It’s easy to forget how much time we straddle.
This post last week sent me on a small trip back in time to my childhood. The reminiscence continued last night over barbecued trout and new potatoes with Paul, who grew up about 15 miles away from where I did. Both of us shared some basic experiences of the rural areas we knew as kids disappearing in the intervening period.
The fields across which I used to walk the dog, tractor ruts to the top of your boots, are now housing estates leading down to a marina where several million pounds worth of yachts now sit flatly, the waves being completely stilled by the cunning design of the outlet to the river.
I remember the first supermarket in the area opening up: a twenty minute drive to a great aircraft hangar of a building. Whenever I return home, walking down the High Street, I can recall the sequence of the shops put out of business by that supermarket.
Baker, butcher, greengrocer, dry goods, chemist, stationers.
The sugary smell of the chemist; all those sweets it used to sell to mothers trying to keep the kids quiet as they trailed round the shops in the same order each day. The fact that buying even bread would involve having a couple of conversations. Being sent down the road with a pound note to buy fags.
Sweet Jesus, I’m turning into Alan Bennett.
My eye alighted this morning on the word ‘cove’ in its secondary meaning of man or fellow. I can’t have heard this usage in nearly twenty years, not since, as a kid, the examining doctor told me I was “a fair-skinned sort of a cove” and I should be careful in the sun.
Doctors, my doctor friends always tell me, live in a different world. I suspect that they can afford to live in the past. I don’t necessarily mean that detrimentally; I mean that their profession affords continuity, a firmer grip on the time that has been traversed.
Almost nothing I do professionally or socially would have been the same twenty years ago. Buying fresh bread, hot out of the oven, now appears as a luxurious exercise only possible in expensive delis or 24 hour shops with pretensions above their station. It’s difficult to believe that it was only 25 years ago that most mornings would involve someone coming back from the bakery, the bread warming their hands.