Sunday 4th February
Of course, he was bound to get caught one day, but he later assured Jane that he had always intended to repay everyone, that if he had ever ‘hit the jackpot’ as he referred to his dubious schemes, his first action would have been to sort out any irregularities that might have occurred. Nice way of putting it – wasn’t it. ‘Irregularities’. In his mind you see he was never a crook, just unlucky. He never accepted that he was just a petty thief who had got caught with his fingers in the till; he never accepted responsibility for his actions at all.
Well he was caught, and tried, and convicted. He served nearly five years, and came out a broken man. He looked at least twenty years older when Jnae saw him a few weeks after his release, an old man and not even fifty. The house was long gone by then, as was her mother. But what really aged him more than that or the prison sentence, or her mother’s affair, which had probably prompted his flight and subsequent discovery in the first place, was what happened to Harriet. That had really done for him, as it nearly did for all of them.
* * *
Poetry was always Jane’s most disliked of English Literature subjects. She had always loved stories, and had rapidly progressed from Bunty to Famous Five and Secret Seven, and then in her teens she discovered Agatha Christie, and though she never knew how to pronounce Hercules Poirot, she couldn’t wait for the devilish Belgian to twist his little waxed moustaches and make his next brilliant observation. At sixteen, she was just beginning to fall in love with those classic English novels; the Bronte’s and Jane Austen’s, but she did struggle a bit with Dickens and later became enthralled with Galsworthy and Gissing and Henry James, those quiet observers of English manners.
She loved Plays too, especially when they read them out loud, and she could fall into character and almost believe she was Ariel, or Titania. Again, later she would discover Tennessee Williams and Ibsen and Checkov, but back then at school she somehow didn’t quite make the connection between Shakespeare and TV dramas. They were so different, or so she thought. Shakespeare was all dreamy and strange language, long sentences, and short sharp violence; and plays on the telly or Z cars were like a mirror held up to the world, where we saw ourselves, only in more exaggerated form. Until now, that is, and no amount of Dixon of Dock Green’s had prepared her for being actually mixed up with the sordid underbelly of our society, and they weren’t sordid at all actually; her mother had never been sordid, and even her poor father was quite pathetic in his running away.
But ‘Poetry’ she never got, until actually only a few weeks before all this happened and they started reading the War Poets, and it suddenly made sense. Jane had been completely lost in those clouds of daffodils until now. This was real; this was real people feeling the awfulness of the trenches, the mud the guns and the boredom, and thinking of loved ones back home. And then they read TS Elliott with that famous last line about how the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Oh, how wrong he was; Jane’s world ended with the biggest bang imaginable.