|Arrived at Buckhurst Hill Station for ‘a walk down memory lane’. This was as much an internal journey for me as an external one, and probably the last time I would wander these streets.
I crossed the big brick-walled railway bridge, and although some buildings were new, I found myself in front of the all-too-familiar street sign that took me back over forty years.
I grew up in Essex, spending my first 12 years here. In 1964 my mother and father, my two sisters and I migrated to Australia, where began the second major phase of my life.
Back on the street. I slowly walked down Loughton Way, noticing the house numbers. We lived at number 76, and here was number 4, I thought. Ok, at least thirty houses to go. I was thinking that this narrative would probably not be very inspirational to my readers, but I was writing it because I needed to, or wanted to.
Everything looked like it had shrunk. The endless road that had stretched indeterminably before me as a child was in reality quite short. As the road veered slightly to the right I saw a giant horse chestnut tree.
Was this the same tree that yielded ripe hard nuts for the ubiquitous ‘Conkers’ games that I played endlessly in Autumn days at school? We would collect the fallen spiky pods that were bulging, their brown insides showing, extract the shiny nuts, thread them on string and set out to conquer our peers in this ancient game.
I stood and got my bearings. Indeed it was the same tree, just older, and taller, like me.
The road veered right. A bus stop. This was the very spot my father and I boarded the bus to the North of England to bid a final goodbye to his relatives in Yorkshire just months before we migrated to Australia.
That chilly morning in 1964 there was snow on the ground, the roads and pavement were covered in treacherous grey ice, and the sky was dark and forboding. Today it is over 30 degrees Celcius – another heatwave for England, and the sky blue.
I walked a little further and there it was – 76 Loughton Way Buckhurst Hill Essex.
It had changed. Renovations had rendered it almost unrecognisable. I checked the numbers. Yes, this was it. No-one was living in it at present, it appeared. There’s the little window of my old room, there’s my parents old room. I remember looking out to see the River Roding had flooded and the fields were shiny with water.
Time to move on. Here was the street I used to ride my go-cart. Up the hill, the same block of flats with the same(!) concrete fence posts. Even the same smell of grass and foliage. I can see myself, shorts on, green Whitebridge School tie and little satchel on my back, labouring over the rise before reaching Blackmore Road, where my friend Billy Lovelock lived.
Down the hill, past the Post Office and the Buckhurst Hill shops, now very run down. Across the street there used to be rolling countryside which led to the River Roding. We used to toboggan there in winter and build snowmen under grey chilly skies.
Cross the street, here’s Greensted Road, school approaching. How tiny the school looks.
Then it was all-encompassing and endless. I am sure Miss Bone the headmistress, Mr Evans the Welshman, and Mrs Galliford have all passed on. The grass has been mowed today in the fields adjoining the playground. It smells just the same as those balmy days in the late fifties.
My sentimental journey has almost ended. I stand a while and see the little pond, the winding path, the trees where I ran and broke my arm during lunchbreak, the playground where Neil Roughton with the stutter and I would talk, and where the lovely Susan Brannon would sometimes wander.
Time is up.
‘Forget the past that sleeps,
And ne’er the future dream at all.
But live with times that are with thee
And progress thee shall call’ – Bhaktivinode Thakur
Posted by Kurma on 13/7/05; 7:27:57 PM from the Travel dept.