We had been walking up quite a steep hill but I didn’t really notice because I’m quite good at walking, and anyway it was really interesting because Mr. Benbow kept pointing out birds to me. There was so much to take in with the sea on one side of us and I was quite excited. Aunty Thelma, mummy’s friend always tells me to calm down; “Calm down for heaven’s sake, calm down, I’ve got a headache!” she says. She always has a headache, and it’s very strange but mummy usually has a headache at the same time. Mrs Day who looks after me and Barbara when Mummy goes out, says it’s the fizzy pop they drink before they go. Pop doesn’t give me a headache, and Mrs Day says that’s because I’m a child and it’s time for bed and she wants to listen to the play on the radio
I was so busy thinking about Aunty Thelma and Mrs Day that when Mr. Benbow said, ‘look there’s the lighthouse!’ I actually made a silly noise and jumped, and then I was really excited and laughed in a very silly way, and Mr. Benbow roared with laughter.
There was the lighthouse, as I had imagined it might be with white and red stripes.
“It’s magnificent,” I said when I calmed down. Mr. Benbow hadn’t told me to calm down, but I was thinking of Aunty Thelma getting annoyed with me.
“It certainly is Peg, let’s go and have a walk round it.”
Did he mean we would walk round the outside? We would circumnavigate it like Ferdinand Magellen circumnavigated the world. If I get a pet dog I might call it Magellen, but I don’t think I’ll be allowed. Or did Mr. Benbow mean we would walk round inside it? We would have to walk round inside because the lighthouse is round.
We walked down the track to the lighthouse and I saw there were little white cottages beside it. I thought it would be all alone and the lighthouse keepers would lead a solitary life.
“Who lives in those cottages, Mr. Benbow?”
“Well, one of them is my little gaff, and Mr. McIntosh lives in the other, when he’s not on duty. He’s the lighthouse keeper you know. Young Ben is his dep and he bunks with me when he’s not in the lighthouse.”
“Is Mr. McIntosh’s gaff where you were born, you said you were born in the keeper’s cottage?” I wanted to know but I tried to sound polite.
“You’ve got a good memory, Peg! Yes, I was born in keeper’s cottage, lived there till I retired and Mr. McIntosh took over.”
“Weren’t you sad to leave the place you were born and where you’d lived all that long time?” Oh dear, I hope he didn’t think I was being rude about his age. Mummy said you should never ask a grown-up their age, it’s impertinent. I used not to be able to say that word and said interpiment. I used it in one of my stories which I read out to the class and my teacher was really kind and tactful and only told me afterwards. I said ‘thank you very much, I appreciate your tact.’ I had read an adult book from the library and had to look up tactful. My teacher went very red in the face and I thought maybe I had not been tactful to mention it, but she thanked me and said she looked forward to hearing my next story. She’s a very jolly person and as I went back to my desk I could hear her laughing at something. I expect one of the other children had made a joke.
“I was very sad, Peg, very sad. I’d lived there all my life up till then, and my dad before me, and Granddad Tom before him. But needs must, and at least I only had to move in next door!” he did sound sad even though I think he was trying to be brave
“I was sad when we moved out of our house. We didn’t move next door though, we went to another part of town where there was an exclusive apartment for us.”
“That sounds mighty fine, Peg.”
It did sound mighty fine but there wasn’t room for Daddy so he went somewhere else. I said, hmm-mm, because it wasn’t really mighty fine at all. I thought I should change the subject.
“Mr. Benson, excuse me for asking, but do you have any old photographs of the lighthouse in the olden days? I’m very interested in history, you see.”
This cheered Mr. Benson up and he said, yes he had some lovely old albums which he would be pleased to show me and we set off again towards the lighthouse.