Text and introduction taken from New Worlds 221, Winter 1996 issue, with thanks to John and Maureen Davey and Michael Moorcock
Jack Trevor Story died in 1991. He had just typed ‘The End’ to the last page of Shabby Weddings. This, with minor editing [by Michael Moorcock], is his first chapter.
getting married when I was a love-sick boy. This was to my Aunty Pearl,
who tucked me up for the night when I went to stay with her at Horns
Mill. She came in like lavender and chatted like a chat telephone line,
smoothing my sheets and my bony little dick and singing prayers, Jesus
loves me and a string of God-blesses for the family who were not lucky
enough to be there. I think that aunts know what they do and you bet
they get something out of it.
Marriage was the thing in those days. It was dangerous not to be
married. If you did it without marrying you got babies or syphilis or gonorrhoea. If
you masturbated, God saw you. When I was five I married Nina Vaughan,
then at eight or nine I married Mrs Sprake’s (School) daughter who was
at Cambridge County School and there was Florrie and Likian and I
don’t know who else. It was a relief to get Evelyn pregnant and marry
her, though I did not have sexual intercourse until I was thirty-seven
years old. This I know because I was told by an expert. That was a Greek
girl and I shared her cabin, steerage, on a ship coming back from
Gibraltar. I had been to the wedding of Laurence Harvey and Margaret
Leighton, at the reception at the Rock Hotel; you can check the dates.
“Who has done this to you?” this Greek girl said.
I wish I knew; I would sue them. By the time of the Gibraltar
trip I was working on a film for Anna Neagle called finally Wonderful
Things. By that time I had two homes going, two good women, two good
lots of kids. But the original thing about me is, quite apart from my
good or bad sex life, that my two known marriages, first to Evelyn and
then, after three other long-running musicals with other girls, Ross,
Jan, Maggie and Elaine, to Elaine; eeny meeny minee mo, who will stay
and who will go, are both null and void. The reason is that I married
Ulla Andersen three weeks before I married Evelyn.
I can’t be apologetic about this because having an offstage
wife all these years has been a bit of a blessing. She is enormously
rich and I have had some dreadful times since I left Pye’s. I don’t
seem able to manage money. But also marriage was the national climate,
it didn’t seem that much of a drama. I didn’t think we were
married, it was a typical student rag thing organised by Ulla and her
Cambridge drama lot. One of the witnesses was Leah Manning, which should
have warned me. Mrs Manning was my headmistress at the Open Air School
in Cambridge and she interviewed my mother before my entrance there; but
not until she died many years later did I realise my jokey marriage was
genuine! Leah Manning died on the front page of the Guardian during the
years I was writing a Saturday column. Leah Manning was a famous
politico; and therefore the other witness on the boat (Ulla and I were
married on the Haadrada, a
Danish sailing barge) must have been Virginia Woolf. The date was April
“This is Virginia, her father is Leslie Stephen the
mountaineer. This is Leah — Leah, this is Jack.”
“Yes, I know Jack,” Leah Manning said. “His mother insisted
that he had got TB and he hadn’t. Hello, Jack.”
We all laughed and we were all drinking champagne and the captain
was wearing a woman’s dress and a Sidney Sussex boating cap as per
college eight. So as a wedding it has never seemed as legal as dancing
with Evelyn — I’m young and healthy and you’ve got charm. It would
really be a sin, not to have you in my arms…
This was our first date, an Ideal Homes dance at Cambridge Corn
Exchange. The crooner sang through a megaphone. The tune, the singer in
his straw boater, the two of us, Evelyn a pretty short-bobbed blonde,
myself a badly-creased seventeen, myself a guitarist, myself at Pye
Radio, myself at night school doing the National Certificate course in
Electricity and Magnetism, myself building my own wireless sets, myself
having been in coal, tailoring, meat, scouts, model aeroplanes, plural
masturbation, myself having looked up at the fated Airship 101 hanging
over Parkers Piece, myself having watched the great cricketers playing
on the piece (Jack Hobbs and Duleepainji were there, my chum told me —
Hitler Needs You — Nevil
Hempstead, died in the war) myself having played guitar in the
University Arms Hotel Winter Garden Trio, myself having won first rhythm
guitar prize in the Melody Maker
semi-pro dance band contest, myself having not yet fallen in love.
