At the Farmers' Market in the Pantiles, people watching can often be as interesting as bird watching.
Going back to a place where you used to live in the company of someone who never lived there and didn't know you when you did, can be difficult. Memories anchored only by your own life in the distant past need too much explanation to avoid being boring. Often they will seem trivial and their significance hard to explain even to oneself. How to tell Heidi with whom I travel to Forest Row on the bus yesterday, that when we lived there before World War 2, the fishmonger on the corner opposite the church was called Mrs Halibut (of course she wasn't but my memory insists that she was), or about the white bluebells among the blue ones in the wood next to the house where we lived, or the road where the house still is, which used to be unmade and full of puddles in wet weather where I paddled in my wellies, or the woman whom we met on a walk through the heather called me "ducky", a familiar endearment in those days, but new and fascinating to a five-year old?
The village is not a pretty village, though I dare say it was prettier in 1939 than it is now. Worst of all, the most conspicuous pub, with its beams, low roof and faded red brick, has a menu too long to trust, and I begin to fear that my nostalgia has prompted us to leave the bus at an unsuitable village for lunch. But a chance encounter with a woman smoking at a table outside a sad pizzeria directs us to the unpretentious Swan, where the food matches the interest of the menu and there is a table half in the sun and half in the shade, where we can sit and watch the world turn about us, and I can restore the present to its proper place.
A man in shirt sleeves and dark grey trousers crosses the Grove walking fast considering how warm it is. He is holding his jacket (the other half of his suit, one supposes) at the neck so that it hangs down away from his body as though suspended from a hook, rather than over his arm as people usually carry a coat or jacket. He could be an actor, I think to myself, making a point about a garment, which he may not like, or which is too precious to crease.
Well you've certainly made a good job of telling us about it! It's a lovely piece, so packed with detail and richness; sometimes writing does it better than speech. But you also convey that sense of anxious responsibility one feels at trying to present something or somewhere that is important and meaningful to oneself to someone who is also important, the sense that somehow you'll let one or the other of them down...
Glad the pub food and the present was good!
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