Friends are important, we humans are fundamentally social beings
At my sister’s recent book launch, I was delighted to meet an old friend from school days, Nick Henderson. Although he looks older – as, of course, I do too – his personality is entirely as I remember from the mid 1960s. We agreed to meet again this morning at the Golden Cross in Cirencester, and it was a delight.
Nick and I last met when we were both living at home and very probably still at school. For a year or two we used to hang out quite a bit. I remember going with Nick to see a local band called The Corals during a record-breaking attempt at playing non-stop without repeating any songs; the drummer, one Colin Flooks, another lad from our school year, later became famous as Cozy Powell. And yes, they did break that record – in fact they smashed it by playing for 11½ hours.
Nick and I talked about many things, catching up on our personal journeys over the last half century, recalling the cross-country runs that were compulsory on Wednesday afternoons at school, and thinking about Daglingworth Brook, the River Churn and how the water is channelled in and around the town. The drainage courses have changed over the years, altered for many reasons, beginning in Roman times when the town was young, and continuing right down to the present.
Friends are important, we humans are fundamentally social beings; renewing a connection after such a long gap has been a very special thing for me. More so than I had expected or imagined.
The shop had a wonderful cellar, always full of mysterious packages of garden chemicals and other shop stock…
The centre of Cirencester has buildings of a variety of ages, from the Roman City Wall (a small part of which is visible in the Abbey Park) to Victorian and more recent constructions. Walking in the town with my camera today, I took some shots of a 19th century development.
These are the upper floors of a three-storey terrace, a planned development that replaced older properties. The section at the right hand end was used as a florist’s shop for many decades (now Vodafone). I remember it as a child because my father was one of four brothers who owned and ran the shop as part of a larger business with several plant nurseries in the country areas around the town.
The shop had a wonderful cellar, always full of mysterious packages of garden chemicals and other shop stock, and before Christmas there were sometimes hyacinth bulbs being forced for early flowering. There was a marvellous fusty, moist, florist’s aroma in the cellar, but the most exciting thing was the knowledge that the cellar was bigger than the shop floor above. Castle Street was widened when the new development was built, but the cellars of the old buildings were retained. There are stone pillars in the cellar that support the heavy masonry above.
Here’s another view of the same shop from a different angle, the photo was taken by my father in the 1960s. I love the fact that this image includes the shop window displays as these always fascinated me as a young child. I also remember that my grandfather’s office window was above the main door on the corner, and the landscape design office was on the top floor with the small bay window.
And finally, for comparison, here’s another view of the same shop today.
“When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.” – Dylan Thomas
I spotted this quote on the wall in Coffee#1 in Cirencester. I like it – a lot!
I suppose in some ways Donna and I have ‘burned our bridges’ by moving from St Neots to Cirencester. The sense of ‘no going back’ is strong, it cost money and effort to make the move, and the house we loved and lived in now belongs to someone else.
Burning bridges makes it hard to return, to go back to the old ways. Decisions can be open to reversal, but the decision to burn a bridge cannot be reversed. Once burning it’s hard to put out, and once gone it’s hard to replace.
We are looking forward now, not back. Our old friends in St Neots are not forgotten, we will return to visit, but not to remain. We miss many of them already and we know they also miss us; but there are new friends, not yet known. It’s exciting. And because we intend to follow Jesus, and because we understand he wanted us to come here in the first place, we are very confident and excited about what will come next. But the past? The bridge that led that way is smouldering and impassable. Life always goes forwards, never back.
Well, we did it. We moved from our old home in St Neots, to a small house in Stratton. The old village of Stratton is on the northern edge of Cirencester, mostly between the roads to Gloucester and Cheltenham.
The 18th of April was the big day. We drove down to Cirencester, collected the keys to our new home, and our furniture and boxes of possessions arrived the following day. And I do mean boxes – and boxes – and more boxes – and yet more boxes! The garage is packed to bursting, the house is full of clutter, but we’re sorting through it all and making progress. The lounge is tidy now, the kitchen is functional, and we should have a little more time from now on to explore the area and begin to live our lives again.
I’ll be writing again soon to tell you more about the house, the town and the countryside all around.