The greatest emotional event in my life was listening to the
Jimmy Dorsey 32-bar chorus of Back
Beats on low register clarinet with the new Parlophone issue of Red
Nichols Five Pennies, first at the No. 77 Cambridge Rhythm Club and then
at home, a council house in Chesterton, 107, Green End Road, where my
next of kin was born, Jacqueline Lang and where Barry Pilsworth, my
sister’s eldest son, was born in the same room.
“Go down to Mitcham’s Corner on your bike and get a belly
band for Elsa,” cried my mother urgently.
Myself, having all the things listed above, having or hafting (as
Welwyn Garden City people say) never fallen properly in love. Not with
Evelyn, not with anybody.
I was in love with Annie Turner, my teacher in the Burwell fen
when I was nine, but not reliably so. Yes, I copied out the Rupert
Brooke poem for her, got caned on my bum across a chair by Mr Glendon,
the headmaster (Arrowsmith had gone) who said, shaking it in my face in
fury (he was probably jealous):-
“Did you write this, Story!”
“Yes,” I said.
You’ll remember the poem. Lovers remember Rupert Brooke, the
golden boy, all their lives. Glendon made me stand up and read it out as
my own, to titters…
I said I splendidly loved you;
it’s not true.
Such long swift tides stir not a
gods or fools the high risk falls
The clean clear bitter-sweet
that’s not for me.
Love soars from earth to ecstasies
Love is flung Lucifer-like from
— there are wanderers in the
Who cry for shadows, clutch, and
they love at all, or,
An old song’s lady, a fool in fancy
phantoms, or their own face
For love of Love, or from heart’s
not theirs, nor pain.
do not love at all. Of these
love for the first time again just after I married Evelyn.
This was the first important love, the love that universalises
and defines the pattern of the rest of your life. When you know for the
first time that you are never going to experience requited love with the
girl of your choice, only with her plain friend or someone unnoticed who
has chosen you. Well, good luck to them even so. I was not a great
“How often do you bathe, Story?” old Whitby asked me.
I told him once a week, exaggerating a little. “How often do
you wash?” he asked me then. Once a day, properly, in the mornings if
they are not too cold. “Do you wash with your shirt on?” he
inquired. “Yes. But I put a towel round my neck and roll up my
sleeves.” Mr Whitby then said: “I go to the bathroom naked in the
mornings. It is the only way if you want to get on.”
Now you might think that he was only pleasantly passing time, but
he was not. Old Whitby was grumpy and strict and made his production
line the most efficient in the Pye Radio factory in Cambridge, but he
also took a real interest in us. Usually this interest coincided with
some industrial hiatus, when supplies had dried up, or a cathode ray
tube had exploded, killing people, or, worse, the moving belt that
joined us together in 1936 had stopped moving.
“Story, it’s time you started shaving. You’re married,
aren’t you? How many children? Listen to me, boy, always wash yourself
thoroughly and clean your teeth before going to bed with your wife. I
notice that you take an interest in wireless and transceivers — you
are transmitting morse on five metres from Green End Road. Tolly picked
you up in Cherryhinton. What do you really want to be in life, boy?”
“A famous tap-dancer and guitarist,” I told him.
Oh, how I miss the workshop dream. Only while you are safe in
your hopeless rut can you move the sky. The factory is a very human
place to work in and be alive in every day. We are all in it now, in the
slave society of the 90s, joined to mainland Europe, the other
departments talking foreign and half-a-hundred new seasides. Pity the
rich with nothing to save up for. I don’t know why they bother to get
out of bed in the mornings. Repeat cliché.
But the factory, ah, the factory. What a reassuring daily
landscape of familiar faces. Squints and smiles and frowns, deformities
and fevers and fantasies. Dirty Dick and Durham and Mr Havilock; Rose
the Dwarf with her wry-necked up-turned frozen plate of a smile, pushing
her jangling trolley of metal artefacts to the plating department. Those
giggling, soppy girls on the Taylor-Hobson engraving machines, moving
the pantograph arms zig-zag on some illegal favour. Buzzing I love you
on blazer buttons.
Oops! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to marry you.
But soon, along comes Sara Bass.
