Each evening is noticeably shorter than its predecessor, walking the village roads will soon demand an awareness of the complete absence of street lighting. Wandering high-hedged lanes with barely a verge to which to retreat has become much more hazardous than the days when drivers rode in Morris Minors, Austin A35s and Land Rovers that travelled at thirty miles per hour. A week into the autumn and there was sunset worthy of high summer, a fiery orange glow in the west and bars of pink cloud in the sky above. Unlike the evenings in June, however, it did not linger and a gloom soon descended.
Turning onto the road of countless childhood journeys home, a sign announcing “playing field” is always cheering. In those times now long past, no-one thought such a facility necessary, and even the school’s football pitch, with its whitewashed goalposts was out of bounds. To have trespassed upon school property would have invited retribution from the headmistress who lived out of sight, but within earshot of the shouts of boys who might have embarked upon a game of soccer. A local farmer cast a benign eye upon those who gathered in his pasture for football in autumn and spring, and cricket in the evenings of the brief summer. A playing field would have been a boon to the youth of our road. Whilst the village school now thrives, there being such traffic congestion at 8.45 and 3.30 each day that an unofficial one-way system now operates in the village, the number of children resident in the village remains small. The well-maintained, excellently-equipped playing field seems rarely frequented by more than a handful of young people.
There was little light remaining and to hear voices from deep within the field was a surprise; games of any sort would have been impossible, the playground equipment used by the younger children would have been the only thing that might have been used. In the deep greyness, two small figures appeared through the gateway, deep in conversation. Screwing up the eyes to try to see through the dimness, there was the realisation that the two companions were a nephew and a grand-nephew, only days apart in their age.
“Uncle Ian,” they called.
There was a delight in walking back with the two ten year olds; they had been told they could go out until it was dark, and had interpreted “dark” in a liberal way, as their uncle would have done five decades previously. Passing the field where a farmer had once allowed the playing of football, one could almost hear the shouts of boys now grown grey.