His daughter was in infant class with me, Long Sutton Church of England VA Primary School, it was in the times before we moved from the farm and came to High Ham. Katie was six years old when she had a birthday party. Perhaps the whole class were invited, it was a memorable occasion in a stone-walled, timber-beamed hall. The excitement of the games lingers in the mind, and the sadness as parents appeared at the door and the realisation came that the party was ending and it was time to go home. It was the first party to which I remember ever being invited (and was probably the best I ever attended).
It is more than fifty years since that evening and it seemed odd to encounter him after so many years. There was no need to try to work out his age – he declared that he felt he was doing well for someone aged over ninety, still driving his car, still doing his shopping. A sprightly man, dapper in his tweed jacket and corduroys, he sat at the fireside of his fine farmhouse drawing room.
“I remember your daughter’s sixth birthday party,” I said. He was delighted that there was a connectedness. I tried to imagine him as he would have been on that evening half a century ago. It seemed almost possible to reach out to those moments, it would have been a delight to have come “unstuck.”
In Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical novel SlaughterhouseFive, the character Billy Pilgrim experiences moments of coming “unstuck,” moving from one moment in his life to another in a random sequence, not knowing where or when the next ‘unstuck’ phase might take him. The possibility of such movement seems not such a bad idea; if one could determine to which point in life one might travel, then the regular revisiting of special moments would become an option. One could regularly attend Katie’s sixth birthday party at their family farm at Long Sutton.
In our reminiscences, Miss Todd, the schoolmistress, was recalled “Not slow to tell you her uncle was Archbishop of Canterbury.” A woman known for her sternness, she was also known for her kindness. Miss Todd would have been intrigued at the thought of being recalled fifty years later. The idea of slipping around time would have not impressed her, though
We experience time in a linear way, things progress from their beginning to their end and the possibility of moving around in time does not exist. It is probably not such a bad thing that conformity to the laws of time is compulsory, if we could choose, hardly anyone would be found where they should be.