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U3A Writing: Memories

Gill Laurence recalls bygone days.

The railway track had been removed years ago, of course. And the quiet country road that ran past the other end of the avenue was now a busy dual carriageway, so the level crossing would have gone too. More than sixty years, she realised, since two excited children had seen their new home for the first time.

The little train running alongside the big garden had been an unexpected thrill. She had been rather scared at first, but she was soon brave enough to stand on the garden fence with her brother whenever the train was expected. If they leaned forward far enough they could see the level crossing, and they had devised a chant, “The gates are open, the signal’s down and HERE COMES THE TRAIN!” Her brother never really understood her fear that if they weren’t on the fence something awful would happen ¾ the train might come off the track and into the garden.

They liked to play on the embankment, filled with wild flowers and stinging nettles. It was here, when she was ten, that a little boy called John had asked her to marry him. She had accepted the ring, which he had ‘borrowed’ from his little sister but had explained that she couldn’t really marry him because he was younger than her.

Years later another John had proposed to her, but this time it was in the field on the other side of the railway track. She supposed the field was probably filled with houses now. A footpath through the field had led to the sea, and surely that must still be there. At the time of the spring tides it would come right up the village street, flooding the little cottages. Once it came right up to the level crossing.

Soon after she went to work in London her family had moved away, and she had never been back. Her romance with John had ended; she had married someone else and gone to live in the North. But she had kept in touch with a school friend. They had met infrequently in London, and she had heard of all the changes. It always made her feel sad, as she tried to cling to the memories of an idyllic childhood.

But now her old school friend was dying and she must go back before it was too late. Slowly she climbed into the taxi. and her reluctant journey to the past began.

Bedford U3A


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