It was summer 1979 and my life, unbeknownst to me at the time , was about to change exponentially - I was about to become an alien from out of space!
You may gasp; you may think I jest, yet that is often how I felt for the next seven years...... The reason for this was because my father, two years earlier, when I was nine, sat me down with my Mum and announced that he was going to train to be a priest; that we would have to move and that he was going to ensure that it would be as seamless as possible, with minimum disruption to my education.
Well the latter was mostly correct...... though my emotional and social wellbeing didn’t fare so well!
I discovered very early on that being the daughter of someone training to be a priest (an ordinand), let alone a Curate’s daughter in a North Nottinghamshire Mining Town (from 1981-1984) made my peers treat me like I was an alien; I no longer fitted in like I had in my delightful Primary School in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and, being the new girl - again and again as we moved (final one in 1984 to East Nottinghamshire where my father had four parishes to look after) took its toll for sure. To this day I only have two friends, from my sixth form at Southwell Minster School, who I am in touch with. And that’s ok - it is part of my life and has helped to make me the resilient little being that I am today.
The one thing which kept me going through these year was my music, which I always immersed myself in, and indeed from as early as the age of eight, I decided I wished to do a Music Degree; that dream came true and I graduated from Kingston University with a 2:1 degree in 1989.
Last Sunday, 26th August, I unlocked the key on that fateful summer of 1979, as a result of my decision to impulsively turn off the A40 just south of Oxford and enter the villages pf Wheatley, where my school had been, and then Cuddesden.
My family had arranged a final get-together to celebrate my Father’s 74th Birthday, which was last Monday, and collectively decided on Oxford as the rendezvous point, which is eight miles from the village of Cuddesden, where we lived from 1979-1981.
We had a delightful time in the Macdonald Randolph Hotel in Central Oxford, and it was great to see my nephews again, plus my brother and sister-in-law before they travelled back to New Jersey.
Everyone left the hotel around 6 and I decided to wander around Oxford nostalgically for a while before heading home. It had been a long and somewhat tiring journey there from St Leonards-on-Sea as the traffic was very heavy, as was the rain! So a little fresh air was certainly called for.
My intention, on getting in the car, had been to drive straight home. I’d even rung my friend Jen, who’s staying with me again, to let her know. Then, as I listened to an extraordinary documentary on The FBI files on the composer and conductor, Leonard Bernstein, I made the snap decision to come off the A40 and take a mini trip down memory lane.......
What fuelled this sudden urge was the fact my parents had gone back to the area earlier this year and sent pictures of the village and the house we had rented. I had been astonished they hadn’t rung the doorbell and had had the crazy idea of doing just that; here was my chance!
It turned out to be much more than just knocking on someone’s door.......
As I entered the village, I stopped and took pictures of Ripon College where my father had trained.
Our garden had backed onto the ‘Back Field’ where my father and other ordinands used to play football and I, being of such an age, would ‘enjoy’ rugby tackles with teenage boys in the village - harmless pre-teen fun! It was also the route I took to have my Confirmation Lessons at the age of twelve, and was the shortcut to the college itself.
Funny how just one stop can engender such buried memories.....
I made my way down into the village, past the Pub and parked outside the Village Hall, where there used to be the Youth Club every Thursday night.,...... more memories; this time of never really fitting into the youth club scene and hurrying back to our house, literally over the road, as soon as was acceptably possible!
I entered the gate into the ‘Rec’ (as we called it) - the playing field in the village opposite our house - where I discovered that the Swings; Sea-saw; Slide and Roundabout were still the same ones from all those years agp..... more memories - primarily of the loss of my prize Box Kite in the overhead cables when I had misguidedly entrusted it to a friend of my father’s from the college and he managed to entangle it irreparably in the wires..... still mourned over to this day!
I turned round and surveyed our old dwelling: it had been the original Post Office in the village and had been owned by a lady called Mrs Palmer, who rented it out to the College for Ordinands like my father to live in during their training.
I had fond memories of our visits to her; she in an old-fashioned armchair as she poured tea and gave us cake. I always found her kind.
As I looked quizzically at the house, noticing the new windows; the evidence of a loft conversion and the tidy new picket fence, I thought ‘it’s now or never: go and ring the doorbell!’
So, intrepidly, and a little nervously, I walked up the side of the house, noting the sign saying the entrance was at the back, and was intrigued by the sight of the ‘old Hovel’ newly transformed into a smart extension now adjoined to the back of the house!
