Evoking childhood

Mar 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Personal Columns

I have a used one day travel ticket for the London Underground in my wallet—I don’t know why.

Well, when I think about it, I do know why.

It goes back to being a child deep in the English West Country. London was a place that you rarely, if ever visited, it was the land of success and dreams. I remember wealthy people who would talk about “going up to ‘town’”, as if the 120 mile journey to London was as simple as going to the local shops. Going to London was something special; it was to see the same places and to walk the same streets as the rich and the powerful. Never mind that you were a yokel up from the country on a day trip, for that day you could imagine.

When I grew up and spent three years there as a student, London did not turn out to be a place of dreams or success; it proved to be a very lonely place. Yet as the years have passed, the sense of magic has returned. Going there for a day at the end of November and walking through the Christmas fair in Hyde Park; meeting friends for lunch in Mayfair; taking a black London cab across the river; browsing the open air bookstalls on the South Bank; sitting on the Embankment talking before going our separate ways at six o’clock; there was a recapturing of a childhood sense of delight.

Of course, I should throw out the silly ticket (along with one from the Paris Metro from some years previously), but it conjures up thoughts of places and sights and sounds and memories.

The Easter story, for me, also brings back a childhood sense of delight. Each year Good Friday 1968 comes vividly to mind. A friend of my mother’s came and took my sister and I for a walk – there were only two of us at the time, our younger sister would be born later that month.

We walked a long way for children of seven and three, two or three miles to local woods. I think my sister may have had the assistance of a pushchair.

We gathered flowers in the woods. In my memory they are bluebells, but it would probably have been too early in the year; maybe pale yellow primroses, the sort of flowers that would grace an Easter garden.

I made a frieze when we got home – a series of white pieces of paper on which I drew the Good Friday story that we had been told at High Ham Church of England Primary School. The only thing I remember from what I drew is my attempt at Pontius Pilate – a figure, drawn badly, of a man seated behind a bowl of water. For some strange reason, I coloured him bright yellow.

Yellow is the only colour I remember from those drawings. Maybe there has been filtering in the memory; yellow, white and gold being the colours of Easter celebration in more recent times.

Why that single afternoon remains so vivid in my memory, I am not sure. There must have been many other moments of more significance, many moments more exciting.

The railway ticket and the Easter story, both evoking memories of childhood; yet while one belongs very firmly to the past, the other looks forward to a bright new future.

The Rector’s letter from the April edition of “Tidings”, the parish magazine.

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  1. Ian, When you write of your childhood experiences they also bring back childhood memories of High Ham for me too, I am assuming the woods were Turn Hill? I spent many happy hours there too, building dens and playing games. Bluebells did grow at Turn Hill.There was also cowslips.
    I too was excited by a trip to London, unfortunately now for me unlike yourself I would hate to have to go to London.

  2. Nice. Spent from 4 to 7 in the in the Mendip hills myself.

  3. Oddly, it was Pitney woods and I met the woman who took us at Nan Crossman’s funeral in 2007 – she had no recall. I too would hate to ‘have to go’ to London, but find when I take it on my own terms, it’s not such a bad place (certainly cheaper than Dublin!)

  4. I could see the Mendips from my bedroom window. They had a Tolkien-like Misty Mountain quality about them, partly because they were beyond Glastonbury Tor, which was a strange enough place in childhood imagination.

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