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  • Writer's pictureGareth Williams

A trip up memory lane (well Chingford Mount)

I am just back from a trip down to England where I was visiting friends and family. One visit took me close to some very old haunts and I just couldn't resist...

My parents grew up and met in Chingford, north London (or Essex as they remember it!). My godparents came from Walthamstow.

There is a scene in my 'work in progress' - Murder at Vindolanda - where Grace goes for a run. I wrote it from memory using online maps and street views but I really wanted to check I had the feel of it right.

She runs past the old Stow dog track (the facade is still there) imagining she is racing against the giant black greyhound.

Well, it turns out my memory isn't bad but what a child thinks is a steep hill turns out to be no more than an incline (even if buses during the Second World War had to offload passengers to make it to the top).

My favourite park hadn't shrunk, the 70 + year old light railway still ran every Sunday in the summer (visited by Walt Disney 1952) but the swings had moved and the model yacht pond was nowhere to be found!

I discovered a lovely book exchange beside the railway - next time I visit, I hope to put a signed copy of Murder at Vindolanda in it.

Chingford Mount Cemetery is huge (the Kray twins are buried there) and some of the older graves need some restoration but it is still much visited and used. Many will disagree but I find gravestones comforting. They are chronicles of a place. And how the names have changed over the years - forenames and surnames!

My dear grandparents are long gone. My mother too. My father thinks the area looks tired and dirty. But I still see my childhood. A paper and string football in the back garden. The smell of fresh creosote on a fence. Wood shavings in the garage workshop. Trimmed box hedges and giant beds of rhubarb.

An indulgent little bit of time travel perhaps but as I always say, we are all time travellers, forwards a day at a time and backwards whenever we remember.

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