Saturday, May 29, 2010

Starting Here

I figure that, pushed to rely on memory alone I would guess that it was the late summer of 1964. Nelson Mandela had been jailed for life. And if you decide to read on then please allow me some indulgences. I know that the stories I tell are just that. Remembered for the most part over a gap of forty or more years.
When other people see the words they will quite rightly want to challenge my version. In some cases they may even be annoyed but it will never be my intention to offend. These are the colours that I saw. These are the sounds that I heard. These are the smells and tastes of my memory and the times, places and objects that touched me as I hold them now in my mind.
You may not even feel they happened at all, well so be it. Let them then be reflections upon and stories from another age. Snapshots from an ordinary life.
So! I want to take you back to a dozen or so years covering the period where I grew from infant to the day I left my parental home. From around the age of six to just after my eighteenth birthday I lived in a small village straddling the border between South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. The village of Swineford. The village where I grew up.

What was that little village like back then? I have often seen it said that if you think you can remember the sixties then you weren’t really there, but this of course was directed at a different set of tastes and a generation slightly older than I was.
As my sisters and I grew there, our horizons moved from house to garden to village and later to the lure of the cities. For each in our way, it was leaving home that showed us how lucky we were

Swineford lies near halfway between the cities of Bath and Bristol, held between a bend on the north side of the river crossing known since before time was a record, and a road that the Romans marched upon. A mixture of new electrical light industries replacing the water driven copper and ochre mills of its rivers and streams. A farm, a pub, an old tin chapel marked the eastern end and to the west a small hill climbed up out of the village past elm trees and the paddock where the village landlord kept his hens.
A spot where planners shuffled the Somerset and Gloucestershire border, leading to a confusion of addresses, eventually giving up to the short lived county of Avon before returning once more to South Gloucestershire.
Less than half a mile long and strung out along a main road. You might have swept past it through it in a car taking no notice and leaving no record. Perhaps on your way to visit the Georgian splendour of Bath, or maybe opposite to the shops at Bitton. Maybe the only thing to strike you, the tall chimney of the mill, surrounded by attendant buildings, and hiding your view of the river.

to be continued

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