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The old postcard fell through the letterbox onto the hall carpet. It was a Friday. Edna remembered that later because she was about to open the door to leave for her Pilates class when the rattle of the letterbox made her jump.
There was no writing, simply a picture of a clock tower above an old market square. No caption, nothing to say where this clock tower and square existed. Or even if they still stood, for this card and its black and white image were from another century when photos required clumsy equipment, sure hands, and time.
Edna briefly wondered who, thought no more about it and tossed the card in the recycling bag.
The following Friday, a card with the same picture dropped through the door. Edna turned it in her arthritic fingers, shrugged and added it to yesterday’s recycled newspaper. She was too old for mysteries.
Image courtesy Sungreen website
The third Friday she frowned, irritated. Should she be afraid? But how could a 19th century postcard of a clock tower bring fear? She held the card over the recycling bag, hesitated, withdrew it. She perched it on the mantelpiece between two silver-framed photographs of grandchildren.
The fourth Friday, Edna found her reading glasses and inspected the postmark. Somewhere in Gloucestershire. Not familiar territory. She took up the third card, brought it close to her eyes. Same postmark.
She leaned the two old cards against each other on the mantlepiece.
The fifth time, the same. This was ridiculous. Should she tell someone? Just in case … Not yet.
The sixth time, irritation and a touch of worry competed with curiosity. Curiosity won. Edna pressed the on button on the dusty computer in the spare room–or office as her grandchildren called it–and typed the postmark into Google.
Coleford, the Forest of Dean.
An ancient memory stirred. A long ago holiday, soon after the war. She was very young, there with her parents. They had motored from Reading to enjoy trees and nature, only, if she remembered correctly, most of the trees had been sacrificed to war service.
The memory sprouted tendrils which poked from her unconscious like daffodil stems in spring.
The wait until the following Friday suddenly appeared very long.
The seventh card bore a message. A date (next Saturday) and a time. It was signed, H.
The daffodils bloomed in a blaze of golden memory. Hans, newly released prisoner of war, serving breakfasts in the hotel, deciding to stay on rather than return to war-ravaged Germany.
The Angel Hotel? Yes, Edna was sure. Opposite a clock tower and a market square.
She traced a finger over the H, smiled, and set the card beside its fellows above the fireplace. She went to the kitchen, made herself a cup of Earl Grey, returned to the living room and sat on the couch. From there, she sipped the perfumed brew and eyed the five postcards sitting in a serried row like Mary Mary Quite Contrary’s garden.
When the tea was drunk, Edna searched out her phone. Squinting at the screen she found ‘recent calls’, selected her daughter’s number and one-finger typed, ‘away next weekend visiting old friend will call love mum’.
She pressed send, and laughed.
6 thoughts on “Angels and clock towers”
Love the story. Thank you!
We moved to Coleford in 1960. The postcard shows the town hall which was later demolished.
Glad you liked it! It’s a shame it was demolished, and I understand it was so the buses could move more easily!
Lovely story, it revived memories, good and not so good, of those times: the bonfire on VE day and earlier the lone Heinkel machine gunning the local bus garage.
Later, as an impressionable 12 yr old, meeting 14 yr old Anna, recently escaped from Buchenwald camp.
I still remember her smile.
Fantastic memories John, thanks so much for sharing these. Do you know what happened to Anna?
I was told Anna Bloch left for Israel shortly after I met her and sadly heard nothing since.
The memory of her telling me of her escape lingers: ‘The guards had gone. There were explosions and the gates opened. In came Tommees, all with cigarettes, and we were free.’
At age 12 of course I didn’t understand that there were tens of thousands of corpses.
She obviously made a huge impression.