The days of Crabs and Kings


Monday, July 24

I attended the funeral of one of our band of retired blokes early-morning swimmers.The chapel at Swansea Crematorium was full, with as many people standing outside in warm sunshine. While there was one hymn – All Things Bright and Beautiful – there were no readings from religious texts, just a passage from the works of the Roman poet Seneca. There was an invitation, however, for “those of faith” to recite the Lord’s Prayer. I do not regard myself as a believer, but found myself joining in the familiar words; somehow, it felt appropriate.

Tuesday, July 25

I cut the grass, and put out four bags of garden refuse to be collected for recycling. Then, The Current Mrs Feeney informs me that, actually, it is our week for plastic and general household rubbish.

We drive with The Daughter to Rhossili, which once again has been voted one of the best beaches in the world. We thought a brisk walk to Worm’s Head would be very enjoyable. The car park was full; as was the overflow; and the overflow’s overflow. Mental note to self: do not visit Gower beauty spots during the school summer holidays.

Wednesday, July 26

The young man in the men’s outfitters was a very good salesman. “This jacket makes you look slimmer,” he said. I raised an eyebrow, or two. “Not slimmer,” he said; “it brings out your naturally athletic shape.” We left with the jacket, and a shirt.

At last, good news for Swansea. Planned electrification of the railway line has been scrapped, the tidal lagoon proposed for the bay is becalmed, and the football club’s best player looks poised to join a rival Premier League club. But research reveals that Swansea’s student population is happy with the price of a kebab and a pint of beer in the city.

I spend £5 in an antiques centre, on a book of classic British steam locomotives. So far, I have re-acquainted myself with Castles, Arthurs, Nelsons, Crabs and Kings, from my trainspotting days in the first half of the 1960s. My memory of the King Arthur class is particularly poignant; travelling from Swansea to Paddington, we passed ranks of them, lined up in sidings on the western outskirts of London, waiting to be delivered to their final destination, the breakers’ yard.

Friday, July 28.

The United States is confused, because there are no Americans in it. The French are annoyed, because there are not enough Frenchmen in it. The British have been enthusiastic about it. But I found Dunkirk, the latest movie about the evacuation of more than 300,00 British soldiers from under the noses of the German army in 1940, slightly disappointing. It is well-done, but offers nothing especially innovative or original. Perhaps tellingly, the most emotional moment is when the movie’s score reworks that Remembrance Sunday staple, Nimrod.

I have been absorbed in reading Murder at Wrotham Hill, the story of the killing of a female hitch-hiker by a lorry driver in Kent in 1946. The author, Diana Souhami, describes it as “a sort of fugue about killing,” and the detectives, pathologist and executioner in the case involved in “the industry of death” (a telling phrase, since the book includes a lengthy diversion to look at Nazi atrocities in death camps, and the conviction – and subsequent execution – of camp officers and staff in Allied war crimes trials). One small detail I found arresting; when a hanging was carried out – at 9am – the prison clock was always prevented from chiming that hour.

Saturday, July 29

The Daughter samples the Pouilly-Fumé I pour with our Chinese takeaway, and declares it the nicest wine she has tasted. “Expensive tastes,” says TCMrsF. “I wonder where I got that from,” replies TheD.


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