Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 5 February 2017
Been and gone
This is a place which - until quite recently - could only be visited in a car, or in a dream. It is the small private road which runs in front of the house I grew up in and left aged 16, all those years ago. The photo is a Google Street View.
Having updated the maps app on my iPhone, I looked up the road in rural Surrey and - using one finger - walked its entire length as I had done - using my feet - many times before as a child.
There are many new houses built either side of it now and the private school 500 yards away from here has gone, but it is intrinsically the same, recognisable road as it was over 60 years ago when we first came to live on it.
I decided to take the route out toward Guildford as I did many times on my motorcycle, when I left my parents in bed to go back to my new home. After reaching the bottom of Mount Hill, I found that this stretch was pretty much how it had always been, with leafy hedges hiding open fields on both sides.
The road rises to a little hump-back bridge over the railway line, and when I reached it, I would gun the engine of my bike in the darkness to let my parents know that I had got that far without mishap. They would lie in bed waiting for the distant sound of a Triumph 650 briefly revving a final goodbye, then go to sleep. I see they have replaced the red brickwork on both sides of the bridge.
That tree stump in the photo is all that remains of a large Poplar, and I am surprised that so much of it does remain. Maybe they left the huge stump just for me.
One lonely Summer, I spent several days riding my bicycle up and down this private road, back and forth repetetively like a caged tiger. The Poplar's roots had grown halfway into the road, and with each pass I would steer my front wheel over the largest of the roots which pushed through the tarmac, giving myself a little lift from the flat surface. It made a change.
For hours, I would ride up and down this road with The Shadows's 'Stars Fell on Stockton' running through my head and dreaming of an imaginary American girlfriend, until it would begin to get dark and I would go inside.
Summers for me were whole months of loneliness - even the annual two weeks in Brighton with an aunt and uncle, taking walks through The Lanes, pushing pennies into slots of machines on the Palace Pier, watching the coloured lights come on in the gardens around The Pavilion and watching the build-up between opposing groups of Mods and Rockers on the Front - completely surrounded by people - were suffused with loneliness.
I went into an esspresso bar there one evening, and espied a - to my eyes - very beautiful young girl amongst a group of friends. She must have been around 19 and I was about 14. All I could do at that time was stare, and try to make it meaningful.
I think I had made the right choice in this girl, because she gave me some very good and kind advice.
She noticed me desperately gawping at her from the other side of the room and left her group to come over to me. I began to panic.
She leant forward to me and quietly said, "Don't worry. Your time will come," then returned to her friends.
It was not until some years later that I realised that I was not always missing out on parties just because I was on my own, and that everyone else was not having a great time without me if I was not with them. It took a while, but she was right.