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Mar 26th, 2007 | By | Category: Personal Columns

I spent the third week in March back England, attending lectures at Trinity College in Bristol. I was so late in trying to book a room for the week that the College accommodation was all full and I found myself commuting from my parents’ home in Somerset up to the college which is on the Downs at the western edge of Bristol. The forty mile drive wasn’t so bad – I listened to the wisdom of Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2 as I travelled up the M5 at 7.30 each day, and I had the chance to wander around my home village one evening.

The village hasn’t changed much. The village shop still has the name of the old owner engraved in the glass above the door, except it long ago stopped being a shop. The post office closed years ago, its closure bringing the removal of the village telephone box to a different side of the village green. Amazingly, the phone box is still there. Who uses it now? This is a village of 4×4 home county exiles, satellite television and broadband users. Even when I was a kid we were one of the few families that went to the green to call people.

The village church never changes. Each time I step inside it, I try to muster affection for the place, but get no special sense of anything there. It has two main memories. School services on Ascension Day where there was a big wooden crown brought out. It had little pots attached to the front of it in which were placed bunches of flowers brought by the village school children. The only flowers in our garden were wallflowers (appropriate, I felt, for me), and these didn’t merit any place of prominence, being tucked away in a pot near the bottom and then concealed behind someone else’s bunch. The other memory was of a Nativity Play where I had to read the lines for one of the kings—an old woman called Flo told me afterwards that I had read far too fast and that she couldn’t hear a word I said. (I never liked her; she was a horrible old bag who used to shout at my friends).

The village school is new and it’s beautiful, built in fine Somerset stone. It’s a great school, one of the best in the country, and I am proud to have attended it and I’m thankful to Miss Rabbage, my old teacher, for the opportunities I have had in life.

I stood outside the school and tried to remember what it was like to be there 35 years ago. I can still recall the moment when I walked out of its doors for the last time. It was a good place to be.

Walking back to the road where our house was the last in a row of council houses, I thought about how many changes I had been through, how God has done the most unexpected things in the life of a scrawny, sickly kid who didn’t get invited to parties.

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