‘Go back, Charlie, go back!’

The title might sound like the opening to an exciting story but in fact it’s a phrase that takes me back to when I was about 8 or 9. A stroll along Hastings Beach made me remember the words, they were what a friend and I shouted at the waves as they broke around our feet.

Kevin was an American boy the same age as me. I believe his mother and father had divorced or possibly his mum was a widow and she, being English, had brought Kevin back to the UK. They were renting, I assume, a property in Tenterden High Street, some distance from where I lived and so I’m not sure how we became such good friends, admittedly only for a short time before he and his mum moved on. Maybe we sat next to each other or our mums met at the school gate. Anyway, I remember Kevin coming around to play on at least one occasion and another time my parents taking us to the beach, presumably Hastings as that’s where we usually went. We stood in the water and tried to be King Cnut, sending the waves back.

I can recall Kevin playing in my garden and picking up one of my toy rifles and saying to my mum that it was similar to the one used to kill President Kennedy. I’m not sure it was, mine was a cowboy-style gun but it showed how that event was still in a young boy’s mind some 2 or 3 years after the assassination.

Kevin moved on with his mum but not before leaving me one of his toy cars, a large wind-up red monster that made my Dinky and Matchbox ones pale into insignificance. I kept it for many years. Being boys we didn’t think to exchange addresses, maybe Kevin’s mum wasn’t sure where they were going, but we lost contact and at that age you just move on to the next day and the next game and the next friend. Having moved back to that town Tenterden a few years ago I used to often walk past the terraced house where Kevin and his mum stayed briefly and it would bring back memories. Kevin would now be a sixty year old guy, I wonder if he still remembers me and ‘Go back, Charlie, go back!’

 

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