Old Whitby caught me holding Sara’s hand. “Story! We saw
that! Stop the belt!” His eyes glinting in their horn rims through the
forest of coil-winding machines. “Go home and don’t come back until
tomorrow afternoon.” The foreman is talking for everyone’s benefit
as he comes along the mains-transformer line. Ron Stearn on test was
whistling King Porter Stomp
but stopped. “Off you go, man. Explain it to your wife and children
—” Then he stops talking,
having seen that the girl is Sara and immediately altered his anger to
something else. “Oh, it’s you, Sara. All right, switch on!” No
sign of apology; the belt drive whines up, the little soldiers jerk
forward on their endless journey, capacitors, coils, chokes, little
messages, sweets — mass production goes on again.
Had you been there you might have reasoned that Sara Bass was so
lovely that no-one should be blamed for dereliction of duty. Or that
Sara was Old Whitby’s daughter, perhaps. Or the niece of the managing
director, Mr Jones — Jay-5-Jay-Oh on the twenty metre band — or
mistress? Or so brilliant at her task of impregnating copper-wire coils
in shellac that to offend her might jeopardise our time-and-motion
bonus. Or that she possessed a known fatal attraction that no ordinary
human could resist. You would be wrong.
What it was, was that Sara Bass was deaf.
If you failed to hold her hand you could not inform her that the
shifting jam of components or sub-assemblies on the canvas belt was
about to shove her bath of hot, liquid shellac off the edge of her
bench. If you did not touch Sara occasionally she would suffer the scald
scars that disfigured the legs of Myra Houston who now worked in
Progress; scaly, shiny grooves, deep as the pattern on tree bark. Sara
would thank me for rescuing her from this horror and she would give me
the rare, slow smile of the almost deaf.
After she had impregnated the square windings it was my job to
plug them with a laminated iron core centre. But at her smile, or the
meeting of her dark eyes with mine I would, several times a day, almost
ram a sharp ‘T’ iron through the palm of my hand with a careless
bang of the mallet. Sara’s beauty was Welsh even if she was not; black
hair, pale skin, brown eyes, over-thick eyebrows and lashes. Too much of
it and they’ve got a moustache. Sara Bass had been finished off at
just the right and optimum place.
It took me some time to discover that she was deaf.
At first when I joined the line I thought that she was ignoring
me. When during a canteen break when she was about six inches away I
struck up a highly artificial conversation to impress her. I did not
want her to think that I was just a factory worker like Sid Matthews. He
was also keen on her and used to say unpleasantly sexual things about
her breasts and so on. An ignorant fellow. He did not know what we were
making, nor how radio waves go through the air or the laws of Lenz and
“Our transformers work by induction,” I explained to him.
“When moving lines of force — a magnetic flux, that is — cuts a
closed circuit, that’s the winding of the transformer, then a
secondary voltage is induced.” And to my horror in reply he said:
“I’d like to induce you wiv a bit of motive force, darling!” Not
to me — right into Sara’s face. She smiled at him. At my expression
of disappointment he laughed. “Don’t worry, cocker, she’s as deaf
as a post.”
Sara Bass had a tragic life which a number of living people in my
home town still remember. “You mean Hilda Last,” my sister Elsa
said, only recently when she came up from Cambridge to smoke and cough
and drink whisky while I was ill. For our purposes her name is Sara
Bass. Her parents were afflicted, deaf dumb, she was almost deaf. They
remember that she was run over by a gravel lorry, the wheel passing
right over her body without killing her. But I remember more about Sara
than this. Through her I realised that I had made the mistake —
prevalent in the thirties — of marrying the first girl I dated and
made pregnant. At night school my brain began to grow.
the onset of knowledge I turned my bed at right-angles to the earth’s
magnetic field to avoid getting polarised for life. When people asked my
mother how I was getting on she was told them I was now in research.
“Research,” I had to
correct her. Only the working classes say research.
The working classes I had left across the great divide. This is
the divide between getting to the factory at eight in the morning and
getting there at nine. On the far shore, fast receding, were my
hourly-paid mates in their brown cow-gowns saying ‘fink’ and
‘fort’ and ‘suffink’ and ‘nuffink’ for reasons I have never
exactly discovered. A ubiquitous defect unconnected with the palate and rooted somewhere between laziness
and the peasant fear of being accused of becoming better than the next
peasant. Something so staggering in its social significance that schools
have never bothered with it.
