cannot forgive the Germans, my parents’ generation, that is, and perhaps this is understandable. Maybe he is mellowing in his old age, he said so himself, when I expressed my appreciation of the beautiful Wagner record he gave me for Christmas.
He once had a meeting with a top Arab leader who had found one of his aviation books very interesting. Apparently they had a talk together in a place overlooking part of Israel. As a memento he was given a gold fountain pen which he showed me on his return. I had the satisfaction of discovering that it had been “made in Germany”.