Friday, 30 May 2014

7 Quick Stories

-- one --

I was out for a run/walk (in which I mostly walk and rarely run) one evening along the beach path, and a man down on the rocks called out to me, "I saw a dolphin!  It was right over there!" and pointed very near where his line was.

"He's moved away now.  Look over where that crowd of gulls are."

I stopped and sure enough, in the distance, we saw the sleek curves emerging out of the waves, here . . . now there . . . now here . . . now there.  A third man came along walking his dog and asked us what we were looking at.

"We saw dolphins!" I said, and pointed.

"We don't get many dolphins up here, because of the climate.  More often seals . . . ah, I see it now!"

Then the three of us stood for a few minutes looking out to sea.  The fisherman was Middle Eastern, I'm American, and the man with the dog was British.

-- two --

Afon's cousin was baptized a couple of weekends ago, so we spent time with my in-laws in Bangor.  I also got to see my old professor, who attends the same parish in Bangor.  He was my thesis supervisor who first told me about Charles Williams's Arthurian poetry and then handed me his own copy of The Anathemata.  The Anathemata has heavily influenced the conception and the writing of the first story.

"Can I hug you?" I asked him.

"Uh . . . well, yes . . . although the only people ever interested in hugging me are my daughters.  So I shall consider you an honorary daughter."

That made me happy.  He gave me his phone number and told me to call whenever I was headed back to Bangor.  He used to take me to the pub every week and we'd discuss my thesis.

I'll never forget the lecture he gave at the Catholic Chaplaincy one evening in mid-autumn.  He was addressing the frequent question of whether or not King Arthur really existed.  "The answer to that question," he said, in his serene English accent, "is not yes, and not no, and not even maybe . . . but probably."

-- three --

We kept trying to get Afon to kiss his baby cousin, but each time we said, "Kiss baby James," Afon would shake his head violently and whine.  This must be jealousy.  It was neat to see and feel what it would be like if we had more children.  In the end, we were able to get Afon to kiss his cousin, but we weren't expecting it.  Alas, no photographic evidence!  Maybe next time.

John is the Godfather!

-- four --

I like to hear stories about my grandmother-in-law.  Her name was Elfrid because at the time she was born, her father was interested in Anglo-Saxon.  I think it's a superb name.  (My husband disagrees, but I have final say in baby names anyway!)  It suited her because she went on to study Middle English at Oxford.  She died shortly after I started dating John, so I never got to meet her.  My father-in-law tells me we would have really taken to each other.  "You had the same subject," he says.

She taught at Oxford at a time when men there were scarce because of the war.  I knew she was acquainted with and taught by Tolkien, by John's aunt recently told me that she was better acquainted with Hugo Dyson.  Once, she was invited to attend an Inklings meeting, but she declined because, our aunt says, "she had an aversion to pubs"!

-- five --

Another story about Elfrid, from her brother's autobiography: there was segregated swimming at the time, so Clare, the older and more dominant sister, contrived an idea.  They dressed up their little brother like a girl and smuggled him into the pool.  This spunky aunt was later a patroness to my husband's family when he a child.  My father-in-law tells me that she used to take one child off of my mother-in-law's hands for the day to give her a rest (she had four, all close in age!).

"She always chose John," my dad-in-law said, with his lopsided smile.

"Why do you think that is?" I asked.

"I think she thought he was the one whose absence would give [my-mum-in-law] the most relief."

That sounds about right!

-- six --

We can just call Afon, John, Jr. for that matter.  When I took him to Conwy, we were waiting for the bus at the end of the day.  He was being hyper and running about, and somehow bumped his head.  He let out a loud wail, and an old woman who was there, quite robust and fashionable, put her hand on his damaged head and said, "Oh, dear!  It was the fairies!"

His name means River, which is pretty accurate.  Don't let the cute fool you. He's a force of nature.

She couldn't have known how it pleased me to hear such an explanation.

She, her husband, and her other companions looked after us for the rest of our bus journey together and made sure we caught our connecting bus on time.

-- seven --

Another bus story: on Holy Saturday, I rode the stuffed bus down into town to do some last-minute Easter shopping, and I saw a man there about aged fifty, sitting and whittling away on a peace of wood with a sort of detractable x acto knife.  The curled shavings smelled divine and were piled high around his feet.  I got a place standing next to him and saw that he almost a hundred lovespoons tied on a ring of twine.  Some were polished and some raw, but they were all rough and beautiful, no longer than my palm.

I struck up a conversation, telling him how nice it was to see a craftsman working in his native trade and asked to buy one.  He let me pick one out from the ring of twine and cut it loose.  "That one's cherrywood," he said.

I asked him what his name was.

"Trefor," he said.  "With an 'f'."*  I grinned and grinned.  I knew we were home.

*In the Welsh language, a single f makes the sound of a v in English.  Hence Afon is pronounced Ahv-on, no relation to the American makeup company.


  1. Love Love Love these little stories and snatches of your life!!!!!!

    1. Me too! and what a wonderfully romantic name is Elfrid!


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