January 17 1999
3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 5PH
Dear Mum (in law)
Although I am now home, it is the moments I have just spent at Liverpool Street Station that are clearest in my mind. When I stood beneath the immense glass heights of the roof to telephone you from the stands, it was hard to hear you at first. All I could hear, instead of your voice, was the vast departures board and the constant clacking of its mechanical flappers. And then it was like I tuned in to what you had to say, and it is as if I am still hearing – and seeing it – now. You told me about the Bishopsgate bombing in 1993 and how the blast broke the glass eyes of the roof and how shards crackled through the air on to the people running below. And you told me about the Kindertransport of the late 1930’s and how the dark phalanx of Jewish children filed down the steep gradient to the depths of the Tube. Somehow those two pictures have conflated in my mind (the breaking of the light and the descent into darkness); they are the metaphors which play out in all our lives.
And now I am seated here at the kitchen counter and drinking a ‘Lady Grey’ tea. When I look one way, I can see the darkness of the hall and the pile of unopened letters resting on the door mat. And when I look the other – into the length of the garden – I can see the yellow phalanx of Mahonias marching away into the distance. I think of Austen and how he has not, evidently, crawled through the keyhole to search through my correspondence and how, even now, he is somewhere out there: still running away.
Tomorrow I am going to my solicitor, to see about getting a decree nisi. The word ‘nisi’ apparently means ‘unless.’ Unless Austen objects to the grounds – of adultery – the whole process of getting a divorce can go ahead. As you yourself have said Mum: ‘Nothing is ever settled . . . until it is settled right.’
Love as ever
Harriet (your daughter – in law – but not for much longer)