Those who know us won’t be surprised to learn that we have been busy organising a move from Bridgnorth to Kinver. This is mostly the result of Vic’s temporary loss of mobility over the past 2 or 3 years. Although she is now almost “back to normal” as far as walking and gardening are concerned – back to her famous ‘Duracell Bunny’ levels of non-stop energy! – we find increasingly that the difficult parking situation here in Friar’s Street, together with its steep flights of steps – to be a warning that our little house perched on its sandstone bluff would not be a suitable abode in which to grow old. As well as the physical difficulties of, for instance, heaving loads of shopping up to our front door from various (often forgotten) parking places, both of us feel that we are also beginning to suffer from mental lapses – problems of short term memory like placing car keys in the fridge or cracking eggs into a teapot, for instance – that bode uneasily for the future. We will be moving to Kinver primarily to be much nearer to our daughter Amy and her lovely family who will hopefully “keep an eye” on our increasingly senile maunderings. I am sad to be leaving Bridgnorth – just the right size of town, not too big but with an infinite variety of habitats, from the doctors and solicitors of High Town’s posh Castle Street to the estates and light industry of Low Town. An amazing cross section of history is represented in Bridgnorth, from the marauding Viking incursion over Danesford to the incomplete demolition of the castle during the so-called ‘Civil’ War to its present various post-industrial aftermaths. Mostly it is the friendliness and good humour of its citizens that, dour and shy myself, I shall miss. We will find ourselves moving into what I would once have considered as a snooty youth to be a nightmare cliché of a building – a late 20th century suburban bungalow. Our new bungalow (I notice that bungalow owners enjoy repeating the word ‘bungalow’ – for its connotations of bourgeois comfort perhaps?), our new bungalow does have at least six parking spaces, or so the brochure boasts. It also boasts “attractive front and rear gardens”. No doubt Vic will work her green-fingered magic to transform the back “lawn” from what it is now – a scruffy playground with trampoline for small boy and dog – into an Eden rampant with lush horticulture. It is, as bungalow owners proudly say, “handy for the shops”. No doubt our Kinver bungalow will eventually provide the same variety of experiences and stimuli and that, in time, most human contexts will discover. The alternative would be to surrender to the kind of “sheltered accommodation” that Messrs McCartney and Stoneheart recently showed us around. Pride of tour was given to the faintly pee-scented Residents’ Lounge where a variety of “singsongs and get-togethers” take place every weekend. (A visiting conjurer had just been to entertain them – a “surprise” playing card was still stuck to the ceiling). It was the kind of Home where Vic was assured that, yes, she would be welcomed onto the advisory gardening committee but inmates were not encouraged to do any actual gardening. You can probably tell that I am beginning to feel the kinds of unsettled emotions that moving again will bring to the fore. Having travelled so far from my natal place, a small maternity hut in darkest West Africa, and having moved more or less randomly so often since then, I do wonder if that old truism about people who are rooted in a particular place being generally more contented than the peripatetic rest of us may in fact be true? I recently attended the funeral of a friend who truly did live and die in the same house in which he was born ; I have to report that he did appear to be among the happiest and “best adjusted” of mortals. Meanwhile like a vulnerable hermit crab I scuttle forth to find my next approximately suitable shell-ter.
Do you know the poem “When first I came ” by Edward Thomas? I think it perhaps sums up some of my on-the-point-of-moving-yet-again sense of anticipated disappointment. I have cut the last verse, which has always puzzled, but here are the first 5 verses:
When first I came here I had hope –
Hope for I knew not what. Fast beat
My heart at the sight of the tall slope
Of grass and yews, as if my feet
Only by scaling its steps of chalk
Would see something no other hill
Ever disclosed. And now I walk
Down it the last time. Never will
My heart beat so again at sight
Of any hill although as fair
And loftier. For infinite
The change, late unperceived, this year,
The twelfth, suddenly, shows me plain.
Hope now,–not health nor cheerfulness,
Since they can come and go again,
As often one brief hour witnesses,–
Just hope has gone forever. Perhaps
I may love other hills yet more
Than this: the future and the maps
Hide something I was waiting for…?