"Can I ring the bell? Can I ring the bell? Can I ring the bell? Can I....."
The young lad sitting at the front of the bus kept up this incessant chant as his poor mum
endeavoured to manoeuvre a push-chair into the allocated space. I exchanged a sympathetic glance with the woman sitting next to me, three rows back from the action. We have been there ourselves, we agreed silently.
I was on my way back home after a busy day, which started at the library where, type-written list in hand, I ticked off the ten members of our Questers group who had signed up to see the Old Maps of Worthing. So popular has this topic been that I have
had to arrange no fewer than four visits to accommodate everyone who has expressed a wish to pore over an ancient map or two. Or more. This is no great hardship for me but a considerable undertaking for the librarian in charge of the local studies section,
who is due an enormous vote of thanks.
While I was meeting and greeting, Mr B sat himself down at a table in the library foyer, completely failing to recognise the fact that he was sitting right underneath
a pull-up display advertising today's Give Up Smoking drop-in clinic. In no time at all, a member of staff descended upon him, sure he was another recruit. He managed to escape her clutches but it was a near thing. I suspect he may have fibbed a bit about
his tobacco habit but I have no proof of this so must give him the benefit of the doubt. Which is, as anyone who has been afforded such luxury will know, a Wondrous Thing.
Oh, the old maps were so fascinating
- and the older they were, the more ornately decorated. A beautiful leather bound book carried reproductions of county maps dating back to 1575. A worthy gent by the name of Rich Budgen in 1724 introduced his work as "An actual survey of the County of Sussex
divided into Rapes, Hundreds and Deaneryes in which the exact Longitude and Latitude of all the Remarkable Places are determined from observation. Also an Accurate Deliniation by admeasurement of the sea coast, roads and rivers as far as navigable." My imagination
had Our Rich travelling the county on horseback, on foot and by boat, scribing as he travelled. Obviously if a river turned out not to be navigable in his trusty vessel then it couldn't be mapped. I just loved his description of "Remarkable Places" even while
logic told me that his 1724 definition of the word remarkable was rather more prosaic than my 2015 interpretation.
How about this? In 1852 one Captain W.D. Gossett of the Ordnance Survey department produced
a public health map identifying every wash house, privy and "sanitary facility" in Worthing town centre. It was a tough job but someone had to do it and Captain Gossett was that man. I applaud his thoroughness and attention to hygienic detail.
The most recent map we were shown was of shops in the town as of 1988. By that date, Mr B and I were living here so we are part of history - but times have changed even in our years of residence. We all oohed and aahed over
the stores we remembered but which are no more, the venerable Woolworth's leading the way. Or should I say, the Way Out?
Afterwards Mr B and I repaired to The Happy Teapot over the road. No, it didn't appear
on any of the maps we studied but it is, nevertheless, what Rich Budgen would have called "A Remarkable Place". Every wall is adorned by witty phrases and sayings. I particularly liked the list of Kitchen Rules - no complaining, no late arrivals, no special
orders - but ending with: "Anyone breaking these rules will be loved and forgiven in the usual manner." Which pretty much sums up my approach to grandparenting in general. And not just in the kitchen.
afternoon a group of fellow Trustees from Voluntary Action Worthing, an organisation I am proud to chair, huddled round a table in the Town Hall. Our task: to consider which of several projects recommended to us we should pursue in the interests of our community
and the hundreds of voluntary groups who exist to help the excluded, the financially stretched, the young, the elderly, the ill, the troubled.
These groups won't appear in any map of the type Captain Gossett
produced back in 1852, but they are, in Rich Budgen's memorable words, what makes the town of Worthing such a truly Remarkable Place.