Another Life

RCJ and The Grey Mare

In another life I could have stayed there, in the Communications Department with RCJ. Instead I moved on – or dropped out. I couldn’t call him my mentor, a word that in any case had not been invented in the 70s. He was not a second father, exactly, either, though he might have wanted to be. But RCJ never quite left me;  for one thing, when I started there, though I didn’t know it until I found a lot of people were asking me where I was from – “Cornwall?“ “Bristol?” –  I had a very thick west country accent. I carefully remodelled my voice on his.

“He could’ve had my desk,” I heard him tell Cathy after I’d handed in my resignation. He knew I was listening and I knew then it was time to move on.

But at a certain point in one of my lives, almost twenty years after I last saw him, I was at a juncture where it seemed important to go back, to fill in the story. There were a few old photographs, some copies of the glossy bumpf – his word, when no-one else was around – we  had produced together. Memories. Yet,  somehow, I wanted more, and I conceived the idea that there might indeed be more. The internet, Friends Reunited, all that was still in the future. Besides, this was something of a personal quest.

Every year he went to tea with the Queen Mother. A Communist, he was supposed to have been, who lived in a house known as The Rede House, pronounced red. It was known as that because it was too grand to have a number, standing alone in its pretty Warwickshire village, nonetheless, Red. Went to Cambridge, married late, to an older woman. In those days that would be enough to alert MI5. But in any case,  someone in Labour Party told me that until Callaghan came in, everywhere was bugged. There must, I thought, be some record.

So was born the harebrained scheme to try and track down any recordings, any transcriptions. Out of some irrational need. My contact in the Labour Party was dismissive; in fact, we never spoke again. But then, at a party,  I bumped into a friend of a friend who worked in the National Archives Office. I must have felt emboldened, but she just laughed when I told her what I wanted – but in an encouraging way, I thought. She explained it would take ages for anything of that sort, even if it existed, to find its way to Archives. I knew that, I said, but didn’t she know someone who might know something?

“Umm, I’ll see what I can do,” she said. She made it sound like a promise.

So, some time later, over a few drinks in a wine bar in Kew she said that the person she knew – quite lowly, but very trusted, based in Vauxhall – had told her that yes, tapes had been made, tapes were made of everything, but they would be embargoed for years. But that there might be transcripts. Mostly, however, she just wanted to celebrate a promotion and complain about her husband. Not only did he spend two days a week  working in Birmingham, but he stayed there with his mother. We parted on good terms.

About two months later, an A4 manila envelope came through the post. Inside were three badly photocopied type-written pages of a conversation between a ‘Target’  and a ‘Grey Mare’ and  a postcard showing the pagoda in Kew Gardens.  A note on the back in large handwriting said ‘J is bloody away again. There may be more where this comes from! Hope you appreciate all I’ve done for you!!!’ For reasons of my own, I ripped the card up and threw it away, though not without some regret.

By this time I was starting to get over my fixation with my past and it took me longer than it should have to realise that ‘Target’ was RCJ and ‘Grey Mare’ the Queen Mother. For clarity, in the text below, I’ve restored their names and tidied up some of the punctuation. There may be a covering page missing as it looks like the surviving transcript begins after the start of the conversation. The pages are date-stamped 23 June 1977; but that may only be the filing date. There’s no confirmed date for the meeting itself.

* * *

QUEEN MOTHER: And you must be?

RCJ: Tudor-Edwardes, Ma’am.

QM: Tudor? That’s an unusual Christian name, isn’t it?

RCJ: That’s my surname, Tudor-Edwardes; RCJ Tudor-Edwardes, Ralf, Ma’am.

QM: Do you mind if I just call you [muffled] Tudor?

RCJ: Not at all, Ma’am.

QM: [muffled] Tudor, we aren’t, at all, related, are we?

RCJ: No Ma’am. That line’s  [muffled] very distant. Tudor’s Welsh.

QM: Welsh? I knew a chap, once, said he was born in the smallest castle in Wales –

RCJ: That’s right, Ma’am. That’s me.

QM: Though I can’t think why you’d need a small castle.

RCJ: No, quite.

