8.8.69 [Handwritten, in Hastings]
You dear old thing! I just got your non-moany letter about the Rolling Stones. What are we going to do with you? You poor old soul. And you won’t even have me to come in and see you when you don’t feel like seeing anybody...! David [Syrus] says that you’ll be first on the transplant list for kidneys - trust you to be different! All this semi-jocularity does conceal some concern however, and I hope you won’t have any more problems once this lot is over. Anyway, I’m sure all my deputies will keep an eye on you. [I assume this was another reference to my mother having gallstones.]
I’m writing this on the beach actually, sitting on those ridiculous pebbles they have on most of the coasts here. I’m getting used to them, I guess, though I can’t run casually over them the way David does. At least this time I haven’t wound up with just blue bruises on the undersides of my feet. There’s a lovely golden labrador tearing about the beach here ˗ the pebbles don’t seem to worry her unduly! She seems to belong to a perpetually grinning boy of fourteen or so who’s sitting close by.
Over the last few days I’ve met two of David’s friends, one of whom, Paul, is going out to Australia, pretty definitely, some time about September, to teach. Probably in Canberra. I’ve never seen anyone with quite so jaunty a step, but he isn’t actually a very jaunty person. He apparently failed an important Varsity exam, and as a result would get a little more money in a teaching post here than the average teacher from a Training College who hasn’t gone to Varsity. [I think I mean he '\would have got more money.' if he hadn't failed.] Anyway, he’s been working on the buses in Hastings for the last year or so because he hasn’t been satisfied with what they’ve offered him in teaching. The other boy, Chris, has an artistic mother who does stain-glassed [corrected in the letter to ‘stained-glass] windows mainly, it seems. He has rather an inferiority complex because of her, though David says he’s a pretty good cellist, and seems very nervy.
We’ve just been in the sea, which is rather boisterous and pretty cold. There’s more wind around than usual today too. I haven’t been wearing my watch down to the beach since I’ve been here, though I must have done the first day we were out as the skin on the place where the watch and strap normally are is pink (but a deep pink) and not at all like the rest of my skin. It’s very tender too. I hope it will be all right, but I let it calm down a little yesterday, by wearing the watch again, and not letting the sun at it. In fact we didn’t go near the sea yesterday. I for one felt that I was burning to a cinder, and wanted to give myself a break from the overall suntanning I’d been having. We went for quite a long walk out of the north of the town, through fields and bush, and it was really fabulously relaxing. When we went to Camber, we had to go via Rye (the town where the notorious Dr Syn had his headquarters) and we had a look at it. (Hastings has a lot of old houses in its ‘old town’ part, but no cobbles.)
We played golf here the other evening ˗ on a revoltingly hilly course ˗ Pete [David’s brother] and I were 100, David 102. But the views during the game made it well worthwhile. Dave and I are wending our way through the Wagner Ring cycle (nineteen LPs!!) ˗ he got the Solti recording set cheap recently. There really is a lot of fabulous music in these works, and for all his faults, he certainly knew what he was about. When you consider these four operas were written over twenty-four years ˗ it’s amazing how well they hang together and to each other.
[ Postscript written along the edge of the opening paragraph - somewhat reminiscent of my father’s approach to making the most of all available space in a letter.]
I’ll keep on praying for you ˗ though I’m sure the Good Lord has you down on his special list already - love, Mike