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.
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.
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?
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?