QM: But, do you know,  I thought we’d met before!

RCJ: Yes, Ma’am. We meet every year, for tea.

QM: I see. And, why’s that?

RCJ: The War, Ma’am. I worked for you in the War.

QM: Oh, the War! Wasn’t it wonderful?

RCJ: Yes, Ma’am. For some of us.

QM: Did you have a good war, [muffled] Tudor?

RCJ: Yes, Ma’am. I suppose I did. I was very young then.

QM: Ah. What did you do, in the War?

RCJ: I worked for you, you and your husband, the King.

QM: Ah, Bertie, The King. The people, the common people, they did love him, didn’t they?

RCJ: Yes. Of course they did, we –

QM:  Oh, Bertie. I do still miss him, you know.

RCJ: We all do Ma’am.

QM: Oh. You mean, Lilibet, isn’t she any good?

RCJ: Yes, yes, Ma’am. She’s very [indistinct].

[pause, timed at 9 secs]

QM: May I ask what you did for us?

RCJ: PR, Ma’am. I worked on your PR.

QM: PR? What’s –

RCJ: Propaganda, Ma’am.

QM: Propaganda? I thought that’s what the Germans did.

[pause, timed at 11 secs]

QM: Would you like another sandwich?

RCJ: Yes, Ma’am, thank you.

[muffled, sounds of eating]

RCJ: And, how are things with you, Ma’am?

QM: Oh, you know. Old age doesn’t come on its own. The Family, they are such a worry, some of them. And, that Mr Wilson. Did you know he was a Communist?

RCJ: Er, yes, I mean, no [muffled]. I was a Communist myself, once upon a time.

QM: Of course you were! But you weren’t a real one, were you?

[pause, timed at 11 secs]

QM: And, where do you live, [muffled] Tudor?

RCJ: Stratford, Ma’am. Stratford-upon-Avon.

QM: Oh, jolly good. Isn’t that where they make the comedies?

RCJ: Er, no Ma’am. That’s Ealing. Stratford’s where Shakespeare comes from.

QM: Of course, of course, Shakespeare [indistinct]

RCJ: He wrote the plays, Ma’am. There’s a theatre.

QM: Yes, I see. And what do you do, there, in Stratford?

RCJ: PR, Ma’am.

QM: PR? . . .

BOTH: Propaganda!

[pause, timed at 9 secs]

QM: You’re not theatre, yourself, are you, [muffled] Tudor, or the arts?

RCJ: No, Ma’am. Industry. Engineering, construction. We’re the biggest employer in the town.

QM: Oh. Big? That’s nice.

RCJ: Yes. Big, but I run a small team.

[Here I’ve written in biro: Chris, me, Other Steve, Cathy A, Pam. Author’s note]

QM: Any children, that sort of thing?

RCJ: No, Ma’am. We haven’t. We couldn’t.

QM: Yes. I see. You came down from Cambridge, didn’t you, like the others?

RCJ: Yes, that’s right. After my War Service, with you.

QM: Any [indistinct]?

RCJ: Beg your pardon, Ma’am?

QM: Horses. Any horses?

RCJ: No, actually. No.

QM: Dogs. Do you have any dogs?

RCJ: Yes, Ma’am. One. We did. Last year, when we met last year. We had a dog then.

QM: Oh, really, I should have remembered!

RCJ: No, I didn’t bring it here. And it, she, she died. We had to have her put down.

QM: Oh, I’m so sorry!

[pause, timed at 13 secs]

QM: Do try the madeira cake, it looks delicious, don’t you think?

RCJ: Yes, indeed. Thank you Ma’am.

[here the transcript ends]

*  *  *

After that, I decided not to continue with my research.

The document itself lay lost in a filing box in my Dad’s garage for many years. I searched it out, in a life like this one, after a chance meeting in a pub in Brighton, The Three Jolly Butchers, with a man who’d worked in the same organisation at the same time. He remembered RCJ, though not well.

“Very posh, wasn’t he? Posh voice” The man – I forget his name – said he was a regular at the Butchers. I said “See you again” when I left, but I’ve never been back.

© Stephen Moore 2016

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