hollow out in the form of a groove
Sometimes I’ll be driving on a long weaving road across marshland, or maybe past rows of
furrowed fields, the sky big and grey and never changing mile after mile, and I find I’m thinking about my essay, the one I was supposed to be writing back then, when we were at the Cottages.
lacking substance or significance
We didn’t know then that all these places had only the most
tenuous links with Hailsham.
an experienced person who has given long service
He’d shown us a list of chores when we’d first arrived, and the students who were already there—“the
veterans,” as Hannah called them—had long since worked out a rota which we kept to conscientiously.
characterized by extreme care and great effort
He’d shown us a list of chores when we’d first arrived, and the students who were already there—“the veterans,” as Hannah called them—had long since worked out a rota which we kept to
not serious in content, attitude, or behavior
We kept asking him to leave a big supply with us, but he’d shake his head gloomily, like we were bound to use them up
frivolously or else cause an explosion.
lacking spirit or liveliness
If someone mentions the Cottages today, I think of easy-going days drifting in and out of each other’s rooms, the
languid way the afternoon would fold into evening then into night.
lacking in harmony or compatibility or appropriateness
But then again, when I think about it, there’s a sense in which that picture of us on that first day, huddled together in front of the farmhouse, isn’t so
incongruous after all.
a behavioral attribute that is distinctive to an individual
There was, incidentally, something I noticed about these veteran couples at the Cottages—something Ruth, for all her close study of them, failed to spot—and this was how so many of their
mannerisms were copied from the television.
forceful and definite in expression or action
There was this particular thing Susie did whenever Greg set off on one of his speeches about Proust or whoever: she’d smile at the rest of us, roll her eyes, and mouth very
emphatically, but only just audibly: “Gawd help us.”
artful or slick talk used to persuade
There was a character—a large woman who lived next door to the main characters—who did exactly what Susie did, so when her husband went off on a big
spiel, the audience would be waiting for her to roll her eyes and say “Gawd help us” so they could burst out with this huge laugh.
act in disregard of laws, rules, contracts, or promises
Okay, this had never been spelt out exactly, but it was definitely, as I say, an understanding, and until the afternoon of the Daniel Deronda business, neither of us had come anywhere near
short account of an incident
The veterans were never slow coming out with funny
anecdotes about characters they’d met on trips to the White Mansion or to Poplar Farm; but they hardly ever mentioned students who, right up until just before we’d arrived, must have been their intimate friends.
The veterans usually laughed when one showed up and flicked through it quickly in a
blasé way before throwing it aside, so we did the same.
distinctive but intangible quality around a person or thing
For one thing, the grumbling he usually kept up suddenly stopped and this silence alone gave him an alarming
an act of removing by cleansing
When I pointed out to Laura that Keffers had left the magazines behind, she said: “Well, they won’t stay put for long. He’ll just have to collect them all up again, next time he decides on a
a public promotion of some product or service
Even in the little
adverts for videos or whatever tucked away to the side, I checked each model’s face before moving on.
nervous and unable to relax
When I looked up again, his hands were hovering
fretfully in the air, like I was doing a complicated manual task and he was itching to help.
cause to be interested or curious
Though most of us had first come across the idea of “possibles” back at Hailsham, we’d sensed we weren’t supposed to discuss it, and so we hadn’t—though for sure, it had both
intrigued and disturbed us.
characterized by a firm belief in your opinions
At the same time, you could tell people were fascinated—obsessed, in some cases—and so it kept coming up, usually in
solemn arguments, a world away from our ones about, say, James Joyce.
a large number or amount or extent
Weeks could go by with no one mentioning the subject, then one reported sighting would trigger off a whole
spate of others.
laugh quietly or with restraint
In any discussion, you knew he’d back up Chrissie’s angle, and if Chrissie ever said anything mildly amusing, he’d be
chortling and shaking his head like he couldn’t believe how funny it was.
characterized by action or forcefulness of personality
She even talked at one point about how the people in her office would all be “
dynamic, go-ahead types,” and I remembered clearly those same words written in big letters across the top of the advert: “Are you the
dynamic, go-ahead type?”—something like that.
characteristic of those who treat others with arrogance
The point about Chrissie—and this applied to a lot of the veterans—was that for all her slightly
patronising manner towards us when we’d first arrived, she was awestruck about our being from Hailsham.
not clearly understood or expressed
Then once, when Chrissie made a really
obscure reference—she’d said something like: “Oh, yes, the time he put out his jeans!”—Ruth gave a big laugh and signalled in our direction, as though to say to Chrissie: “Go on, explain it to them so they can enjoy it too.”
a fictitious reason that conceals the real reason
For a moment, as he said this, the fear passed through me that we’d misjudged things badly; that for all we knew, veterans often used talk of possibles just as a
pretext to go on trips, and didn’t really expect to take it any further.
in a hesitant manner
I could see them bringing it up, at first very
tentatively, shrugging, putting it to one side, bringing it up again, never able quite to leave it alone.
the choicest or most vital part of some idea or experience
But I’d heard enough to get the
gist of it; and I knew it had specifically to do with us Hailsham students.
exultantly proud and joyful; in high spirits
It was hard to read her face at that moment: she certainly wasn’t disappointed, but then she wasn’t
without or almost without hope
Regardless of what had been going on between us that day, deep down, none of us wanted Ruth to return home
despondent, and at that moment we thought we were safe.
with one leg on each side
But Ruth did sit on it, knees on either side like she was
astride a horse.
a playful, attention-getting act done for fun and amusement
There’s a breeze messing up her hair, and the bright winter sun’s making her crinkle up her eyes, so you’re not sure if she’s smiling at our
antics, or just grimacing in the light.
a molding between the ceiling and the top of a wall
The walls and ceilings were peppermint, and here and there, you’d see a bit of fishing net, or a rotted piece from a boat stuck up high near the
perceptible by the senses, especially the sense of touch
It was a feeling that grew among us almost
tangibly, and I could tell that Ruth, absorbed in a picture on the other side of the room, was feeling it as much as anyone.
a public area set aside as a pedestrian walk
And like before, if you peered over the rail, you could see the paths zigzagging down to the seafront, except this time you could see the
promenade at the bottom with rows of boarded-up stalls.
showing intellectual penetration or emotional depth
“Thank you for your
profound contribution, Tommy,” said Ruth.
like a flirtatious woman
I’d been flicking through a row of cassette cases, my mind on other things, when suddenly there it was, under my fingers, looking just the way it had all those years ago: Judy, her cigarette, the
coquettish look for the barman, the blurred palms in the background.
So I was taken
aback at how densely detailed each one was.
weakness characterized by a lack of vitality or energy
I remember a huge tiredness coming over me, a kind of
lethargy in the face of the tangled mess before me.
a petty quarrel
But I didn’t believe it to be anything so different from other
tiffs we’d had.
intended to placate
I’d made my voice
conciliatory, and Ruth responded.