The junior daughter arrived at Ashford Station on time on Saturday afternoon, after I had negotiated the M40, M25 and M20, arriving five minutes before her train drew into the platform. As I left the motorway and drove towards Ashford, I recognised little of my surroundings. We left Kent nearly 24 years ago, and in that time, Ashford has changed beyond recognition. As I saw the junior daughter and Posetta Baddog come out onto the forecourt, I called out, and the Baddog started keening, and let off the lead, charged towards me, hyperventilating in its excitement. Someone loves me, I thought! And - I love this little dog too.
We were booked into a B & B in High Halden which, joy of joys, allowed dogs to accompany their guests. So - we installed ourselves, and after a welcome cup of tea, got ready for the party.
Often, when one returns to a much-loved milieu, it can be something of a disappointment. I remembered nostalgically all the wonderful times and what fun it was living in a small Kentish village in the early 70's,where the young were so safe, going off on their bicycles exploring, and having a quite idyllic time, no worries at all about traffic, or having fears for their safety. I had a Citroen Dyane, and used to stuff it full of the young, some of them standing up with their heads out of the rolled-back roof, and bowl off to Camber Sands with a picnic. Imagine that being acceptable nowadays! And - the best entertainment for a houseful of cbildren was taking them up to the local strawberry fields, and picking strawberries for tea. Red-stained lips and fingers, and a car full of happy children. And all the friendships forged - I wondered if I was being fanciful.
When H and I arrived, with Posetta Baddog in tow, but, I hasten to add, left in the car, windows open, and snuggly fleece for a bed, I suddenly felt as if I had come home. J and F live in the most wonderful 14thC Kentish farmhouse, in an idyllic setting, and all the happy memories came flooding back. H felt the same - she and her sister adored their time in this village, and I suddenly felt as if we were 24 years back in time.
I felt quite tearful, I recognised so many faces, and people were coming up to us, "Do you remember me? How lovely to see you both" "Hello, it is V and H, isn't it, where is S, is she well?" Hugs, kisses, reminscences, we felt so special, H and I, these lovely people, such special friends, and what a fantastic evening we had with them. It was the most tremendous party, a wonderful atmosphere, and everywhere H and I turned, another familiar and loving face. What an evening it was a celebration for J and F of their 40th wedding anniversary, but more importantly, their 40 years in this lovely village. Generations of their family, grandchildren, and cousins, and aunts and uncles, a wonderful mix - there was a continuous slide show of their married life, all the milestones, all the everyday happenings. H and I found pictures of ourselves and her sister S, looking considerably younger! It was the most joyous occasion, one of the best parties I have ever attended. Life-enhancing. Inviduous, I know, to retrace one's footsteps, one can never turn the clock back, but to be reminded of a life past, much simpler, less complicated, can be a joy, and reminds one that life has been good, and will be again.
2 days ago