School Friends

“a sort of guarantee that things are much as they were, underneath, just as you know that a tree is fundamentally the same in Winter as when it is able to be in leaf.”

Phil Hart 1938′ – this photo was probably taken by Albert.

I don’t know when Albert would have received this short letter, surely some weeks after the date his school friend Phil Hart wrote, on 16 December 1941. However, in The Christmas Party Albert mentions receiving a letter from his school friend. If this ‘Air Graph’ took only five days to fly from ‘The Middle East’ to Southampton and thence to Blackpool, that would have been some kind of miracle. At the time of writing, these young men were only 20. Although the letter is short I loved the insight it gave me into another important relationship in Albert’s life. I was moved by the wisdom of Phil’s words, so apt not only for their radically altered lives, but the strange and uncertain world we live in now:

Dear Albert, This is just a “filling in” missive, not my much-overdue letter to you; that will arrive later. I hope you’ve seen everything that has arrived home from me. I am aware that you’ve been in the RAF for several weeks now. Unfortunately, I am not in possession of your new address yet, so this will go via No 38. I received a letter from you a short while ago, written in Devon. I enjoyed your holiday. It’s strange how you do enjoy such things by proxy, when you’re separated from them. It seems to be a sort of guarantee that things are much as they were, underneath, just as you know that a tree is fundamentally the same in Winter as when it is able to be in leaf. My sister, for instance, writes, “Albert wrote to me last week – don’t think he’s very happy, fed up with drilling etc. So write and cheer him up. Muriel, Sheila and I, walked from Compton, via Oliver’s Battery and Tegdown to Dene and Sparsholt and back to Winton for tea last Sunday. There was a tremendous wind and the Downs looked all silvery and lovely. I do wish you could have been there.” So, of course, do I, and you with me, but meanwhile isn’t it cheering to hear of these familiar places thus? I can’t supply this fare, as you did for me before you entered the RAF but you should receive a better letter from me about a fortnight after this arrives – cheerio for now – Bill.

I know that Phil survived the war, I don’t know why he signed himself ‘Bill’ though. Any readers familiar with the area around Winchester will be impressed by the distance Phil’s sister (Joyce) and friends walked in an afternoon, I’m sure it would take me a whole day. And, in a time of limited freedoms, it is cheering for me to hear of the silvery Downs and imagine a walk with family or friends in that familiar and essentially unchanged landscape .

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, with better times ahead.

19 thoughts on “School Friends”

      1. So agree. Perhaps your lovely sharing of these letters will inspire some others to write letters by hand. It’s highly unlikely our grandchildren will come across a collection of emails or texts that they will treasure 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Although he was some eight years older than Phil, I have a few letters that my dad wrote to my mum are the same sort of time and that youthful and rather flowery language stands out in his letters, too. (Young men do like to impress with their style of language, don’t they?!) But this is a nice glimpse into the times and the continuation of family.

    I’ve missed your posts, Louise. I shall still read them in coming months and years, but in a couple of weeks I’m not going to be blogging any longer, myself.

    All the best for the new year and after.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your kind comment Val. Blogging had to take a rest in 2020, for reasons we are all (sadly) familiar with. But I plan to do much more in 2021. I’m going to miss your marvellous work! Take care

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Thérèse! Happy New year to you as well. As far as I can see, I don’t have that long letter from Phil. However, sometimes I find letters folded within other letters. It would be fascinating to hear from him again wouldn’t it?

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