One of the best things about retirement has undoubtedly been the making of so many new friends.
It comes, I suppose, with
all the fresh activities I have taken up (Mr B says I buzz about “like a blue-arsed fly”, which is incredibly rude and probably slanderous.) However, it is true, as every Agony Aunt would tell you, that taking up activities which interest you is
the very best way of meeting people with whom you have something in common. It’s the stuff of which new friends are made.
Much as I love and appreciate all
my new friends, there is a special place in my heart for the old ones – the people who have been my friends through thick and thin and can still find room for me in their lives. A couple of days ago we paid a visit to two such friends who still
live in the village where we brought up our family, all those years ago. It was a day steeped in nostalgia.
It didn’t start too well in that we had
decided to take the cross-country route, forgetting that this would mean negotiating the roads in the company of lorries, tractors, caravans, buses – in short, all the slowest, most-difficult-to-overtake vehicles to be found on our highways and by-ways.
Mr B’s patience, never his strongest point, wore thin very, very quickly. I kept offering him another Werthers Original to calm him down but it was a somewhat fraught journey and I was relieved when we entered the village of Staplehurst and slowed down
to see what had changed and what had stayed the same.
Here’s the library with the village sign outside – the sign designed by our next door neighbour.
I have a bronze copy of it, a gift from my Church when our family left the village more than 27 years ago. The shops may be different but The Parade itself looks much the same. Here’s the old Primary School, now the Village Hall. Outside, tall and flourishing,
stands the tulip tree which my Brownies planted in 1978 to mark the founding of our Pack, the 3rd Staplehurst. Ever democratic, I had allowed my Brownies to choose which type of tree they wanted to plant. I should have known they would opt for
something inappropriately, but magnificently, exotic....
Now here we are at our friends’ house but we sit outside in our car for a few minutes, looking
at the house next door but one, the house where we used to live. Mr B observes that the tile which had been missing all the time we lived in the house has been replaced. So have the windows and the front door, plus we can catch a glimpse of a conservatory
at the back. But mostly it looks the same and if I screw up my eyes, I can almost see my foursome on the front door-step, all dressed up in their Silver Jubilee tee-shirts. Time has not just stood still, it’s gone into reverse.
Across the road from our cul-de-sac is the George V Playing Field, where the children of the village congregated on those long, sunny afternoons after school and in the holidays –
you may want to read The Way We Were for a trip back into our past. When the Youngest of the Darling Daughters was 13 she was employed by the Parish Council as a litter picker and her “patch” was the playing field. Woe betide the brother
or sister who dropped so much as a crisp packet on her territory”.
We settle down with our friends for an afternoon of excellent food, titbits of village
gossip, the proud sharing of photographs / anecdotes of our various grandchildren – and many a reminiscence. “Do you remember...?” one of us will start and we are off and away again.
It seems the old Primary School may well be facing demolition, so that a brand new, modern village hall can be built on the site. It’s what the village badly needs, it’s progress – but I am remembering
all those Brownie meetings in the old School Hall all those years ago, when I could literally feel the friendly ghosts of a century of school-children crowding the room and watching the antics of a new generation. I wonder what will become of the tulip
We take the motorway as we head for home. Not such a beautiful route but there’s a not-quite Full Moon to light us on our way. I’m remembering
the long three weeks after a painful shoulder operation when my right arm was strapped against my chest and my lovely friend and neighbour called round every day to cut up my dinner for me so that I could eat it more easily. Plus the day I was suffering
from flu, skulking on my sofa and feeling sorry for myself when she arrived on the doorstep, bearing the most delicious honey and lemon drink I had ever tasted.
was the lovely holiday we shared in Broadstairs when Mr M took on the Donkey Man for allowing his animals to foul the beach where the children were playing. I still have a copy of the poem I wrote about their encounter. I remember the parties, the weddings,
the anniversaries we have celebrated together – and I remember the day before we moved, when we shared a bottle of champagne and cried because we would miss each other so very much.
Make new friends but keep the old, says the ancient rhyme. Never was a truer word spoken.