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Chapter 13. Anne – A French Song and a Walk on the Malvern Hills

Quentin’s invitation, a repetition of their first meeting, in the same theatre, was

not very original, but he wanted to see Anne again and nothing else had

occurred to him.  Anne had noticed this, but forgave him.  She looked forward

to their next meeting impatiently.  Life now held something more for her than

brushing her teeth and going to work.  As for Quentin, he counted the

hours.  He actually did, on a piece of paper.  That was Quentin.   Over the next

weeks, which lengthened into months, they went out not only to the theatre for

even Quentin managed to suggest something else, but to restaurants, cinemas,

and for walks.  They were both successful (= good job, good salary, good looks)

and they had both been lonely (= envious of all the couples they saw walking

together in the street and laughing together in the pub). They had both felt the

mid-60s loneliness of Françoise Hardy.

‘Tous les garçons et les filles de mon age

Savent bien ce que c’est qu’etre heureux!

Oui mais moi, je vais seule par les rues…’

In his relationship with Anne, Quentin became more spontaneous and honest with himself than he had been for years. He felt at ease with her.  For once, his life was going naturally in the right direction without too much planning or too much self-analysis. 

He spent money with her and on her, without counting the cost.  This was rare for him, and it did him good.  He realised as much.  He knew his faults.  

Anne, too, enjoyed their time together.  Quentin was not dull.  Though sometimes socially inept, he was clever and he talked well.  But they only went out together. They did not share the nitty-gritty of existence, the tiring routine of the day-to-day.  She could imagine many happy evenings with Quentin and even some afternoons, but however much she tried,  she could never imagine waking up to Monday mornings with him through a lifetime.  Yet she was determined to make a success of things.

‘Here is a sensible arrangement, which can be made to work.’

How easy we are to persuade when we persuade ourselves!

How far from her hopes of ten years before, when she was a recent teenager!  Had all her thoughts of dinners and dances come down to this? Where now were her dreams of roses and a hotel in Paris, of laughing together in a spring shower on the ChampsÉlysées?    Were they now nothing more than a sensible arrangement?  Where were Charlotte Brontë’s dreams of Mr Rochester when she married Arthur Bell Nicholls? Where were her dreams when she said “I do”? But, there again, for both Anne and Charlotte, on the other side was solitude.

At weekends they usually went for walks.  She often remembered (in fact, she’d never forget) their day on the Malvern Hills.  It was a Saturday in the middle of March, a day of wind and sun and clouds, a day that made you want to climb to the top of every hill you could see.  On a windy March day like that, if you had a kite, and if you had some children to fly it with, happiness was assured.   Quentin didn’t have a kite and it was years since he had talked to a child, but he did have a guidebook. 

That can happen in England.  Not talking to a child for years, I mean.  It could not happen in Spain and it would never happen in Africa.  But it could happen in England.  Yes, it really could. 

It was a very good guidebook, of course, a book of excursions, and they were working through them one by one, starting with A. They had now reached “M”, and under “M” was the Malverns, and so to the Malverns they went.  They left the car at British Camp in one of the last spaces left in the car park (lucky), and Quentin complained about the parking charge (unlucky), and then they set off and walked northwards along the ridge.  The ridge of the Malvern Hills!  One of the finest walks in England! How often had Anne looked across at the Malverns when she’d been driving up the M5, just to reassure herself that they were there.  They were her first landmark on the journey north. She had looked across at them when she had gone to visit Harvey in Manchester, so happy on the way there, so miserable on the way back.  The hills had wished her well on her way up, and they had comforted her, as far as they could, on her way home.

Anne and Quentin walked as far as the Worcestershire Beacon.  Anne loved the fast pace, the feeling of putting miles of country behind you, and she gazed at the view over half of England.  Quentin walked with her.  He couldn’t put his arm round her because he had his guidebook in one hand and a compass in the other.  He identified each hill, church and town in the distance and was concerned when he couldn’t match the view to the map. When he noticed a lake which was not on his map, he was extremely upset. Anne said that it had, after all, been raining a lot, and that lakes might come and go, but this did not seem to comfort him in the least.  Though it was certainly there on the ground, the lake was not in the book, and that, for him, was a matter of importance.

Furthermore, he was very upset indeed when they arrived at the Beacon twelve minutes later than the time allotted.  Anne could take no more, and they dropped the walks there and then.  “M” was the last letter they reached together.   She had been patient for half the alphabet.  The walks were given up, but they continued to see each other in less demanding contexts, such as the cinema, where it doesn’t matter quite so much who you are with because most of the evening is spent watching the film.

At this time, though she did not pay it much attention, Anne was also becoming quite well off.  She was working hard, slowly gaining a reputation and finally beginning to be given briefs other than those involving women or children.  As she was the only woman barrister in her chambers, this type of work had naturally been handed to her to start with.  She was, in fact, saving a lot of money each month. So she was nearing the situation of Emma Woodhouse because she was certainly handsome and clever, though she never gave it much thought. As regards money matters she simply put her earnings in the Halifax, and, following Henry’s advice, bought some shares in Boots and Marks and Spencer and in the construction company, McAlpines, which Henry had had some connection with, and worried no further.  In spite of her lack of interest in them, her investments prospered.

When Anne had been going out with Quentin for four and a half months, and had seen nine plays with him, (two per month, regularly, for everything was regular) Harvey and Jake celebrated their first year in Australia.