‘Tell me about Bob’, Teresa asked. Gathered after dinner, beside me Magdalene, nodding Into her crocket, Gabriel, Christina, Stephen on my other side.
‘Yes I remember him’, she said. ‘It was for Stephens exhibition you both came’.
She was right, I have one of Stephens paintings from that time, an abstract chosen by Bob. He filmed her, Beualieu the backdrop, Cedar of Lebanon trees around, as she spoke of the history, the migration from Belgium to here, the gift of the building and land.
So I told her: we almost got married once, then the drink and the end game, when I thought I was caring for him, but actually he was my closest and most loyal friend. Teresa has the knack of finding the stuff that matters.
The remainder of remains of the community, one less since the last time I was here, the lovely Therese who died a few months back.
‘I am the oldest here now’, says Stephen with some justifiable pride.
And the most sprightly, I add. Indeed she is, and we ponder if such health and and aliveness is to do with the balance of physical and metal, and how physical the art practiced and taught by Stephen was, the pottery, the sculpturing, the climbing of all those stairs to the art room right at the top of the main building. Apart from the oh what is her name, which we all have now to a greater or lesser extent, she is the most on the ball. She prepares the hymn book for me for evening prays, four colour coded markers In the place. Into the modern chapel, in our semi circle, I am struck by two things, the old fashioned ness of the book, with its tracing paper thin paper, and how many He and Him there are in our words we read out.
We talk of old fishes and old community. Mark has died after a long illness, nursed by Francis. Christopher Walker was there at the funeral, and despite his fame especially in America, he was both kind and humble. I remember him coming to the choir, and SMMark going all giggly. Francis was touched that four of the community came to the funeral and perhaps this will heal the long silence and she will visit the Community here in Colchester, after her leaving of New Hall with Mark, all those years ago, under a cloud which is never discussed.
They are delighted with my news of my recent visit to Caroline Grant in Skye along with some photographs I have on my iPad. Magadalen appears to have had a friendship with Caroline’s father, way back that is jokingly called an affaire. She asks after Catherine. They love their struggles, and we speak for a long time about an old pupil called Mel, who died, through a sad suicide, a manic depressive, she was a most colourful character, travelled to India, took place in protest marches. At her funeral her family organised 100s of rainbow bight colour wool scarves to be knitted, which everyone wore. Tresses puts hers on to collect Hanna from the station. hAnna is delightful, full of young energy, loved by the communit. She came initially to do a PhD on the cemetery, but her interest has widened to the whole archive, which Mary Magdalene is sharing with her passing on the baton”.
Magdalene is remarkable.
How are you? I ask when I first arrive, inanity.
Shorter, Tre answers standing beside her, speaking loudly so Magdalene can here. And Magdalene describes how her spine has crumbled, which was incredibly painful last year. Better but not without pain now.
‘My head feels permanently heavy’, she says, which of course it does now without support by the straight spine.
Miss impey – Diane – comes out to inspect her plant nursery shortly after 7am. She is still doing the cooking with the local women, who have never heard let alone tasted avocados, sweet potato, and almost all vegetables except baked beans. So it is they live here in this real life Colchester community, so far away from the stunning Elizabethan new hall, with fanning cedars, and plentiful grounds. Our past, our childhood.
Stephanie came up to me with that same intensity I remember from school days.
‘I must tell you Rachel. You looked absolutely beautiful last night. Yes, beautiful.’
My immediate thought was I had put no make up on. But of course, not that.
‘The inside beauty’, she qualified, guessing my thought.
Her gift remained with me through the day.
‘Like, is forbidden’. Theresa are always playing games, making learning fun, a natural teacher as she is a leader.