“I fought you was going to be a guitarist?” said Sid Matthews
when I got promoted away from mass production. I said: “You know what
fought did?” I was now a wireman in the Model Shop. Printed circuits
were being predicted. Our Pye Baby Q was off to Radiolympia that year,
miniaturisation followed the Acorn Valve. I learned everything, for the
factory Model Shop is a whole orchestra. Joining it was Walter Elkin
with the first effective deaf-aid. Walter himself was deaf. He was
looking for guinea pigs.
“Do you know any deaf people in the factory, Story?”
Funny that he should say that to me. The instrument makers
laughed, for my love was well known. We had a musical foreman, Ginger,
who would tap-dance and sing just as you are moving the lathe tool to
shave off the last thou — “Why do, I do, just as you
say!” And now he told me to go and get Sara Bass and don’t forget I
am a married man. My married status, a thin, craggy, worried, beardless
boy, caused quiet amusement in the world of science.
There is very little to say about what happened between Walter
Elkin and Sara Bass because I was not there. They were sat together
after working hours in the soundproof acoustics laboratory. Sid Matthews
and his ilk would snigger, but I know that Walter was a dedicated
factory scientist. There are factory prime ministers and factory clergy
and factory everythings. The news when it came would be conformist.
“Is Walter marrying that deaf girl?” I asked, not wishing the
rude world to know that I still murmured her name to passing dogs.
“Deaf?” said Ginger. “Sara deaf? You are a bit out of it, Jack.
That’s the trouble with you family men, wrapped up in your wives. Sara
is not deaf now.” Sara was not deaf any more.
See Walter at the lake, knee-deep in his waders, controlling a
model speedboat by radio. He built the hull and the engine, a steam
turbine, at his own bench and using his small clockmaker’s lathe. The
radio triggers were conceived in his own brain. At thirty-seven or so,
bachelor entrenched, spec-tacled and dressed like an undertaker, Walter
was not an obvious heart-throb; yet from Sara’s face you would not
know this. I watched her at the lakeside, wearing a deaf-aid that
matched the latest of those prototypes which were forever festooned
around Walter’s neck.
“Can’t we go?” Evelyn would say. She had a rotten life, one
may suppose. But she seemed to fit in with it.
“Let’s see it do one more round.” Don’t be fooled; I was
watching Sara. I could hear her laughter and what’s more she could
hear her own laughter at last
and not merely through the wooden sound convections of bone conduction.
During the first week of her new equipment, Sara had said good-morning
to everybody six times just to hear their reply.
“Hello, Sara!” I would cry.
“Hello, Jack!” she would cry.
She did not hear me say I love you, dammit. I could have saved
her life; saved all of them, the passing parade of love to follow
throughout my life, the unending column of lovely sunset clouds coming
from damp and unlikely horizons, like hot air balloons. My nurses now,
one a day in the secrecy of my lonely room, bending to bathe my
haematoma. “I like your hair,” I told Nurse Heath Ilot yesterday. My
engine just below and out of sight.
Had I told Sara that I loved her and had I ran away with her, I
could have let the rest go on with the lives, their pitfalls and
mistakes and their Sid Matthews’s. Instead I lost her.
Sara was not deaf that summer. See her and Walter Elkin on the
recreation ground at lunchtimes. Recreation grounds are ugly.
Particularly this one at Pye’s, as Sir Nicholas Lloyd said to me at a Punch
lunch, when he started his editorship of the Daily
Express. “You’re a Cambridge boy,” he said. And we got talking
and we had both played, in every sense of the word, on that ugly little
patch of grass. And I mentioned that I had one night gone to bed with a
friend and her daughter, living in Haig Road, which adjoins the Pye lot.
And he said, rather quickly I thought — and so did Alan Coren the Punch
editor — “What number?” I still laugh about that and I’m sure
you can reason out why, though lovers do sometimes like their family as
part of a passion that might otherwise be scarce. Though not with a
Lloyd and not in 1960 something. Lloyd and I are safe generations apart
with our Cambridge boyhoods. I did not sleep with his ma.
