Saturday, December 5, 2009

Peek in the Past - Walking the Walk

In England, back in the day, the most common method of transport for children and teens was legs. Apart from riding bikes and roller-skating, walking was the norm. There were no trainers (sneakers) then so my shoes always seemed scuffed and down at heel. But they were comfortable. Going for walks whatever the weather is still one of my favorite things to do.

I didn’t think much of it then, but now realize that huge chunks of time were spent on my feet since distances traveled were often several miles. Take mathematic lessons, for instance. Math was my worst nightmare at school, so by the time I was ten, my father decided I needed extra tuition to make me brighter.

Two nights a week, I walked over four miles to a house far across town. I have to admit to dawdling and daydreaming along the way, making the journey last even longer. I guess I really didn’t want to arrive. Once there, a local schoolteacher tried his best to drum equations and other confusing things into my head. I’d walk back home (in the dark during winter months), puzzling about I should understand and wondering why I didn’t. I still don’t. And it really hasn’t caused me major problems yet.

Another home I walked forever to reach was that of my elderly piano teacher. Her house reeked of stale frying oil, and she smelled of peppermints, which she kept in her apron pocket and handed out when students did well. I don’t remember receiving any. Not that I minded. I mean, who knew what else got stuffed in that pocket?

Although I loved hearing good music, synchronizing my hands and fingers and reading notes at the same time seemed on a par with mathematics. I couldn’t do it. So when I got home, instead of practicing, I faked it, pretending to play with gusto, bashing my way through loud, unharmonious tunes. This cacophony was more often than not accompanied by equally discordant singing. I can’t imagine what the neighbors must have thought.
More pleasant walking memories involved trailing back from the local sweet (candy) shop, holding a white, cone-shaped paper bag of treats,

my mouth stuffed with halfpenny licorice (the hard, strong variety), or sherbet fountain, or paregoric tablets. Thruppence (three pennies) went a long way in those days. And yes, I now know paregoric is not a good thing :-)

It was a dark little shop with a heavy door set right on the pavement (sidewalk) down a back street. A bell jangled each time the door opened, and the floor inside consisted of hollow-sounding, dusty wooden strips in need of a good sweep and polish. It was dim in there because the window was blacked out, and the light bulb encased in a brown shade. A high counter almost hid the owner from my view, but I could see jars of sweets lining the shelf behind. They were the only colorful thing in the shop.

Another good memory came from caravan holidays in Anglesey, Wales.

Trekking over the moors with my dad in the pouring rain. It was a rare thing for him to be with me one on one—and it probably only happened because no one else enjoyed getting soaked. To me, it was a time to treasure. Together, we saw Welsh wild life that stayed hidden on better days. Rabbits and moles, hares and mice, even a badger or two braved the storm on many occasion. I can still smell the sweet scent of rain on wet skin and clothes just thinking about it.

All great experiences that have flavored my writing through the years.

Hmm! Think I’ll go take a walk. In the sun. There’s a backdrop of snow-capped mountains overflowing with early winter out there, just waiting for me to put on my shoes and make more memories.

Anne Bradshaw
PS - I'm signing at Barnes & Noble, Orem, UT, Thursday, December 10th, 6-8:PM. and love meeting readers. There will be another Famous Family Night T-shirt draw. Not to be missed. And I'll be getting pictures for my blog!

Famous Family Nights


C.L. (Cindy) Beck, author said...

Ooo, Anne, it's too bad that we'll just miss each other. You'll be signing at B&N the day after Nichole and me.

Enjoyed reading your post, as well as the pictures you put with it.

The little candy shop you mentioned almost sounds like something wonderful from Harry Potter!

Anne Bradshaw said...

Wish we could have signed on same day, Cindy. Would have been such fun.

Yep, Harry and me . . . you know . . . same haunts :-) I did actually imagine some spooky goings on in that place. Like loose floor boards leading to who-knew-where, and hidden panels under the counter. Would love to see that old place again one of these days.