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Faces from the past

Just one trip to Scotland and back has turned into a life-changing experience for us both, far more than we expected when we set out.

Carradale - map from Dunvalanree Hotel

Of course it is not every day that we end up buying a house on the west coast of Scotland – we need time for this to sink in, a little longer for the concept of living in Carradale to permeate our brains, time for our mental landscapes to adjust to accommodate the new place, the new land that awaits us. Chance was giving us no quarter, however, for no sooner had we left the Highlands when suddenly our path was swerving towards those of some friends whom I lost contact with over forty years ago.

A small collection of islands sat on the edge of the North Atlantic continental shelf they may be, but Britain is our home. Whilst being conscious of how it is home for our family and for those with whom we have daily contact, we forget how this place is also home to those whose lives have mixed with ours in the past, people we have known in a particular place or at a certain time and who have then passed out of our everyday lives. Each of us wanders along our own path through life, a meandering path that can often pass close to that of someone we know without ever crossing it. Two former friends might pass each other on different sides of the same street without ever re-uniting and of course as our faces change with age, recognition becomes less likely anyway.

It also seems very human to be intrigued by the past, especially by those we have known in our past. Wondering what happened to someone we once knew is so much a part of the human condition that it is hardly a surprise to find the Internet devoting such massive resources to bringing people together, enabling those separated by time and space to communicate freely. To pretend that this electronic medium is somehow less substantial and that the meeting, electronic or otherwise, is therefore less adequate than what went before is to deny the obvious. The great pleasure and satisfaction that can come from re-connecting with one’s past can be sensational, inspiring.

Having broken our journey south in Leeds to visit Kate’s brother Peter, and then in Sheffield to meet our son Ben and his band, Bang Bang Romeo, we begin to receive Facebook messages that for me in particular cast my mind back to 1967, to a time when my hair was long, my arms thin and my teeth all in place. Yet more bikesThis was a time when the favoured mode of travel for me and a group of close but hairy friends was a succession of rather dubious motorcycles, probably considered old at the time but now looking like museum pieces. The Internet has enabled friends Geoff and Shelagh (Geoff far left, Shelagh the photographer?) to emerge from memory into present day, face-to-face reality. (I am centre picture, by the way, face partly hidden behind the windscreen of my pride and joy, a red/grey LE Velocette.)

We had diverted our journey home to visit my mother in the South-East and as a result, soon after the initial electronic contact we hastily arranged a meeting and over a pub lunch in Wadhurst there we were pouring over old photographs, hazy memories being resuscitated. In the faces around the table were the faces I once knew, subtly altered by time but easily recognisable – the human face is what we remember best of all when everything else is forgotten. Fortunately the Internet is no respecter of international boundaries so the fact that the life-paths of at least two of this group have taken them outside Britain has not prevented them now being part of a revitalised regrouping. And such was the warmth that flowed from those of us who were able to meet in person that it is hard to see how henceforth our lives will ever disconnect again. It really felt good to be part of this assembly. Thanks guys. Don’t disappear again!

Back in Yeovil we dropped down to earth with a dull thud as it dawned on us that we have but a few weeks to complete the house rejuvenation project that we started back in September last year, to pack our belongings away and transport the lot up to Scotland. It is one of the joys of the place that a house purchase there is a simple and rapid affair, although this now puts us under a lot of pressure. We have a deadline to aim for, achievable but buttock-clenchingly tight, one might say, so a plan of action is needed to guide us on our way. Fortunately this is just the sort of thing we do quite well. We have had plenty of practice.

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