Now old hands at the game, we arrived without incident, in Watchet, on a sunny day in late August. Our quarter, the usual three-bed, red-brick, metal window-framed (another freezing winter) slightly larger estate-type house, was sparklingly clean; such a bonus meaning we could start on the boxes almost immediately. Once unpacked, despite noticing that we were sorely in need of a visit from the decorators, overall, we decided, everything could have been far worse. In Sutton, we'd acquired a little furniture of our own, at country auctions, and Mother, having once again moved house, during our trips South had been kind enough to hand on not only unwanted goodies of her own but others, gathered from the mass of antique shops and stalls in Brighton and Hove, no doubt flirting madly whilst beating down any hapless male dealers. No one drove a harder bargain with more wit and style.
The previous occupants of our new home now lived - following promotion - immediately opposite, in a similar house but with four-beds and a larger garden. Soon after our arrival, they popped across to introduce themselves and having thanked them for not having to scrub before unpacking (nowhere near as uncommon as one would imagine) daringly mentioned how startled we'd been upon finding a series of deep holes in both front and rear gardens. Somewhat shamefacedly, they admitted to digging up their recently planted new rose-bushes. 'We were damned if we were going to leave them'. Fair enough.
G. was now, officially, on leave. Something of a rarity in our lives. In my entire time as an army wife - twenty four years - he never once, not ever, took his full entitlement. However, within eight days of our settling in, he announced one morning 'What about a holiday'. Just like that. The final decision was coastal West Wales, a favourite with us both and where I'd spent time as a child. Within 24hrs. Mr. Fixit had booked us into what sounded like excellent farmhouse accommodation, which as well as being close to several lovely beaches and the small town of Cardigan - home to several family friends - was less than a three hour drive away.
And so began the first of a series of visits to Penrallt Ceibwr Farm, a great establishment held together by the hospitable Fletcher family, for many years uncomplaining hosts to children and pets, young and old, and providers of homely surroundings, comfortable beds and fabulous food.
On day four, installed happily on a beach, digesting our delicious packed lunch, I spotted a lone figure in a blue uniform carrying, what appeared to be a large pair of black boots. Every few yards, the figure would stop and bend to speak to various people who all appeared to reply with a shake of their heads. Alarm-bell time again. Hadn't there been something on the car radio concerning Gen. Franco of Spain, threatening to invade Gibral- tar... I sighed. It had been good while it lasted. As the figure came closer, I nudged G.
'There's a man in blue on the horizon and I think he's after you'.
'Rubbish' he said, easing himself up onto his elbows.
We listened as he addressed the male half of a nearby couple 'Are you Captain Pettifar'?
'There you go' I said brightly, seeing the remnants of our holiday float slowly off into the hinterland. G. rose to his feet.
Delighted to have found us, our policeman smiled, before saying slowly and gravely, as if about to announce Armageddon. 'I've notice, from the War Office. You've got to get back to barracks as soon as you can. They didn't say why... Must be serious though'. Upset for us all, but mostly for the children, my own reaction was far less restrained. 'Oh, bugger bloody Franco'. G. looking puzzled, turned to me, saying 'Who mentioned Franco?
from SINGING TO THE GOLDFISH
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