I have been re-reading Cider with Rosie, by Laurie Lee. I first read it and watched a TV version in the 1970s. It has been part of me ever since – in a jumbled, tumbled version that had taken variable root in my brain: the wonder of being dropped into the life of a cottage and a village, a mother, sisters and brothers, illness and delirium, deaths, the grannies, the millpond and the vulnerability of madness, drawing, painting, playing the fiddle.
He wrote as if this were an autobiography – some of the observations, or creations, must have been drawn from the stories given to him by his sisters or mother, for he was surely too young for all this to have been registered – But that is fine.
He reflects that his early years spanned a change from life as it had been led for thousands of years, to a new world. Life restricted to the plodding of a horse of up to eight miles an hour, to life freed by steam and the petrol engine to travel further and faster, to experience places and people and riches, which had previously been out of reach. For those who live with this expanded experience, and a shrunken world and universe, there remains the need for knowing some things and some people in depth, with love and wonder, and thanks for those elements that give some sense of assurance.
It is marvellous to be so closely and generously inside someone – and it has been impossible for me not to relive times of my life, shared with people and places which are hardwired into my being.
So it is for all of us. Our Monday walks bring together people of ages from their 50s to our 80s – some have lived locally all those years, others have come from elsewhere. The walking gives an undemanding rhythm which frees reflections, and getting to know each other now – in frames which have been forged when few had cars, where school had classes of 50, where windows were iced inside on winter mornings, when polio and TB happened to neighbours – and closer; where the bicycle took us to work and back and further on Sundays.
To do this, you do not have to be cognitively perfectly preserved. It is moving, impressive and revealing what can been retrieved through the mists, and what new insights and wisdom are achieved.