Daisy pulled shut the front door of her neat little bungalow and walked down the gravel path to the road. As she turned into the close, her Tweed jacket brushed the privet hedge.
‘It’s looking very unsightly, must get the gardener to trim it tomorrow.’ she murmured.
A green Volvo estate stopped at the zebra crossing as she carefully made her way across the main road. The driver stuck his head out of the window. ‘Can I drop you off, somewhere, Miss Brackenshaw?’
‘That’s very kind of you, vicar, but a charabanc is coming for me at midday. It’ll be parking by the King’s Head so I haven’t far to walk.’ she replied in her clear cut-glass accent.
When she came to the small supermarket, women with pushchairs and shopping trolleys were passing in and out. Two of her neighbours called a greeting to her.
‘Good morning, ladies.’ she replied without halting her steady progress.
‘Wonder where old Daisy’s off to, don’t often see her out and about.’ said one.
‘Yeah, I wonder. Got her medals on an’ all.’
Walking slowly, Daisy reached the old pub with its Tudor façade in ten minutes. Her heart lifted on seeing the coach in the car park, engine running. The driver was standing by the open door, smoking a cigarette. Seeing Daisy approach, he threw it down and crushed it underfoot then helped her up the steps. As her head rose above floor level, a loud chorus of affectionate catcalls broke out. Smiling and waving, she made her slow way up the aisle and carefully lowered herself into the seat Henry had been saving for her.
‘Good old Daisy!’ called out Pam Sutcliffe from the rear of the coach, ‘Still a flirt, just like Bletchley.’
Tipsy giggling flowed from her companions in the back seats, wrapping them all in the cosy warmth of shared nostalgia.
Knowing what was expected of her, Daisy called back, ‘I seem to remember finding you and Jack Bullock kissing behind the canteen during the Christmas party in forty-four, my girl.’ she said. ‘Now, that was an enigma.’
The laughter redoubled and Pam grinned delightedly.
‘Oh, excellent pun, my dear.’ said Henry.
Daisy smiled at him and relaxed against her seat. How good it was to be with her old comrades again on this, the 60th anniversary of the great Alan Turing’s tragic death. Her eyes brimmed as she recalled how cruelly he had been treated by those who ought to have been his protectors. A gentle touch on her shoulder made her look up. A grey-haired woman whose lined face was somehow familiar yet strange stood by her seat holding a bottle of red wine and two plastic cups.
‘Vould you like a glass of good Tokay, Daisy, liebchen?’
Daisy stared. ‘Rosa? Rosa Nussbaum? My dearest friend, I thought you were – ’
‘Dead, my dear? No, still here. The camp vas liberated by your vonderful English soldiers. I married vun of them.’
Daisy laughed. ‘You never could pronounce “w”. Oh! This is going to be the finest reunion ever!’
Turning to Henry, she said with mock severity, ‘Is this your doing, Lieutenant Freeman?’
Henry laughed and held up a self-deprecating hand.
Daisy took the hand and kissed it. ‘You’re a dear man, Henry. Go on, Rosa, pour the wine and let’s drink a toast to Alan.’
‘Not for me, Rosa, I’ve got my own.’ Henry said, producing a small silver flask engraved with his initials.
Daisy was delighted. ‘How wonderful! I bought you that in forty-five for your twenty-first birthday.’
Henry nodded and smiled. He decided not to tell Daisy it was a copy, he having pawned the original during a period of unemployment in the austere 1950s when MI6 returned to pre-war staffing levels.
Dusk had fallen by the time they arrived at the mystery destination. All were in a rosy glow brought on by the wine and myriad shared reminiscences. One by one, they carefully negotiated the steep coach steps and stood around in small groups trying to discern their surroundings.
A security light clicked on and with it realisation dawned. ‘It’s the mansion, my God!’ someone cried out. ‘We’re at Bletchley! Come on, let’s go down to Hut 8.’
The shock of recognition made Daisy stagger slightly. Reaching out, she felt the cool gritty hardness of a stone pillar. An indistinct figure was sitting on a wooden bench in the porch.
‘Alan? Is that you?’ She turned to tell the others but they had gone.
‘Sit you down and rest a while, Daisy dear.’ It was certainly Alan’s voice.
Reassured, Daisy went and sat down beside him. ‘Oh Alan, I hope you didn’t suffer. Those awful people!’
‘Hush, my dear, it was all over long ago. Would you like to go for a walk with me?’
Daisy nodded and stood up. All her tiredness had evaporated. She felt twenty-one again. ‘Race you to the pond.’ she said, breaking into a run.
Henry gently laid the frail body on the wooden bench. As soon as Daisy had collapsed he had applied CPR for a full fifteen minutes, calling her name over and over.
‘She’s gone, Henry, love.’ Pam Sutcliffe said softly.
Tears ran down Rosa’s cheeks as she stroked her dead friend’s hands, crossed on her breast. ‘She wouldn’t have wanted it to happen anywhere else.’ she said. ‘She always said it was where she spent the happiest years of her life.’
Henry looked at her distractedly. ‘So you can pronounce “w”, Rosa.’
‘It was just for Daisy, to nudge her memory.’ she replied sadly.
‘It’s Alan’s memorial bench.’ said a voice from the back of the group.
Henry stared. ‘What?’
Peering closely at the brass plate screwed onto the backrest, he read out, “This bench was placed here by the cryptographers of Hut 8 in loving memory of our dear friend and supreme guiding light Alan Turing who on June 7th 1954 solved the greatest enigma of all. Sit you down and rest a while.” ?
About the author:
Colin Topley was born January 1945, he grew up in Dr Barnardo’s Homes in the New Forest. Served in the Royal Air Force as an Air Wireless Mechanic from 1960 to 1972.
He married Doreen at RAF Akrotiri in 1968, has seven children, 15 grandchildren and two beautiful great-granddaughters.