It’s A Snail’s Pace in Twick­en­ham

This England - - Contents - Mor­gan Penn

Afewyears ago, when a quiet old lady who had lived in my street in Twick­en­ham passed away, to ev­ery­one’s as­ton­ish­ment among her be­long­ings were dis­cov­ered a cache of weapons. It later emerged that she had been in­volved with the Nazi in­ter­ro­ga­tions af­ter the war and was a Cold War spy!

It oc­curred to me that the older gen­er­a­tion go to great lengths to con­ceal their colour­ful pasts, so, fas­ci­nated by the — to me — se­cret and mys­te­ri­ous world of the lo­cal al­lot­ments, I de­cided to try and as­sem­ble a group of el­derly gen­tle­men to pose for an oil paint­ing. The idea I had was for them to be gam­bling, drink­ing and yelling over a snail race in an al­lot­ment shed: a scene rem­i­nis­cent of the Rus­sian roulette in­ci­dent in the film, The Deer Hunter.

I con­tacted the Rich­mond and Twick­en­ham Times news­pa­per about my project, and they kindly ran an ar­ti­cle call­ing for gen­tle­men gar­den­ers over the age of 80. The re­sponse was huge! I de­cided to choose a group that all came from the same al­lot­ment. The men and their fam­i­lies were over the moon to be in­volved with the project, so a date was ar­ranged for a sit­ting in my back gar­den. I had a long check­list of things I wanted them to do, such as wav­ing beer bot­tles, rip­ping up bet­ting slips, wav­ing wads of money and shak­ing their fists.

They all had a fan­tas­tic time, pos­ing and shout­ing and alarm­ing the neigh­bour­hood, be­fore fin­ish­ing off with cakes, scones and brandy. When the brandy bot­tles on the ta­ble were drunk dry, I drove them all home. What an in­ter­est­ing group they were!

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