A walk by the river in the brilliant white sunlight of a February morning, signs of spring are still scarce, frost lingers in the shadows. Once the bank would have been in a place of busyness, roofless mill buildings stand either side of the river. The walk seems sufficient to merit a visit to the sweet shop. A step back to the 1960s with rows of sweet-filled jars competing for attention, the presence of Hershey bars among the chocolate in Kitty’s Cabin a reminder that the business trades in a 21st Century globalized environment.
‘A quarter of lemon bonbons, please’. Each jar is labelled with a price per 100 grams to satisfy EU law and a price per quarter for those of an age when sweets only came in such portions.
The taste immediately conjures an August day on the Somerset levels. A cycle ride took in a visit to the village shop where lemon bonbons were sold from a jar and then a journey down from the hill on which our village was situated to the moor across which ran the River Cary. The Brooks brothers who lived down our road were seasoned fishermen, the others of us thought it a good way to spend a day. The lingering memory is of the taste of lead, from biting split shot onto the fishing line to weigh it down, and the intense lemon taste of the bonbons; taste and also memories of a sense of perfect contentment.
To recall the year, to be definitive about who was present, to even remember if anyone caught anything, is now impossible, but the moment sitting on the river bank with a white paper bag of sweets remains fresh. If heaven is anything, it will be feeling as contented as on that August day.
Heaven as a moment seems not such a strange thought. A friend in Ulster once told of a conversation with a friend who was a pastor, ‘What’s heaven like?’ he had asked the pastor
‘Heaven?’ said the pastor, ‘Heaven for for me will be standing with my dog on a bridge in one of the glens of Antrim; just standing there looking down the glen. And someone will come up and say, ‘What are you doing?’
And I’ll say, ‘I’m just standing here enjoying the view’.
And they’ll say, ‘Are you standing here long?’
And I’ll say, ‘Ach, no, not more than ten thousand years’.
Ten thousand years of contentment, it wouldn’t be a bad start to eternity.
I went out across the moor just the once, I remember I found the fishing boring, racing around Turn Hill on our bicycles was more fun, however these days a walk along Sidmouth sea-front first thing on a Summer morning would do me now for ten thousand years !
There’s nothing like early morning at the seaside – there’s the beauty of the moment and the anticipation of the day ahead.