Tag Archives: Hyde Park

Red boxes . . . (episode 14)

3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 5PH

April 17 1997

I think I am getting my head back together a bit mum, although things haven’t been easy. Austen keeps turning away from me at night and then getting up to sleep in the back bedroom (which is as large as our bedroom but with a view of the garden and houses which back on to ours). I have asked him if anything is the matter but there’s no point really; Austen keeps his thoughts and emotions (if any) to himself and is an entity as separate and self-sufficient as an amoeba. That’s what he reminds me of actually; a large, amorphous, mass moving – unstoppable – across the pond’s bottom, with parts of itself reaching out – like arms – to envelop the unwary. I lay in bed anyway, with him gone, blackness surrounding the bed and with a horrible chill in my heart.

That’s what made me decide to have another go at finding out what he’s getting up to in Hyde Park. So I left the house early, while Austen was piling today’s papers into his briefcase in the study. Sometimes I wish that he was actually serving on the Cabinet itself because then he would have to lug a red dispatch box across the park. (As you probably know mum, these items are very heavy. And this is owing to the presence of a lead lining beneath the black satin you can see when you open them up. I don’t know if the lead is to prevent the other side – or the IRA or the USSR – from X-raying the papers or to protect them from the fallout from thermonuclear war!)

Anyway, I stationed myself on the south bank of the Serpentine, clad in my Stetson hat and looking purposeful with a pair of binoculars clamped to my eyes. I thought I’d say, if anybody asked, that I was keeping a look out for a little Egret apparently spotted near here last week. But, luckily, nobody did ask! I was gazing in completely the opposite direction to the birds of course and, before I knew it, I heard a fisherman’s voice, blasting across the water behind me. He said, “What on earth is she doing? She can’t be watching the birds!”

Well all this was horrifying mum – and all the more horrifying when I spotted my husband heading for last time’s clump of Plane trees, at the same time as someone I recognized. This Ariel is a stenographer on many of the government select committees and she fits the usual cliches for a woman attractive to men: young, cute, blonde, bosomy and clad in high heels. But, short of climbing the actual trees, and hanging about in the branches one day, how can I be ABSOLUTELY SURE?! In any event it was upsetting and I trailed off back home, where I admit I did break open a bottle of wine.

I looked up the word ‘stenographer’ in the dictionary – as the first meaning that came to mind had something to do with ‘sten guns’ and I thought that couldn’t be right. (I must say, however, that an image of such a gun spraying bullets all over Austen was a very cheering one.) More prosaically mum, a stenographer is someone who uses a shorthand typing machine. I think it’s a very ugly word don’t you?

Then I sat down in front of the TV to watch a recording of that new pre-school programme called the ‘Teletubbies.’ Have you seen it? It features four ‘infant’ characters – clad in fluorescent outfits – going by the names of Laa Laa, Po, Dipsy and Tinky Winky. They do a lot of frolicking over lime green grass and inhabit a dwelling called the ‘Tubbytronic Superdome.’ I found both it – and the wine – very comforting and, in fact, I got completely sloshed.

Your loving daughter (in lawJ

Harriet