We decided to pay a return visit to the New Inn the day after our arrival. As I went in to the small cramped bar lounge area I could not fail to notice one person already in the pub. He sat at the bar, perched on a stool, in the company of another man. He turned to face the entrance as soon as Eric and I walked in. The shock of black hair and the white teeth were immediately recognizable. I had seen the photographs of Alston Frederick Hughes in the files at Devizes. Smiles! And yes! He smiled. This guy could smile for England and win a gold medal for smiling!
Smiles was about 5’ 8” and a proportionate build. He had black wavy hair, long sideburns and a moustache that all joined up. There were tattoos on both arms with the word ‘Smiles’ on his left forearm. He had a tanned face and white teeth. You needed sunglasses looking at the dazzle. An earring adorned his right ear. He spoke with a slight Cockney accent, although he hailed from Manchester. He had the general appearance of a market trader and could pass himself off as a gypsy. He wore a bold tartan check shirt and corduroy pants. He introduced us to Buzz, who sat next to him at the bar.
Buzz did little talking. Smiles was friendly and chatted away. He told us he was soon going to London to buy a VW Camper van and tour Europe for a month. We practiced our cover story for the third time. It was by now not so much practice because the script just rolled without effort from our mouths. Before we parted company that evening, Smiles offered to take us to the Red Lion (Y Llew Coch in Welsh) pub. It was in nearby Tregaron. He mentioned it to help us find Eric’s lost brother. He added that the Red Lion was where “it was all happening.” And, the “faces” in there, as well as the landlord, may know something. Our tale seemed to be working, much to our relief.
Once we had parted company with Smiles and Buzz, we headed back to the van. After driving about a quarter of a mile, Eric and I turned to each other and beamed big smiles of satisfaction and relief. It was less than forty-eight hours following our leaving Devizes in the van for the first time. We had met our target, Smiles, and his companion Buzz. Before this encounter, a million things went through my mind. In the main they took the form of searching questions.
‘Would we find Smiles?’
‘Would we get close enough to talk to him?’
‘Would he accept our cover story?’
‘Would he accept us?’
‘Would he like us?’
‘What will he be like?’
‘Can I go through with the charade?’
These questions and thoughts were spinning around my head. It was constant. No answers, just thoughts and questions. Like many things in life, it was a case of fear of the unknown.
After meeting Smiles, I felt the greatest relief. I knew I could do this and not only do it, but I could enjoy the lie. I experienced a deep inner feeling of release. I revelled in the new me.
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