Urban recreation grounds have green notice boards filled with
regulations. Dark, muddy grass with smelly twists of dog spoor, sour,
black earth, small ungrowing trees, reluctant bushes and fixed patterns
of Sweet Williams. And then all at once the sun is there. A factory
spills out, grown-ups free to play. Girls with their overalls undone,
belts hanging, mop caps on their daft, movie-queen hair styles. Chaps;
smoking, bits of horse-play, a Woolworth’s red shiny yellow-stitched
cricket ball, ersatz Fenners university grass down the town but here, at
the dream factory are little nests of passion, a couple trying to enter
the locked pavilion.
Sara and Walter were walking around the far perimeter with their
deaf-aids switched on; or practising sign-language as they sit entwined
on the children’s swings, pushing to and fro with their feet on the
worn grass. Sara showing the scientist the finger and hand language she
employed when talking to her mum and dad, the mutes.
“I fink you fancy her, cocker!” says Sid Matthews, with a
vulgar sexual motion of his elbow. I dip my gloom into the pages of F.J.
Camm’s Practical Wireless or
Hogben’s bulky linen-covered volume, Mathematics for the Million, in which the equations were illustrated
with matchstick diagrams — or some other technical poetry, my heart
already spoken for and signed away. Though not legally so, I was not
legally married to Evelyn, there was an extraordinary adventure to do
with my music; there is more to come as the bishop was saying to the
actress at that period. I am speaking of Ulla again, the real Mrs Story.
Sara Bass was no longer deaf. She wore a crystal microphone and a
crystal earpiece both matched into the four-stage quiescent push-pull
low-noise amplifier with twin acorn pure-tone sounds for sweet ears —
a black button on her breast to control her acuity right down to
whispers and the threshold of human hearing on quiet pillows and on
windy nights in Grantchester Meadows, the splashings of the Grants and
of Byron’s Pool and fish.
caterpillars drift around,
Paradisal grubs are found;
moths, immortal flies,
the worm that never dies.
in that Heaven of all their wish,
shall be no more land, say fish.
1914 and other poems.
had Walter Elkin and he had Sara, for he had switched her on. All I
could do was watch her. Works sports day by the Cam I watched her all
the afternoon. Why? Nothing is impossible just as long as you don’t
attempt it. And I had Evelyn with me — she was an old Pye hand.
“So who’s this lovely lady, then?” asked Ginger, my Model
Shop foreman, the singer and dancer and comedian. His real name is Ernie
Triggs and he died while I was looking for him in 1987, visiting Pye’s
with a television film unit, looking for the survivors. He had been
critical of my apparent neglect of my wife.
wife neglect as seen by others is a required state, known only to both
members of the wedding. Ernie had given me only half-an-hour off to
marry her, had let me bike to the Registrar’s on the rainy May Day
Saturday. The rest had made their own ways. But now, touched by
conscience, Ginger was nasty. “This is my wife, Evelyn,” I told him.
“Your what!” Incredulous, of course. “You mean you actually know
her, Story? But you haven’t spoken to her since you arrived. How do
you do, lady?”
Evelyn said, “Pleased to meet you.” Ginger then said, with
plenty of volume for the nearby workers. “I should think you are, Mrs
Story. I should think you’re pleased to meet anybody.” He was
getting at me; he was not satisfied with my guitar playing lately. We
had been together out to Papworth, then an isolation hospital, I played
and he sang, part of the Pye Panto. Frankie
and Johnny he sang and he sang:
a girl named Sadie Green,
girl you ever seen,
can dance, she can sing,
can do most anything!
night down at the hall,
the music played,
got on that dancing floor an’ this is what she sayed —
the two of us together, me with my Epiphone)
I doing, hey! Hey!
twoo twit twit twow!
I doing, hey! Hey!
oh baby and how!
I do be it understood
I do has gotta be good!
I doing? Hey hey ye —
twoo twoo twit twit twoo!
were in the wrong key!” he said immediately, with the speakers on in
the Papworth Hall. Heard by a hundred isolated TB patients and a pretty
Jewish soubrette with jazz timing.
“You should have seen your face!” Ernie Triggs told me.
