You Can Never Go Back?


LongstoweToday is my 900th posting and I started to look back. But the more I looked back the more I became convinced that it was a fruitless exercise. However a recent visit to a place that was very much part of my past, triggered memories. I want to tell you about when the past catches up with you…

Many years ago, when I told a friend that I was going back to visit former work colleagues at a farm I used to work on, I was told that you can never go back. So I took the advice and cancelled my planned visit.

Fast-forward thirty-six years and five months to a recent visit.

I went to a meeting to learn about the massive expansion in rules and regulations that is hitting farming right now. The venue was the Village Hall at Longstowe in Cambridgeshire, the very village I had left in 1978. Apart from a cursory look around when my children were small, I hadn’t been near the village since I left the farm.
Around fifty farmers had an instructive walk around part of the farm estate, guided by experts in the new regulations and the present owner. Much had changed, however I did recognise certain fields and that a fence that I had erected had recently been replaced! I spoke to the present owner (son of the owner that I knew), we chatted about certain parts of the farm and then he dropped a bombshell. The man who I had worked closely with all those years ago, Derek, and who I had thought so very old at the time, had only recently died.

Derek was ‘of the village’. He was born, raised and worked there.
His father was Station-Master until Beeching axed the line in the sixties. Once when young, Derek had taken the train to London. He was about to alight at Kings Cross when he saw all the people, decided that crowds were not for him and stayed on the train until he was safely back home.

Derek had a Morris Marina that despite its age had done minimal mileage. This was unsurprising as the furthest it was ever driven was an occasional trip to Gamlingay, a round trip of around twelve miles. Derek would get the car out of the garage and go through an exhaustive list of checks. During this time word would spread and his cousin ‘Wooper’, ‘Chalky’ White and anyone else nearby, would take their places in the car! Derek never complained but was always surprised how quickly word spread!

When my wife and I became engaged, Derek informed me that his mother and father wished to meet my intended. A Saturday morning was chosen and we were shown, like royalty, into the front room. Derek’s mother produced special mid-morning fare, Camp Coffee made with two heaped teaspoons of sugar, condensed milk and Woolworths finest ‘slab’ fruit-cake. We had a wonderful morning that remains as vivid thirty-six years later as it did back then.

Sad to say, after I left, I never saw Derek again. Despite all the friendship shown to a naive youngster, the many lessons and hours of companionship on the farm that this true gentle-man imparted, I just didn’t make the effort because I’d been told ‘you can’t go back’.

On a day when the change in farming could not have been more emphasised, my thoughts were with an ordinary man who taught me so much, not just about farming, but about life.

So, Derek, rest peacefully, i’m so sorry I didn’t make the effort.
If you ever get a chance to go back in time, just do it, you’ll regret it if you don’t.

© Baldock Bard 2014
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