Paul Philby

When I was about 8, roughly 40 years ago, my best friend at the time, Paul Philby, was killed in a road accident.

As my own son reaches that age I find myself thinking about that, for many reasons.

But let me give the sum total of my memory of Paul first.  He was a fun kid, with dark curly hair.  His father was (I think) a manager in the mine in the valley where I lived at the time.  Paul was outstandingly good at art.  I retain a mental image of a painting that he did in first year junior school of a fire (it may have been the great fire of London) with black buildings silhouetted by an impressive yellow and red fire behind.

His telephone number was Ogmore Valley 246 (hard to conceive of three digit phone numbers now isn’t it!).  Ours was Ogmore Valley 248, which gave me an early insight into the difference between an arithmetical and geometrical progression.

Paul’s parents had a detached house just up the road from where we lived, which was at the foot of a mountain.  It was surrounded by copious quantities of ferns, and Paul and I used to run around in those ferns which, characteristically, had apparent paths running through them.  On one occasion Paul and I saw some people fly tipping in a layby near his house, from the cover of the ferns.  And we felt like the Secret 7, watching this criminality.

As was entirely normal at the time, Paul was out with other friends,with no adults, when he was killed.  He was (I am told) crossing the road, and had crossed to the second half of the road, saw something coming and started to move back, into the path of a vehicle coming the other way.

At that time, and at that age, it was quite normal for me and other children to go out for the day with friends, sometimes with money to buy chips for lunch, sometimes to go to the next village to go swimming, or to cycle a couple of miles up the valley, without any adult supervision, and with an injunction to return before tea time, and no way of checking up on where we were.  This would have been around 1972.

My father told me that Paul had been killed, and he decided to do this as “I have bad news and I have good news”.  The bad news was that Paul had been killed.  The good news was that Paul was with Jesus and the angels.  This last was insufficient compensation, and I remember feeling enormously cheated by this at the time.

Paul was an only child.  His parents moved away from the valley shortly afterwards.  I can (now) completely understand that.

All I’ve been able to do for Paul since is to remember him.  But now, I can share my memories of him with others, and a offer a certain internet posterity.  So I have.


Anybody want to write a Radio Play?

I came across this in such an old folder of my computer that I had to break through the cobwebs to get in.  It’s an idea for a radio play which I’m never going to write but would quite like to put “out there”.  If anyone writes it, let me know when it’s on!

Radio Play


This play follows the voices of three conversations between three couples.  None of the individuals is ever named.  They are simply six separate voices.

The central couple consists of a near-term pregnant woman and her husband walking around a small park, walking to induce labour.  The small size of the park means that they circumnavigate it several times, in the process passing the two other couples, who are seated.

The narrative of the story follows the central couple for a time then stays with each of the other couples for a time before being picked up again by the central couple as they pass on their next “lap” of the park.  This focus passes between them on a number of occasions, and the dialogue has continued out of the listeners earshot between visits.  Some of the interest therefore is in inferring the missed parts of the conversation.

The couples discuss each other, and their presence affects the outcomes of the time for the other couples, or appears to – with a final twist.

Central Couple Story

Having a baby.  Waters having broken.  Stress caused by uncertainty and health concerns mingled with anticipation of the new life, and affect on their own life.

Incidental topics concern:

–       visits from in-laws

–       the bridges of Konigsberg(due to the path pattern of the park)

–       effect on careers and work of the baby

Resolution: none – all these uncertainties remain unresolved at the end of the play.

Young Lovers

A couple snogging in the park when first encountered.  Relationship at a critical point of going further or falling back.  Consideration of the pregnant couple brings home to the young couple that they do not feel as strongly as they should for the relationship to go further.  Tensions emerge, they row and depart separately.

Mum and Son

The third “couple” is a young Mum and her toddler son who come into the park every afternoon.  They engage in conversation about (amongst other things) growing up, and why people have babies, what it’s like for a mummy and daddy before they have a baby, and the impact of having a baby on them.

Closing resolution

In a twist, the final comments of the central couple suggest strongly that she is (was) the female of the young lovers group and that he is (was) the young son.  Stories that are set up to be occurring at the same time suddenly reveal themselves as being separated in time, but with enough ambiguity to suggest recurring truths.