experience. Invited to give a lecture at a church hall in the very street where, a little over 30 years ago, J. and I made our first home together, where he carried me over the threshold... After the lecture I walked along the street and paused uncertainly outside the house. Should I? Should? I decided YES, and rang the bell. I'm glad I did. The chap who answered was at first puzzled, then amused and friendly.I explained myself and he invited me in.
Thirty years. So much had changed and so little. Floors stripped now to fashionably stained and varnished boards, and the small kitchen all gleaming with steel and grand equipment. But a table still placed in the big window where I used to sit and work, and a computer where my old typewriter used to be. At that window we strung bunting for the Royal Wedding back in 1981, and held a dinner party. Which caused a slight ripple with the other occupants of the rooms (we were just renting: the kitchen and main room were shared) who were NOT royalists, and indeed had pronounced extreme-left sympathies. We got on all right, however,in the ordinary way and they were friendly and good companions when J. went off to the Royal Military Academy and I had to remain until we managed to find a flat in Camberley...
Thirty years. The sloping-roofed bedroom, the bathroom tucked away at the back.And the landlady who lived downstairs and whose little daughter came out carol-singing with us that first Christmas... it was good to hear, from today's occupant, that the family had prospered and said daughter had sold the house on to the new owners after many happy years there.
Thirty years. The school opposite - I used to watch the pupils sneaking out for furtive sessions of cigarettes - has changed its name but the pupils look pretty much the same, a big racial mix, a lot of chatter, the main addition is mobile phones. The street looks more or less the same, too - the park at the corner where we gathered greenery for our first-ever Advent wreath, wondering if we were breaking some irritating local regulation in doing so, the railway station, the Edwardian houses.
We talked. He was nice. We found, as so often happens, vague connections - his family was Army. I wished him and his family a happy future there together. Perhaps in thirty years he will be back, and with good memories.
I walked on to the station and caught the train to London Bridge, as of old, feeling odd. Thirty years.