This week we have a very special contributor. Diddley herself. In researching the forthcoming Cotswold stories, we found some papers that she had kept and, most importantly, a story she had written. It may be a rough draft? Who knows, but it’s worthy of sharing with you. I am sure she wouldn’t mind. As you can see, Diddley’s Story was intended to be sent in to Saga Magazine.
“Probably the Best Night of my Life”
Once upon a time many moons ago a young girl of about 12 visited Stroud Library. At that time in her life she devoured books.
Whilst walking home to her grandparents house in Slad Road a family friend pulled up in his Robin Reliant. He was a poet called Frank Mansell who wrote the most wonderful verse and spoke of previous lives. He believed in reincarnation and told the young girl she was his wife in a previous life. The young girl entered Frank’s car without a fear in the world. He was a gentle poet and they spoke of magical things. She was safe with Frank.
Frank and Di drove through the Slad Valley and met up with Laurie Lee at a pub where they all drank copious amounts of whiskey. This odd trio then walked on to Bull’s Cross and discussed the stars and the moon, poetry and the meaning of life. I wish I could be back there for just one minute, or as Bob Dylan would say — “I wish I wish I wish … in vain that I could be on Bull’s Cross again” or something like that.
Nowadays those two lovely men would be labelled perverts and locked up. But it was all so innocent. They just wanted to talk about poetry and opened my mind to this beautiful world. The dividing line between right and wrong is a tricky one but for me that was right and I feel so privileged to have spent a lovely night under the stars with two beautiful poets.
I still visit their graves from time to time and lay a few wild flowers.
God rest ye Merry Gentleman.
Two poets. Frank, left. Laurie, right. Slad church. But who was the young lady? We don’t think it’s Diddley.
Frank with Diddley. 1975.
Frank and Sarah (Diddley’s beloved mother).
The box of memorabilia confirmed that Frank did indeed write astrological predictions for people.
Handwritten below for Sarah:
Typed for Diddley:
He sent Diddley his poetry. Sometimes handwritten, sometimes typed. There are lots of letters.
1948. Inherited from her mum maybe. See below in Lighting a Candle.
And finally, “Cotswold Ballads” was given to Diddley by Frank Mansell and signed for posterity on her 24th birthday.
This is a highly personal look at times gone by. All the characters once had beautiful lives, but they are just memories now. A poignant reminder of ‘Living in the Day’ and making the best of what chance brought your way.
Lighting a Candle for Diddley
You said it was a lovely day
I had no eyes to see
Nor any heart to feel, for gray
hay all the heart of me.
I did not know the day was fair;
So dull a brute am I.
That all I saw was my own care,
Reflected in the sky.
But when you said “a lovely day”
I looked and saw ’twas so:
That all the land as Eden lay
and Oh, ’twas good to know!
The autumn fields in glory gleamed,
The hedgerow berries shone,
And every yellowing woodland seemed
A joy to look upon.
When love lies cold and dreams are past,
With all that we hold dear;
We come back to the earth at last
And some find comfort there.
And find a solace by the way,
for sky and bush and tree,
As I found on that autumn day,
That you revealed to me.