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As Bud’s scooter neared Madrid from the north-east, a saxe-blue soft-top convertible Morris Minor was accelerating past Perpignan, heading in the same direction. Inside were Philip Davies from Oxford and his girlfriend Jill and, at Jim’s invitation, Judy Mitchell. Judy’s toenails were stained pink from standing in a strawberry -canning factory in Wisbech, earning money to augment her twenty-first birthday present of the holiday ahead, which they were all to share with Jim. The drive through France had been great fun, but the fact that they were a day late for the rendezvous niggled at the back of everyone’s mind. Although in his typed letters from Oxford Jim was as light and affectionate as ever, the previous Christmas had marked a change in his relationship with Judy. ‘I find I’m very dissatisfied with you,’ he had remarked at the start of a trip to Killarney in front of Hilary Kirwan and Roger Donald, who were in the car, and he continued to needle without let-up, sneering, ‘Oh God, the ould sod! Let’s make a postcard of it,’ if she made the mistake of admiring a view. Hilary had whispered that he wanted to demoralise her because she refused to be subservient, and Roger had accused him of being psychologically sick. When criticised by friends for being too good to him, Judy insisted that he was the sort of person whom one liked to help to be happy, but as his health picked up he could unleash a destructive venom that was outside her experience. Physically she was as attracted to him as he now was to her – ‘I don’t feel sorry for him in any way,’ she corrected people stoutly – but he twisted the Groucho Marx quip about not wanting to join any club that would have him, unable to believe her. In Madrid he was sitting on the steps of the cathedral where they had arranged to meet, beneath a pyramid of cigarette smoke and surrounded by butts. His pleasure at seeing Judy was undisguised and all went well until that evening, when she jibbed at the plan for each CHAPTER EIGHT Water Becoming Hard Ice 1959–1960 104 couple to share a room. ‘We were very innocent,’ she explained later, ‘and it just wasn’t on the cards, certainly for me.’ For a month they toured around the coast, from Torremolinos to Gibraltar, staying in pensions which nightly threw them into angry proximity, and he found fault with everything. Philip’s tolerance evaporated, and Jill kept quiet, afraid of making the situation worse. ‘Have you ever had a subconscious drive to start a row which will wreck everything so that one’s emotional landscape in turn becomes barren and tidy once more?’ Jim would admit to another woman, when he was older and wiser. ‘I have it all the time.’ Sexual frustration was not the only cause, the other two agreed: it was obvious that Jim suspected pity, and that he was fiercely unhappy with himself. On the beach the contrast was stark, with Judy golden brown and the centre of male attention, and Jim glowering , stubbornly keeping on his shirt. The day she set out to buy sweetcorn and, unable to speak Spanish, returned with a bag of carrots stood out for its serenity, allowing him sufficient advantage to be kind. Jim watched himself from a distance, powerless to be any different. [The] strongest emotion I had ever experienced came from the refusal of love . . . the sensation of hurting and being hurt. On the final leg of the return journey, crawling along the Embankment in dense London traffic, the car symbolically broke down. Back at Oxford he continued to talk of marriage, telling friends that it was definitely on the cards. Philip tried to put his reservations aside. ‘Judy was his number-one girl, no shadow of doubt about it. All during that autumn term after Spain he’d talk about her all the time.’ Once again Roger was invited over for Christmas, and the brawny American accepted on condition that he could bring his girlfriend ; for the second year running, Jim arranged to escape to a seaside cottage at County Wexford, bringing Judy with them, as soon as they could decently get away from the festivities he loathed. It was the end of the two-year recovery period, which wiped out all hope of further physical improvement, and his writing was not...


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