This is the lady I am going to tell you about. She was the
soubrette and sang, solo, Stay As Sweet As You Are. And as you are, tell me that you’re
mine, dear. She is my first wife, my only legal wife, she saw me and
heard me that night at Papworth, she also heard me whistling at the
greengrocery stall on Cambridge market, she met me at a bus stop at
Mitcham’s Corner late one night and I had just got engaged to Evelyn,
had spent the evening with Evelyn, now pregnant, had bought her a
single-diamond engagement ring and left her in Vinery Road to show her
father and step-mother, had walked the miles home with no money, Coldham
Lane, Newmarket Road, Victoria Avenue, the river bridge, Mitcham’s
Corner and a girl waiting for the last bus. It was Ulla Andersen and we
spent the night together. Ernie’s amplified rebuke came up.
“You should have seen your face!” She laughed.
She was in her second year at college and was living out, a nice
room on the steep hill of Hertford Street. That night I was in the right
key. She showed me what to do. In a lifetime, there must be one such
person. Usually it is better, it is required that you are not in love
with her. Later she needed me to marry her. It had nothing to do with
babies, it had all to do with politics, those crazy Hitler Youth
students I got mixed up with in Hitler Needs You. Ulla’s grandparents
went to the baths.
I have a kind of innocence that attracts people like that. I am
an alibi. If you’re a Stein, marry a Story. I am gentlemanly. In an
Italian, like Guilio Storri, my dad, a gentleman of Verona, one would
call it cowardice.
It attracted Sara Bass. “You are gentlemanly,” girls tell me.
Evelyn fell in love with me because I did not swear. That’s quite
true. I remember crying as a boy of nine in Burwell, Thomas Hardy had
just died, when my brother said fuck in front of my mother. I am still
embarrassed at bad language from other people. Nicely spoken girls
excite me. I remember a few immortal lines. “You needn’t do all
that,” is one of them. I was caressing Clare with my tongue in bed at
her mansion flat in Gospel Oak. She knew me from my column and I knew
her as a known film actor’s visiting secretary. She was with Sian
Phillips one evening in the Coach and Horses, Harry’s bar. Some girls and women and ladies, I
should say, remain efficient. Especially in bed.
Ginger’s admonitions on sports day were unfair. My wife was a
lot older than me, nearly twenty-two. Also, I could sleep with her every
night. In my way I loved her until her death. And more now. She died in
my arms and she died unmarried but she had lots of good double and
triple orgasms, both of us learning. And she knew every song in the
book. When I left her she was always glad to see me go.
On a quiet moment towards dusk, between the end of the sports and
the beginning of the dancing to the George Challis Band, I saw Sara
sitting by herself outside the men’s canvas lavatory waiting for
Walter. I walked by a lavender bush, picked a piece and smelt it,
casually, knowing that she could see me; looking as lonely and forlorn
as I was able. Projecting my dreams, I thought that she might now have
the impression that I know something about horticulture and that I am
attuned to nature. I still do this kind of thing.
“Oh!” I said, when she spoke to me. She asked me if I would
dance with her and the heavens fell on me. They had broken up. This was
my loving wish for her. Waiting for the company’s eight-channel
electro-encephalograph expert to pee in a canvas tent while the music
played and I picked lavender has got to be the end of the affair.
“Walter doesn’t dance,” she explained. “He’s being sick
at the moment. He’ll feel better when it’s all up.” I held her, I
held my arm around Sara for the very first time. Every now and then I
could feel her legs against mine. I murmured. “Are you still working
on transformers?” Things like that. And she said: “There’s a girl
staring at us.” It was only Evelyn. I kept my back to her. I spun my
dream in a half-chassis and walked expertly across her bodyline, leading
her and loving her, protectively. I’m a good dancer.
Soon Sara Bass was making signs, waggling her fingers and
touching her ear and I saw that Walter Elkin was sitting by the band,
doing the same thing in reply. What with that and what with the
identical buttons in their ears I felt that I was dancing with his
latest invention. When the music stopped, coincidentally they were
playing My Sweeting Went Away,
the girl gave me a cheerful kiss right on my mouth, running her tongue
lightly along my lips. It was more like goodbye than hello and it freed
her for the scientist.
“That was nice,” Evelyn said cheerfully when I rejoined her.
