Well, I think I am back. Landed at three and it's now ten thirty. I'm on my second cup of coffee and thinking about a third. Okay, I have that now so maybe this post be somewhat coherent!
It feels really strange to be sitting here with the sun baking in as when I left the UK yesterday snow flurries were falling but that is the strangeness of my life - what seems normal (cold, wet and snowy) is holiday and what should be holiday is real life.
The boys are safely back at school and I had a wonderful lunch in Oxford with fellow writers which fed my soul a bit. I know there must be writers here in Dubai but I haven't managed to tap into them yet. Thank God for the communities on line.
I haven't posted any links in a bit which is very remiss of me as I have seen plenty. So here is the last one I read ( by multi multi published Anna Jacobs about the Writing Life) which I knew I must share and I will dig up the other when I have my brain back in the correct time zone.
Cricket Pitch, Farthing House School 6th June 1846
Toby gazed at the chestnut trees in the distance. He was longstop. The click of the bat connecting with the cricket ball caught his attention, but it wasn’t coming his way. When was Frederick coming? He had checked the letter every night this week. He wondered if it was good to look forward to something so much. He had started to tell Edwards then stopped and this happened several times. Edwards was the only boy who spoke to him. He was going to Eton as well. Edwards received many letters. His mother wrote to him. His aunts wrote to him and his sister wrote to him. Toby had seen a photo of his sister. She was particularly beautiful.
The crack sound snapped him away from the image of Edwards’ sister, Emily. No, again there was nothing he needed to do. The sun warmed his head and shoulders. He longed to be in Cornwall. He had another three weeks until he could go home. Those weeks seemed far too long to wait to see the Helford and sail freely on the water.
Frederick hadn’t mentioned what time he would come or even if it would be today. It could be tomorrow but Toby hoped it was today. The match would be over soon and then Saturday afternoon waited in front of him. Sundays were awful but they were allowed to stay in bed until eight o’clock then there was chapel. The singing was what made it bearable.
Scanning the small crowd watching the match, he could recognise the faces of a few of his schoolmasters. Unfortunately his Latin master was there. Toby did not want to see him. He had been made to conjugate the verb, to be, 1000 times after he confused it in an essay and his wrist still ached. He also saw his English master. He was the youngest and nicest of them all. He actually smiled on occasions.
The umpire’s voice interrupted Toby’s thoughts. Had he just caught a glimpse of a carriage arriving down the long drive? Could it be Frederick? He hoped so. Would he have brought the painting? Toby was curious to see how it had come out and he longed to see his mother’s portrait again.
The game ended with the other team winning by a few runs. It didn’t matter to Toby which is why he was put out in the longstop. He enjoyed bowling but wasn’t often given the chance and he admitted to himself that the others were much better than he. After all he had only just learned the game. His father had never taught him. He had seen a few people play but had never played himself. It was a baptism of fire. He was thrown into the bottom team and told to get on with. It was only Edwards’ kindness that got him through. Edwards explained the rules thoroughly and then taught him how to bowl, and field. Toby had no problem batting.
At the pavilion, tea was being served and Toby was starving. He had learned quickly to eat as much as he could no matter what the food tasted like as there was never enough. He had outgrown his trousers and matron was tut tutting him as she tried to bring the hem down on them. He tried to explain that he couldn’t help it if he was growing quickly, but she wouldn’t listen. She never listened to him or any of them in fact. She just shovelled cod liver oil into them and frowned.
“Trevenen. There’s a Mr. Frederick Peters here to see you.”
Toby shivered as the clipped tones of his Latin master pulled him away from the food table.
“I trust this has been cleared with the headmaster.”
“I wrote to him three weeks ago of my intended visit. The family have commissioned me to paint Tobias and I needed to see him again in order to complete the painting.” Frederick looked the master directly in the eyes and Mr. Pinchly turned and walked away.
“Hello, Tobias. I see you didn’t mention my visit.”
Toby nodded. His mouth was still full of sandwich.
“Probably best. I did write to the head. I have permission to take you out this afternoon.”
Toby swallowed. Out? He had not been off the grounds of the school since he had arrived.
“I thought you might be pleased.”
Toby looked at all the food still on the table.
“I will feed you.” Frederick smiled. “The carriage is waiting. Do you want to change?”
Toby looked down at his whites. They were still clean. “No, if it’s fine to go in these?”
“Yes. Of course. You’re anxious to leave?”
Toby smiled and followed Frederick who nodded to Mr. Pinchly on his way past and Toby couldn’t help enjoying the look on Mr. Pinchly’s face. It looked as if the lemonade was too sharp. No doubt he would pay the price for his outing on Monday, but he would enjoy his escape while it lasted. He waved discreetly at Edwards as they walked to the carriage.
“How is it going?” Frederick faced Toby as they set off down the long drive.
“It’s wonderful then, I can tell.”
Toby laughed feeling the tension leave his body as the school gates disappeared.
“Your uncle used to tell marvellously horrid stories of his life there. I can’t imagine that it has improved at all,” said Frederick.
“I wouldn’t think so.”
“What’s the worst part?”
Toby looked out the window.
“Maybe it would be easier to say what’s the best?”
“Classics,” said Toby.
“Well, the master is not too awful and I like the stories.”
“Your favourite?” asked Frederick.
“You love the sea.”
“Yes,” said Toby.
Toby looked directly at Frederick.
Toby turned to the window again. He had thought that Frederick might have understood.
“Nothing. I just enjoy being near the sea.”
“Tobias, are you saying that you love the sea because your mother is there?” Toby nodded. “Don’t you believe she is in heaven?”
“Where is heaven? All I know is she is in the sea.” No one would understand. She was there whenever she spoke to him. They went through large gates and down a long drive lined with trees. The house that came into view was bathed in warm summer light making the yellow stone glow. The carriage door was opened and Frederick led the way out. Toby followed. A beautiful woman came out through the large front door.
“Oh, Frederick, it’s you. I thought it might be Charles. Oh, it’s Clarisse’s son. Oh, yes, of course it is I can see the resemblance. How silly of me. Do come in.” Toby followed behind them. Here was some else who knew his mother. Maybe he would find some more answers to his questions?