The Consul looks across the verandah, past the banyan tree to the driveway where a figure is approaching. Oh God no….not another scruffy person. Looking for help most likely.
He had been hoping to do a bit of work on his book….a children’s story. He almost has it ready for submission. He had shown a rough draft to a publisher friend in London who had been encouraging. Other than that there issn’t a lot for a consul to do in Madras to be frank. Renew the odd passport, attend the odd reception, repatriate the odd misguided youth. Seem to be quite a few of those showing up lately. Wonder what they are looking for? Themselves? And here comes another one.
This one seems quite delirious, rambling on about ashrams and Rolls Royces and beatles and a pregnant girl-friend.
The consul is friendly but firm. He knows Surrey and Sussex quite well. He has an aunt in Sussex in fact. Near East Grinstead actually. Really? Yes. He is prepared to issue some temporary travel documents but all expenses must be reimbursed to HMG within six months of Arthur’s return to England otherwise he would not get a new passport. He would have to pick up his ticket in Delhi. Arthur agrees to the conditions. It ttakes an hour or two for the documents to arrive. Arthur mumbles something about a train ticket and goes back down the driveway.
That’s true about the consul having an aunt in Sussex by the way. Her name is Claire and she’s a schoolteacher. She wears a tweed suit and wool stockings. She has a black spaniel called Scamp and a bicycle with a basket on front, which she uses when she shops in the village. I know what you’re thinking. Peripheral character, no connection to the story, if you can call it a story. You have a point. The plane from Delhi to London took about 12 hours. Which meant that Arthur’s homecoming was somewhat abrupt and required numerous rapid mental adjustments. The consul meanwhile has decided to have another go at writing a children’s story...this is not the consul of Malcolm Lowry’s ‘Under the Volcano’…..this consul has a tight grip on reality….
‘Scamp was a lovely dog but he could be quite naughty sometimes. He loved to chase after rabbits and sometimes he forgot about everything and became (got?) lost. Once he was gone for two whole days! When he came back he was all muddy and covered with brambles/burrs. But he was so happy to be home it was hard to be angry with him...’