Memory Lane! The ideal place for a stroll, they say.
Except that the Eldest of the Darling Daughters and I were surprised
to find that Memory Lane was somewhat shorter than we remembered...
We were in Staplehurst, the village of my family’s childhood. The Eldest of the Darling
Daughters lived here from the age of six till she was eighteen, she told her own daughters who had accompanied us on our trip back into the past.
reason for visiting was to see our former-neighbours and always-friends Lorna and Barrie who lived next door but one to us throughout our twelve years in the village. They were expecting me - but not my companions. “Look who I’ve brought with me!”
I carolled as they opened the front door to us. I think it is safe to say they were very pleased to see us all.
There was lots of family news to report on both
sides and, inevitably, memories of the days when we were neighbours which I was keen to share with my granddaughters. I told them about how Lorna would call round every Christmas Eve with a bowl of home-made brandy butter; about the honey and lemon drink she
made me when I was under the weather; and how she used to cut up my food for me when I was recovering from my first shoulder surgery back in 1979. You can tell a true friend, I explained, if she can cut up your food without either of you feeling embarrassed
Barrie told us of the current campaign to save the local library from closure through the Staplehurst Library Users Group - the SLUG group! - of which
he is a member. It seemed something of a misnomer - slugs are slow, aren’t they? - then I remembered how they mercilessly attacked my sunflower plants this year, demonstrating the slug’s qualities of persistence, determination and stout refusal
to be beaten by Pellet Power.
Mr B was not with us - but he was very much present in our conversation. He used to call our neighbours “Sex Pot”
and “Old Git”. Nobody else could have got away with it but our neighbours wore their nicknames with pride. Barrie proudly produced a birthday card chosen some years ago by Mr B - it was so very rude I couldn’t show my granddaughters...
The two hours flew by and how proud I was of my two granddaughters talking about their different ambitions and the challenges ahead. They seemed to enjoy the visit every
bit as much as I did. Eleanor produced the cupcakes she had made for our hosts - Lorna is a fantastic cook and has always bewailed the fact that nobody seemed to want to bake for her. Apart from Mr B that is, who once presented her with two perfect scones.
Eleanor’s cupcakes were similarly well-received.
When we left we decided to take that trip down Memory Lane I was talking about - the route my Foursome used
to take to the Lower Junior School. Across the playing field (there is now a stile to be clambered over), scene of many a game of rounders, and past the playground where the old rocking horse is gone and the tall slide has been replaced by a much more modest
version. Along the alleyway we walked, noting that the old Scout Hut is still there but with bright new signage and a couple of new buildings - the alleyway seemed so much shorter than we remembered it. Doubtless it seemed long to me, trying to urge on dawdling
children heading school-wards, especially as the school was then on three different sites - Infants, Lower Juniors and Upper Juniors. One year I had children at all three schools and spent most of my time racing between them like One Possessed.
At the front of the building which once housed the Lower Junior School (now the Village Hall) is the tulip tree planted by my Brownies forty years ago as a thank you to the
school for letting us hold our meetings there. Trust my Brownies to choose a truly exotic tree to plant! It now towers majestically above the old building, dwarfing my daughter and I as we posed for a photo in front of it.
I am thinking back to the days when I used to arrive every Friday afternoon to set up the school hall for our Brownie meetings. Sometimes I was quite sure I could feel the friendly ghosts of all the
school children who had learnt, played, sang and danced in that hall over a hundred years ago.
Ah, Memory Lane! Perhaps it is, after all, longer than I thought...