She didn’t mean that was nice. You go into a registry office with a
girl, but you come out with a woman already smelling of milk and
Evelyn knew I had fallen in love for the first time and that it
had come to nothing. And there would be five more times, because the
uneducated have a certain prescient common sense. A more intelligent
wife might have got me out of this dangerous liaison with my mole.
was on her way to church when she was run over. She and Walter Elkin
cycling out to a country church where Walter was due to play an oratorio
on his own home-built electronic organ. They had stopped to pick some
poppies. Well, okay, this was
the story. She dropped her engagement ring. She had switched off her
deaf-aid in order to look for it. Deaf people do this. It aids the
concentration of what you’ve got left in the way of faculties. I bet
she switched off the deaf aid to make love. I used to imagine that
Evelyn was Sara, by covering both her ears as we came up to a climax.
The gravel lorry came like a squadron of Hawker Furies from Duxford and
she heard nothing. It knocked her onto a soft bank and ran its huge tyre
right over her body, squashing lovely Sara Bass into the ground. Ginger,
Ernie Triggs, told us all about it in the Model Shop, all motors and
overhead belting switched off.
“All Walter could see was her legs and the top of her head. The
rest of her was in the mud. Not a bone broken. Not a bone broken!”
Something was broken. Walter Elkin never mentioned Sara again.
And he is not the kind of scientist you question, if you’ll forgive my
present tense, for he lives, does he not, at our breakfast tables, with
his hobbies. Then in the Autumn, just before the radio show, all of us
on full overtime to beat the deadlines, Mr Jones and Mr Dalgleish and
the big conundrum himself, C.O. Stanley, coming round watchfully — we
were up against Bush and Marconi, Ekco and Murphy and Kolster Brando.
What are you doing, boy? I’m drilling the spindle hole in the glass
tuning scale using a copper rod with a concave end, filled with
carborundum powder mixed with paraffin oil. And among the importance
suddenly there was Walter Elkin, demonstrating his servo-tuning by
press-button that year. I noticed his hair had gone grey. By Christmas
it was white. Without Sara.
One day I drifted across to the transformer line. Funny feeling,
visiting a chain gang that I used to be on.
Mr Whitby answered nothing. Boys do not call attention of their
betters during the daily Derby of mass production.
I scanned the line.
It was not the same depressing Sid, but one of his unqualified
friends. Sid had gone back to tatting. Cambridge is a gypsy town. The
glory that is C.P. Snow and The Masters and a deuced good wine and a
half, Brown, is also, like Washington DC, a jewel in a crime wave of
squalid townies, normal slums, the poor — and the gippoes. We have a
nice racing element and a good class of college servants and tradesmen.
I had lost my first love probably to Sid Matthews. There came a glimpse
of a curiously familiar face, the dark-whiskered features, a
woman scraping fire pans on the steps of a travellers van in that
boat-scrap river-side slum a mile up the fen drift opposite Ditton,
where the bumps races end. Perhaps for all of us.
My wife Evelyn cried when I told her what I had seen. As though
at something shared. Evelyn was always sympathetic when I lost a
girl-friend, when my life came to an end again. She was a good wife,
killed by the surgeon at the Blister Hospital in Stevenage who had her
under anaesthetic for seven hours — the newest thing, an ear drum
operation. She woke up half-paralysed.
“You have been lying on your arm,” she was told.
Your brain has been starved of oxygen and you will be dead within
the year, Mrs Story, he could have said. I am saying it now.
Since writing the above I have just telephoned Richard Williams at the Independent on Sunday. He is re-reading my account of last summer when I got hijacked into a lunatic asylum by my GP and my loved ones, though it was nobody’s fault but my own. If the piece — it’s called Cross In Hand — is published, it will be my first writing to be published since I came out of my culture block, my state of shock. This is an important day therefore and I shall take a short break. It’s important to keep it fresh.
(To be continued).
Copyright © the estate of Jack Trevor Story 2002. Not for reproduction. Copyright in all work by Jack Trevor Story is the property of the author's heirs. Permission for use of this material can be obtained through Jackie Edwards (Story), Peter Story, Lee Story or Michael Moorcock. Reproduction of copyright material whether in text, visual or audio form by unauthorised sources strictly forbidden.