Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Tale of Two Villages

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light..." 

So wrote Charles Dickens more than a hundred and fifty years ago in A Tale of Two Cities. His words have been echoing in my mind this weekend.

This time last year, as long-time readers of this blog will know, we lived in the best street in the best village in the world. And as the last Saturday in November dawned, we were up early, donning our warmest clothing for the best weekend of the year, the weekend when the residents of Crown Road put up the Christmas lights.

But six months ago, knowing that we couldn't go on renting for ever, and having given up hope of ever being able to afford to buy a house in Shoreham, we moved along the valley to Otford. This year, there was no slip of paper through the letter box confirming the date or time to assemble, there was no bustle and noise outside as the boxes of light-bulbs and wheels of cable were placed at strategic points along the street.

Instead, a few days ago, Philip received a text from Keith, our old landlord and ex-next door neighbour, inviting us to go along and join the annual ritual. Philip knew straight away that he wanted to go, I took a little longer to set aside my grudging sense of disappointment that our new village has not yet entwined itself into our hearts, and finally agree that it would be a good thing to go back and join in.

So yesterday, instead of just opening the front door and stepping outside, we jumped in the car and drove along the valley. And when we arrived, all was just as it should be. We slotted straight back into the roles we'd been assigned last year. Philip in charge of the Christmas tree at the end of the road, me the queen of the WD40, making sure all the bulb sockets were liberally squirted.

Nobody was surprised that we were there, though many asserted their pleasure that we were. Some things had changed - different window frames on one house, a new car outside another, but so many things were still the same. We chatted and worked, exclaimed with gratitude at the coffee and flapjacks as they appeared and praised the choc-chip biscuits made by Imogen, who wasn't even born the first year we were there to put up the lights.

There were some new neighbours, joining in for the very first time, and about to find out the wonder of those bright lights in the darkest month of the year. There were others who, like us, have moved away and were spoken of and remembered fondly.

At the end of the morning, as always, we made our way to The Crown, the pub at the top of the road, the pub that had been our very first visiting place in the village and the venue for our wedding reception. There we all squashed into the small front bar, recently decorated by the new landlords who are slowly and quietly working their way into the affections of the village.

And it was only then, as we all raised a cheer to Crown Road and its lights, that it really hit me. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We've moved along the valley, but my heart is still living at no 13.



30 comments:

"As We Speak" said...

That is so sweet, that sense of community. What lovely neighbors you had. I think that you have proven, that "You can go home again!

Philip said...

Beautifully put. My heart is still at number 13. My feet are in Otford. My heart spans the whole valley and yet is swept along the river from Otford to Shoreham. It is in us, even if we are not, at the moment in it.

Robbie Grey said...

That was very sweet.

Dicky said...

Lovely post Sharon. I have a friend who lives in a little village called West Meon which is in Hampshire. It has the same sence of community you describe so well here.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Give it a little time. Maybe you will be able to charm your new neighbours into a new tradition.

Nessa Roo said...

How lucky you are to be the neighbors that people call back, instead of being the neighbors everybody was happy to see go. (Did that make sense? I hope it did.)

The Elephant's Child said...

How lovely. I do hope you find (make?) the same sense of community in your new home and have the best of two worlds. To be not only welcomed, but invited back is magic.

Liz said...

I'm so glad you were there for the annual tradition. They're family, aren't they.

Susan Cooper said...

How lovely, such a nice sentimental journey. I think we all find ourselves flashing back to 13 at different points of time.

It is also heart warming to know that a sense of community can still exist today. I hope that you will find the same where you now live.

:-), Susan Cooper

Starlight said...

Beautiful but sad. Maybe you could start this tradition in Otford?

Anonymous said...

No mention of sausages then Sharon ;)


Lovely to see you

Sharon

Cle Reveries said...

I've changed many towns in my life and very often forever: I didn't come back any more. You are lucky to have the possibility to meet your old friends at least once in a year enjoying them once more. Our heart is where we were happy, we want to forget that but it is impossible!

Linda Myers said...

What a lovely post! Thanks.

Wally B said...

