"I've brought you a bag of apples. They're Ribston Pippins; they do well up here; I remember your saying you liked a firm apple."


Ah, those days...for many years afterwards their happiness haunted me. Sometimes, listening to music, I drift back and nothing has changed. The long end of summer. Day after day of warm weather, voices calling as night came on and lighted windows pricked the darkness and, at day-break, the murmer of corn and the warm smell of fields ripe for harvest. And being young.

How does one know when a house is empty? That house was and I knew it. I knew it even before my knocking was unanswered, even before I stooped to raise the flap of the letter-box to peer into a darkness so concealing that only memory led me back along the stone-flagged corridors, into shuttered rooms, up uncarpeted staircases....
...Then the numbness went, and I knew that, whatever else had befallen me during those few weeks in the country, I had lived with a very great artist, my secret sharer of the long hours I'd laboured in the half-light above the arch. So I turned and climbed the ladder for a last look. And, standing before the great spread of colour, I felt the old tingling excitement and a sureness that the time would come when some stranger would stand there too and understand.

It would be like someone coming to Malvern, bland Malvern, who is halted by the thought that Edward Elgar walked this road on his way to give music lessons or, looking over to the Glee Hills, reflects that Housman had stood in that place, regretting his land of lost content. And, at such a time, for a few of us there will always be a tugging at the heart - knowing a precious moment gone and we not there.

We can ask and ask but we can't have again what once seemed ours for ever - the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, the touch of a hand, a loved face. They've gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass.

All this happened so long ago. And I never returned, never wrote, never met anyone who might have given me news of Oxgodby. So, in memory, it stays as I left it, a sealed room furnished by the past, airless, still, ink long dry on a put-down pen. But this was something I knew nothing of as I closed the gate and set off across the meadow.

J. L. Carr
Stocken, Presteigne
September, 1978

The Beginning

Thanks to Mr. Banjo for the Midi Files on these pages

Thanks to the Quince Tree Press for bringing back such a beautiful novel.