The entrance was housed where the middle room’s window had been and there were neat steps the other side of an equally smart picket fence and gate.
Boldly, I rang the doorbell! It was answered by a dear young girl, to whom I asked if her parents were in. She duly left and a moment later, a tall, well-built man appeared.
I said ‘Hi, I used to live here from 1979-1981 and I thought you might like to know what it was like at that time.’
The delightful man, called Spencer, as I soon discovered, said they knew a great deal about the history and had been there for 17 years,
We chatted for a few moments about Mrs Palmer - I discovered she had lived to the grand age of 94 and had died only a few years earlier, and then, on discovering I was from so far away, dear Spencer invited me in to meet his delightful family and ended up giving me a tour of the house.
What a fascinating experience: gone was the coal-fired hot water boiler in the middle room; the Old Rayburn in the kitchen and the fireplace in the front room. The whole house had been transformed by this delightful couple.
Spencer and his wife Claire had moved into Riverdale, the house’s name, in 2001, having bought it from Mrs Palmer. No-one had ever improved it and it was still as it had been when we left in late June 1981: no central heating; coal fires; freezing cold in the winter and, of course, the famous Rayburn, which heated the kitchen!
I stared quizzically at the stairs leading to the bedrooms and Spencer followed my gaze and said, ‘we had to change the stairs round as we went into the loft.’
He continued, ‘We kept the door’. There, indeed, was the - much smaller, it seemed - door, which had led directly to my bedroom. More memories, I recollected to them all all as they sat round the lovely large table in the cosy, yet spacious, kitchen/dining/living area in the extended and enlarged ‘hovel-assisted’ room they had created at the back of the house. A far cry from the dark; cramped kitchen where we ate next to the Rayburn!
Spencer and Claire’s children, Claudia, the eldest, then Anna and young Harris, all rushed up to hurriedly tidy their rooms on realising their lovely father was going to give me a tour!
What an improvement! Interestingly Spencer & Claire’s bedroom was the old Post Office room at the front of the house, which had doubled as both our living room (also housing the 1979 Bentley Piano my parents bought for me from Taphouses Music Shop in Oxford) and my parent’s own bedroom each night - their mattress was kept behind my piano, not faring well against the damp wall. Spencer said the first thing they had had to do was get professionals in to take the plaster off completely and treat the brickwork as the whole place was so damp!
It’s funny how memories come back. The house was SO different and SO much better that it was a utter delight to see the love and affection this beautiful family had for this unique property and I feel blessed and honoured that they graciously allowed me to ‘gatecrash’ their family Sunday dinner, then sweetly listen to some of my recollections whilst proudly showing me what they had done.
Next week I will write a little more about my time in this village, including my historically unique role in the local church and how I got to ‘serve’ for the then Archbishop of Canterbury.......
For now, though, linking this little tale to the present day, you may recall, if you read last week’s tale in my Newsletter of 25th August about my time with my nephews. Their fascination with my Healing Tuning Forks led Obi and I to the decision to hold our September Talk & Half-Day Workshop around this theme.
Well, my first recollection of tuning forks dates back to that time. Having a sparkly new piano, after the ancient un-tuneable one I’d had from age 7-11, we had a regular piano tuner who came to the house.... using tuning forks to ensure ‘concert pitch’ was attained.
Also, in the school orchestra, (I was a ‘First violin’) an ‘A’ tuning fork (440hz) was always used to ensure the Oboist gave the correct pitch for the ensemble to tune to!
It was many years later that I discovered how they could be used for bringing the body into balance and even releasing pain and other energy blocks from our physical being.
Equally, we are very excited about our Sunday 23rd September Half-Day Workshop, which is more hands-on and will include you and everyone else being given a mini ten-minute sound healing rebalancing by Obi or me. I’ll also be demonstrating more about how special ‘tuned’ Tuning Forks can be used along the meridian channels of the body to help bring organs back into balance; similar to Shiatsu; Acupuncture or Cupping, yet with sound ‘run’ along the channels. It always amazes me how effective this can be! And Obi will be talking about and demonstrating the power of Singing Bowls.
P.S. nearly forgot to post this week’s recipe! My Gluten-Free Victoria Sandwich; reminiscent of my childhood. Victoria Sandwich, as Obi can attest, is STILL my favourite! This version, magically, is not only light but also moist! And amazingly tastes like it is made with ‘regular’ flour! The Alchemist at work again ha ha! Enjoy!
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