Friday, 12 September 2014


It may come as no surprise to any of you, but from a very early age
I was much given to looking back on the past.  My remembered past,
obviously, as I wasn't interested in or capable of reminiscing about events
which pre-dated either myself or my ability to recall them.  When, aged five,
I moved from one house to another just a few short minutes away, I made it
a point to return to my previous street on a regular basis so that I could re-
experience the nearby woods in which I'd once played and again take
in the expansive view from the top of the hill.

Over the years (and houses and neighbourhoods), I always found
it comforting to return to the places of my youth and reconnect with
them from time to time, and for almost the first three decades of my life,
most of these hallowed haunts remained essentially unchanged.  Each time,
the experience was akin to the hushed awe and reverential atmosphere de-
scribed in The PIPER At The GATES Of DAWN chapter in Scottish
author KENNETH GRAHAME's beautiful book, The WIND In
The WILLOWS, first published in 1908.

It was almost like returning to the dawn of creation, when every-
thing must have seemed magical and mystical, and from which every
living thing derives its strength and power.  Revisiting the environs of my
early childhood recharged and revitalised me in some way, but it also some-
how made events from even only a few years before seem like a far-distant
era - at the exact same time as making them, paradoxically, closer than a
lover's kiss.  I suppose, to a seven year old, three years is more than
half one's remembered life, and perhaps half one's life seems just
as long or as short at any age.  Does that make any sense?
Then things started to change.  First it was lampposts being sup-
planted by newer, thinner models, placed on the inside of the pave-
ments instead of at the kerbs.  Then it was the paving stones, replaced
with tarmacadam, dark and dismal in the gloom of the night.  Next, it was
building on fields and green areas, and the removal of swing-parks, re-
sulting in open, spacious, well-planned neighbourhoods being trans-
formed into crowded, claustrophobic, concrete ghettoes.

Earlier this evening I decided to retrace a certain route to my
first primary school.  Sometimes, as children, we'd take a detour into
a swing-park and then through some woods that led to the school.  The
swing-park is an empty space and the trees were cut down some years ago,
the fallen giants now littering the overgrown trail they once used to shade.
On previous occasions over the years, visiting the area was like a pleasant
journey into yesterday and a salve to my soul.  That these places could
always be relied upon for the same simple welcome seemed like one
of life's unchanging truths, but, alas, that is no longer the case.

I'd always thought that, in my declining years, the locales of my
boyhood would still exist and that I'd  be able to revisit them one last
time, and find solace in the fact that these spots would yet be around for
future generations to enjoy similar experiences to my own.  I'm now only
too well aware that when my final bedtime comes, that, sadly, won't be
the case.  The only hope left to me is that, should I awaken on 'the
other side', I'll find all those familiar places waiting to greet me
and welcome me home.

Night has fallen and the daylight seems a long way off.  Is that my
 name I faintly hear, carried on the whisper of the evening breeze? 


Colin Jones said...

You can be gloomy so-and-so at times, Kid. I'd definitely say that your perception of time changes as you get older so three years is a lot longer to a seven year-old than to us - I remember when I was 17 in 1983 and entering the Upper 6th which was exactly 10 years since I'd started in Junior school and that 10 years seemed like a vast expanse of time but now the same period seems like nothing - I've lived in my current house for 12 years which seems like quite a short time. I can't really say that I've had any great desire to revisit old haunts of childhood or youth and change doesn't bother me that much unless it's really a change for the worse. Actually I'm happy enough to live from day to day and not really think about the past or the future.

Kid said...

A gentle melancholy, nothing more, CJ. Now, while it's true that 3 years to a 7 year old seems a lot longer to them than to us, the memory of that 3 years probably seems no more or less than 25 years does to him when he's 50. Live from day-to-day? I can't - too busy living in yesterday.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Do you ever look back on your live as an adult rather than as a child say as a 40 year old etc? So for example in say 20 years time (God willing) will you remember looking back at yourself as a 50 years old or as a 50 year old looking back at your live as a 10 years old or simply straight to being a 10 year old? (I think that makes some sort of sense)

Have to say I have never read "Wind in the Willows" I have only seen a stage version and TV shows/cartoons - had no idea a Scot wrote it , it seems so English I assumed it had to be written by and Englishman

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

Oooops just read my post I meant to write "life" not "live" duhhhhh sorry about that!"

Kid said...

It depends on what I feel like reminiscing about, McScotty. If, say, something of significance happened to me at 50 (or whatever), then I'm quite sure that at some later stage I'll wallow in the the memory of it. I remember buying a picture book in a Summer or Winter fayre in my 2nd old primary school in the early '80s. I'd sit in bed at night and look through its pages with a glass of milk at my side. A year or so later, we moved house and I'd do the same thing in my new home, but always with the strong sense of having done the same in my old one. When we moved back to our old home just over 4 years later, I continued the practice, but remembering sitting in bed in my new house, thinking of my old one as I did so. But to answer your question a little more precisely, I'll probably do all of what you said.

If you still have a sense of youth alive in you, McScotty, you'd probably enjoy The Wind In The Willows. Great book.

Colin Jones said...

Like Paul, I also didn't know that Kenneth Grahame was Scottish - Wind in the Willows seems so typically English. I only discovered a few years ago that J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan) was Scottish (don't worry - I know that Walter Scott, Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson were Scottish). One question I'd like to ask of you, Kid, is do you have a "cut-off date" for the memorabilia you collect ? I've noticed your blog roughly covers the period 1965-1986 so is there a date after which you have no interest in acquiring things ? Talking of the book Wind in the Willows - since I started reading e-books in the last year or so I've been finally, FINALLY getting to read books I've known about all my life but never actually read such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Planet of the Apes, A Christmas Carol, The Left hand of Darkness (by Ursula Le Guin) and, in the last few days, The Haunting of Hill House (which has led to me renting the excellent 1963 film version "The Haunting" which I'll be watching on my tablet tonight - isn't technology great). Anyway, Wind In The Willows counts as another "famous book I've never read" so I'll definitely think about that next.

Kid said...

No real cut-off date, CJ. Obviously, there'll be fewer things I need to re-acquire from later dates because I've probably still got them. Also, if it's a retro toy (say Thunderbirds) made today, I'll probably buy it because it harks back to an earlier time.

John Pitt said...

I couldn't face seeing the changes. It would make me weep. I leave past places preserved as I left them in my memories. Sometimes I revisit them in m my dreams.

Kid said...

I'm always revisiting them in my dreams, JP, which makes it all the sadder when the reality no longer matches up.

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