Macquarie: n a longing and desire for home, family and friends, or the past.
Collins: n a yearning for past circumstances, events etc.
There’s been a bit of it about recently.
I returned a couple of weeks ago from a trip to England and Wales to see my family and some close friends and the whole trip had a sense of homecoming, belonging and welcome. It happens here too, but somehow the sense of being at one with the countryside overtook me; it always does. I have tried to explain it to others by saying the Wiltshire is where my heart beats.
Wiltshire, with its stone monuments, ley lines, farmland, rolling downs, picturesque villages, cathedral city, the green, grassy valleys—and above all the chalk downlands. What’s not to love?
On this trip I revisited a little church set deep in the country, up a no through road, through a farmyard and there—with a backdrop of the Marlborough Downs—is a little gem. It’s nestled beneath the downs, the Cherhill White Horse and the Cherhill Monument, (more correctly known as the Landsdowne Monument) erected by the third Marquis of Landsdowne. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lansdowne_Monument). The site of the Battle of Roundway Down, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Roundway_Down) fought in 1643 in the first English civil war, is just over a fold in the downs. I was told Roundhead soldiers had desecrated the church and, carved into the walls of the porch, are some amazing markings. This piece of graffiti is dated 1647, so it wasn’t from the Battle of Roundway, but perhaps some wandering Roundheads were still marauding a few years later. Graffiti has been around for a long time. During my visit I met a gentleman whose retirement has been spent documenting all the Wiltshire churches, large and small, and he didn’t know this story. Perhaps I piqued his interest.
Another day my two sisters and I, chauffeured by my brother-in-law, drove past the farm on which we grew up. The farmhouse is still there, much the same, with the original front door’s outline visible beneath the espaliered tree trained on the wall. It’s through that door the ghost came—but I’ll tell you the story another time! Now one enters the house through the ‘front door’ at the side. The farmyard, however, is much changed. Where is the pond on which the Muscovy ducks swam? Where are the pigsties, and the cowshed where Perce used to hand-milk the house cow? Where is the garage? The thatched barns? The stables with their half doors? Considering the upkeep of anything with a thatched roof, I can understand the pragmatism. Still…
We drove round the village in which the farm—complete with its recently built commuter houses to service the conglomerate that is now Swindon—sits. We went to the church where our family worshiped, and I looked at the lanes along which I’d ridden my pony innumerable times. We even drove along one of the rights-of-way to see what had happened to a cluster of farm cottages. The dwellings were still there, but the turning circle was tiny. Just as well there were primroses, daffodils and celandine to take our minds off the possibility of becoming stuck fast on a bank.
We drove to Avebury (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avebury) with its prehistoric stone circle, and ate a good lunch at The Red Lion—supposedly haunted by Florie. We looked at the museum which—apart from a few items missing from the display, too tempting for small fingers I suppose—was excellent value, and finally we walked the gardens of Avebury Manor (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury/things-to-see-and-do/avebury-manor-and-garden/). The gardens are maintained by a group of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers and were a credit to their expertise. The Avebury village street reeks of my childhood, but it’s a tad changed and a whole lot grander. The butcher’s shop where Mr Sumbler plied his trade is now a ‘desirable residence’, and the bakery too.
We drove back to south Wiltshire via Marlborough. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marlborough,_Wiltshire) This is the town where I attended so many parties, went to the cinema (we didn’t go to the movies then), made lifelong friends, fell in love, fell out of love, had my first job… It’s a pretty town with the second widest high street in Britain. Many of the shops are still the same as when I knew it so well, something I found immensely comforting. We travelled up the High Street towards the town hall, and down the other side. We then turned left and drove along the A345 up the steep hill towards Pewsey. One snowy winter I joined other locals in tobogganing down that hillside though I was much too nervous to take the risks the boys did—after all, the River Kennet is at the foot of the hill.
We came down the steep downland escarpment into the Vale of Pewsey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vale_of_Pewsey) through Oare (where once an Australian High Commissioner lived with his family during the holidays) with its beech woods and primroses, and then on to the little town of Pewsey where my mother spent her last years. King Alfred’s statue stands there at the crossroads in the centre of the town. Is he still burning his cakes? The way home then took us along one of the rivers Avon to Amesbury and thence back to Salisbury and home.
I’ve indulged myself today. Bear with me, it too will pass.