Continuing from where we left off:
Novel: The Charioteer
Characters: Andrew Raynes, Alec Deacon, Charlie (as interviewer)
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and make no profit by them.
Andrew and Alec are just tidying away the tea things (how two people can put away such a quantity of cake beats me!) and we can get down to some more questions.
Charlie: Alec, why did Sandy choose medicine as a career?
Alec: What an odd question! He didn’t. It was his family who’d decided for him and the Reids can be pretty persuasive. I suspect they thought it would keep him from being called up without any aspersions cast on his bravery or their motives.
Charlie. Yes, I see. Andrew, you pretty well went from school to the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, barring a long walk to think about it. What were your first impressions of the E.M.S. hospital, the other orderlies, and the patients’ various reactions to you?
Andrew: Oh. I think they were what they were. It’s difficult, looking back, trying to get into your younger head again and to remember what you really thought rather than what you think you thought. Everything changes with hindsight.
Charlie: We’d appreciate it if you’d try.
Andrew: Well…everything was new and different and I was learning every step of the way. I was very idealistic back then, and rather naïve. I suspect I must have been a bit of a pain, to be honest. But I was so determined back then to live a certain way. To see the best in people, to turn the other cheek. It seemed possible, in those days, to live like that.
Charlie: Maybe we should pass on to something else. I’ve been asked for your views on post-war plans for the NHS: for or against?
Andrew: Was that for me? I’m all for it. How can we call ourselves a civilised country is people have to pay for their care? People who can ill afford it. I’m sorry. I feel so strongly about these things.
Alec: Actually, I suspect the question was aimed at me. I’m in favour of it, too, for just those reasons, although Sandy wasn’t so sure. He thought it was all something and nothing and when everyone had their free dentures and spectacles there wouldn’t be much else to do. Sandy has some strange ideas at times, bless him.
Charlie: Hm. I wonder what Sandy really thinks of Bunny? Oh, sorry, I think I was speaking my thoughts aloud there. Strange ideas and all that.
Alec: You should ask Sandy his opinion direct. And as for Bunny, do we really need to talk about him?
Charlie, swiftly changing tack again and wondering if too much cake has made the lads tetchy: There’s a good chance that you both survived into the era of legal change. (Perhaps, you are even alive today, we’re speculating!) What do you think of changes in society?
Alec: The freedom young men—and older ones—have now is stunning compared to what we had, even though not all of them are able to express themselves. It’s a bit of a two edged sword, though. When we lived together, people assumed we were just colleagues or friends, or shy of women; now if two men live together everyone assumes you must be in a relationship. And there are some things I think we had easier during the war: if you hung around the Turkish baths in London around VE time you were never short of a friend. Some people I knew had survived the war but the peace damn near killed them!
Andrew: I suppose there’s no way or not knowing, these days. I mean, you can deny your nature to others or to yourself, but you’re exposed to so much, you couldn’t not understand what your feelings were trying to tell you. If I was young now, I’d have understood so much better.
Charlie: And finally. Andrew, Elin would like to know if you were happy after the war. She so desperately wants you to have found some kind of peace and contentment.
Andrew: That’s so kind of her to care. Tell her yes, I found happiness.
Charlie: You can’t leave it at that. She’ll be chomping at the bit to know more.
Andrew: Does she know that Ralph was killed? He was fire watching, when he fell down a flight of stairs of all things. He was sober, before you ask—cold sober, which Laurie said probably didn’t help. They reckon drunk men fall safely, don’t they?
Charlie: You’ve made contact with Laurie, then?
Andrew: I couldn’t help but. We were at a party together—not the sort of party where Laurie met Ralph, and yes, I know all about that. I know an awful lot more now about what really happened back then, and what an idiot I was. Laurie was wonderful, really. Forgave me, when I shouldn’t have been forgiven, but then he had things he felt he couldn’t be forgiven for either. It took an awful lot of talking to get back onto a totally even keel, but then we always enjoyed talking to each other. Just like when we first met. I suppose it was inevitable, really.
Charlie: What was?
Andrew: That he should be the Ralph to my Laurie. Didn’t Elin know that, either? I’d thought she might have guessed.