To a future owner of Dial House
I am writing this at six o'clock in the morning on May Day, 2010, sitting at my desk by the window on the top floor room on the left as you look up and using the keyboard on my Dell computer to form the words that display on screen.
I am Tony Randall and my initials, AGR, you can see at the bottom right of the sundial which I caused to be made to celebrate my 75th birthday.
My wife Julia would normally still be asleep in the next room, but she is stuck in South Africa because the airspace over Britain was closed for six days due to fears about the volcanic ash in the atmosphere blown from a volcano in Iceland.
She went out just after Easter to visit our eldest daughter Rozi who lives with her husband and daughter on the coast just north of Durban. With her went our youngest daughter Bella, with her three children.
Our middle daughter Helena is in the last month of her BA course at the University of the Arts London at which she is doing well, despite having a husband and three small children.
I am just over halfway through my MA in Biography course at the University of Buckingham. Perversely, they have at the start of this academic year moved the location of seminars to London, so that instead of a short stroll down Hunter Street I have to trek up to the Tesco roundabout to catch the X5 coach to Oxford and then catch the train to Marylebone from Bicester North station (or, it has to be said, if I'm feeling lazy, drive across).
It's a curious feeling writing for the eyes of someone who is quite possibly not yet born and who will almost certainly read this only after I am dead. I could go on in this vein, but I have much to do, not least of which is writing by 4 June (eek! that's now only a month away!) a 6–8,000 word paper on St Gwenffrewi, known in English as Winifred, entitled The Double Life and Afterlife of a Virgin Martyr.
I can do nothing better, I am sure, than by ending with a poem by James Elroy Flecker (who like me studied at Trinity College Oxford) entitled To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence.
I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.
I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.
But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?
How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.
O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.
Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.