I'm banking on you transforming the new community. In a few years, you'll go back and it will all have changed. Make new memories.

Pat said...

But what luck that you are still in spitting distance and what a compliment that they still want you around.
Seems pretty ideal to me that you can build new relationships in your new home and foster your old ones.
Distance is all.

Olga said...

I could really feel what it's like to move to a new place, after living a happy life in a different place. I even felt a little melancholy. However, I hope that your new home will soon acquire the qualities that are pleasant and comforting for the soul.

Rajnish said...

great post and beautifully written...
www.rajnishonline.blogspot.com

Suman said...

This has made me really nostalgic. True, it is difficult to let change grow on you. No matter how good or bad, we always long for the old, comfortable mould.
I do remember pictures of a Christmas tree from Philip's blog last year. I hope the sense of belonging knocks at your door soon.

Nicole said...

Oh I'm just terribly sad for you that you couldn't stay put. I know you're still close and that you are maintaining those relationships, but, well. Well, I've moved a bit and it's just so melancholy while you wait for the old home to dissolve into a place you love to visit while your new place becomes home.

But it will come, feeling at home in your new place.

Bill Dameron said...

Don't we all long for a village where we are an integral part of the whole? Living in a city as I do, we become so disconnected. This was a lovely reminder of what can be.

Hillary said...

Oh, Sharon! How beautiful. I, too, know what it is to love a very specific place and sometimes ache to be back in it. I am very glad that you still live close to no. 13and joined in the decorating for Christmas, and I am glad you told all of us about it. Short but very sweet piece of writing.

Sharon Longworth said...

As We Speak - so true, we had some lovely neighbours who welcomed us from our very first day in the street - I know how lucky we were.

Philip - I may not say this often... you are a very wise man x

Robbie - thanks!

Dicky - thank you. I guess there are villages like this all over the place, I'm just glad we stumbled on this one, and hopeful that our new village will turn out the same.

mybabyjohn/Delores - yes, I think that's what we need to do. I am beginning to settle down here, so soon time to start building some new traditions.

Sharon Longworth said...

Nessa Roo - that's a lovely perspective to put on it - I guess we are lucky aren't we?

The elephant's child - the best of both worlds - that's certainly worth aiming for!

Liz - as ever, you got it. x

Susan - thank you. It's a lovely thought that we all have our own versions of no. 13.

Starlight - thank you. I guess, because we just fell into the traditions in Shoreham, I never even thought about trying to start them in Otford - daunting, but worth some thought!

Sharon Longworth said...

Sharon - oh my goodness, I snuck several sneaky sausages in, and then didn't have the grace to either admit it or say thank you! embarrassed and humbled...

Cle - you're right, we are very lucky that we still have the chance to go back. Thank you for reminding me :)

Linda - thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.

Wally - wise advice, thank you.

Pat - so many people have pointed out the obvious, that I'm beginning to feel somewhat foolish - we are indeed very lucky and I should appreciate what I've got and still have.

Sharon Longworth said...

Olga - I'm sorry for spreading the melancholy and thank you for your kind wishes

Rajnish - thank you!

Suman - thank you; I'll make sure to rush and open the door when that sense of belonging comes to call!

Nicole - thank you - I think you understand exactly how I've felt, but I know I'll adjust in time.

Bill - thank you, I think that's it in a nutshell - that sense of belonging we all seem to seek.

Hillary - thank you!

download unikey said...

Don't we all long for a village where we are an integral part of the whole? Living in a city as I do, we become so disconnected. This was a lovely reminder of what can be.
Lovely to sĂȘ you. Tks so much!

Tap hat said...

Tks my goodness! Don't we all long for a village where we are an integral part of the whole? Living in a city as I do, we become so disconnected. This was a lovely reminder of what can be.
Remember me!

Tap hat said...

How lovely, such a nice sentimental journey. I think we all find ourselves flashing back to 13 at different points of time.

hoc hat hay said...

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Lizzie said...

So lovely and I feel a little jealous you have somewhere so warm to visit each year, even if you dont live there all the time - it sounds like a wonderful place to be.