Chertsey Tales Part two.
I swear as I drop the little book.
‘Grand dad! You mustn’t say that word.’
Little Nikita, wide-eyed with shock, shrieks at my choice of words as I drop the book, the boy’s smirk at each other, such words are commonplace today…and much worse!
What surprises me though, is that this very young child knew it was a naughty word, but that is the way of the world these days.
I quickly skim the little book…well-worn by many searching fingers until I find it: Corvus Corus, the description fits, the raven is a massive crow, even bigger than a buzzard.
I need a closer look; the window has a film of London smoke on it, and I can’t quite see its features. Stumbling into the kitchen where the smiling Edita is cooking our tea.
Our lovely Edita, she hears everything that goes on in this house I can tell you, no wonder she finds it all so amusing.
Down the wide steps to the front gate I go, rubbing the smeary lenses of the glasses on my jersey, hoping I ‘m not too late, but there he is just standing on the swaying telephone lines. His huge wings with feathers like fingers on the tips, spread out ready for flight.
I get from him an old-fashioned look…if that is possible. Yes, an old-fashioned look! from two beautiful large brown eyes, and the flash of purple hue from his shiny feathers lit by the evening sun. A magnificent animal, he swoops down just above my head and soars high into the cloudless sky with hardly so much as a flap of those enormous wings.
What a relief, a combination of specks on the window and the dirty lenses may have given me the creeps of a time many years gone by. In these few buttocks clenching moments I had thought I had seen the one-eyed ‘Bran’ the Raven of my dreams, but it is just an ordinary Raven…if there is such a thing!
I hear Kian calling me in for a cup of tea, perfect timing as I watch the bird, now just a speck in the sky above the television mast of Alexandra Palace…the birthplace of television.
The children are seated around the long white table (Edita seems to have a liking for Devon cream teas and ginger biscuits, there’s a big pile for us to eat). Silence reigns, just the munching and gurgling of the last drop of juice. I tell Edita of my encounter with the Raven and how it reminded me of my time in the war. Quick as a flash Sophia (Deni’s school friend) jumped in with this.
‘We are doing stuff about the war at school Grandad; can you tell us anything about it?’
Edita looked over with a shrug, I think it was a shrug of sympathy, as much as to say “you have opened a can of worms now Alan”.
Luckily for me, Kian, my youngest Grandchild, started doing his impression of Mr Bean which he does so well that it is the main act of the day, usually done with the captive audience at the dinner table.
After our tea, it was time for ‘walkies’ up the hill with our new puppy. I like walking but the Alexandra Palace is very steep…a bit like St Annes Hill. I am happy to find a seat while the kids run off with Pepe. He soon slips the lead and is off chasing squirrels in the woods, just a flash of black and white through the bushes. It takes a long time to tire a puppy like Pepe, but we eventually start for home down the hill.
Now I have two children firing questions at me about how I won the war…they will be disappointed; I was only seven and a half!
Next part. ‘The day war broke out’.