Wednesday, November 25, 2015

4.7.69 Visiting Ashford in Kent

Dear Mum, sorry about this rather scrappy-looking piece of aerogramme but it’s been sitting at the bottom of my satchel and isn’t worth throwing away!
I was invited down to Ashford in Kent last weekend by David Gorringe, and went down after a rehearsal in the morning. By a fast train it only takes about an hour and so I arrived in the middle of the afternoon. The weather was fabulous all weekend ˗ they say in the paper that this has been the hottest June in 20 years (and it’s still staying very hot) ˗ and so David and I went for a couple of lengthy walks. David has a dog ˗ about a year or more old ˗ which was there on the Saturday, but which had to go to the local kennels on Sunday as Dave’s parents were leaving the next morning for the Jersey Islands. The dog, Susie, was very friendly once it accepted me, but when first Dave and she met me at the station, it just ignored me all the time, which was rather curious.
Godinton House, circa 1985
Anyway, on the first afternoon, we went to an area nearby that has been left to the people of the town and can’t be built on and it's called the Warren. It’s what we’d call a bush area, rather like Maori Rd’s bush, but without any traffic close by. On the next afternoon we went for a rather longer walk through the town (after looking in at the local church, which goes back several hundred years, and is rather fabulous in its own quiet way) and then went by rather devious ways (the way we should have gone was closed so we went round by the large Army Base, and across a cornfield) to a place called Godington Hall [think I mean Godinton House], which is one of those old Country Homes set in large grounds. This one still has some of the descendants living there ˗ it’s not so large that it needs to be turned over the National Trust ˗ and dates back to 1623, I think it was. It has a formal garden, which is absolutely fabulous, like something out of a film, and the house which we didn’t go into because we were both feeling rather tired by then, looks nice and cosy in spite of its size. We mainly wandered around the garden, which is full of statues, some of them slightly crumbling, and lily ponds and neatly cut trees, and walks, and ˗ well, I wanted to bring it all home with me but Dave wouldn’t let me. (I don’t know quite what is wrong with me today, but I don’t seem to be able to put down the right keys at all ˗ I have a touch of a sick headache; don’t know quite why, I think it’s a combination of overheated rooms (the English can’t believe that they don’t need heat in the summer) and late nights. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been catching bugs ˗ don’t do that anymore please ˗ there’s no one to look after you properly.)
I sat in the bath this morning too long too, and though the ventilator is working there seems to be a curious smell about the air in there. Ten to one we’ll all be gassed in there one night ˗ in the flat I mean, not the bathroom.
London was in chaos yesterday ˗ I’m on the Blackheath station at the moment which reminded me ˗ half the tube lines were on strike and there was twice as much traffic on the streets and twice as many people trying to get to work by busses. I got to London Bridge by my normal train and decided to walk to Cheapside (I think) to get a bus to the Centre, but got myself lost for a hair-raising ten minutes. However, in this town, if you head in the right direction you eventually get to somewhere that looks familiar. Those three weeks of wandering around the place last September have stood me in good stead.
Next Thursday I’m to play at some sort of concert, accompanying a choir (of children, I think) and three singers. I only got the music yesterday and through there are some little problems I’ll probably survive.
Back to Ashford again. David’s parents were extremely nice and friendly, as you’d expect from Dave himself and I’ve been invited to go back anytime I want ˗ with or without Dave ˗ he’s now going off to Cardiff to join the Welsh Opera ˗ in August ˗ that’s where Jeff will be too.
On the Saturday night we went to a party given by people from Dave’s old Drama Group. Everyone there was single, which struck me as a little odd, when you consider they were of all age groups, up to the 50s. Except the host and hostess ˗ they were married, and one lady was divorced ˗ she’s the mother of a girlfriend of Dave’s and we went round and had coffee at her flat the next morning, and I got into an argument with her (in the most polite way) about whether the daughter in the flat below who’d become an R.C. [Roman Catholic] should go off to a convent and break her parents’ hearts. It seemed to me that they had each other anyway, and that she had more responsibility to herself than them. She’s going anyway.

Love, Mike.