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This article is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

Ave atque vale Julia Blackburn

I had arranged to meet my father at Charing Cross Station. He was early and there he was standing by the bookshop, dressed in a pale-coloured linen suit and swaying slightly this way and that, like reeds do with the pull of the water and the push of the wind. As I walked towards him I was watching him as if he was a stranger to me; but if he had been a stranger to me I would not have dared to stare at him so closely because he looked mad, quite mad, and he looked as if he might be dangerous or at least very unpredictable. The suit was too tightly filled with the bulk of his body that had grown so big during the last years, and because he had never learnt to adjust to the change he moved his arms and legs with difficulty, always shocked by their weight and their awkwardness. His hair was white, it had slipped from grey to white quite suddenly, and his face was terribly pale and gleaming slightly like wax. He did not see me approaching, although he was gazing in my direction, swaying and smiling with his chin towards his chest and his eyes slightly raised. Once, coming home from school, I walked into the garden and he was standing near the greenhouse on the stone path by the elder-tree. He turned and limped towards me with his head hanging to one side, an arm dangling, his face twisted, ...

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