Home Thoughts From the Train

I am writing this offline, on the train back from Guildford where I have been to see the dentist. There is no signal so I can’t tell if WordPress has recovered from whatever was affecting it on the journey down. First it spammed all my replies to comments on my own blog. I take Internet and blogging security as seriously as anyone, but this seems the paranoid side of safety to me. Then I noticed there were some games going in with the gravitars: a bit of identity swapping. Jo had taken over the Scroobious Pip, Pix had succumbed to Cobbies69, and Julia was masquerading as TBM. It’s like a fancy dress party. I expect a murder mystery weekend on WordPress any time now.

I grew up in Guildford, and although my parents moved away to Suffolk when they retired, I still had relatives in the area I liked to see, especially my Aunt Kath, so my dental appointments were usually combined with visits to see her. Aunt Madeleine lived the other side of Godalming and I saw less of her. Then both up and moved to Gozo, which is a bit far to go for a dental check up. I suppose when my lovely dentist retires I might move to a London practice, but for the moment I still enjoy having a foot in Surrey.


Often when I am there I wonder why I ever moved away. Guildford is clean; surrounded by countryside you see from the High Street; there are beautiful Georgian buildings in the centre of town, a great theatre; good rail connections. Then I remember how your social class and income would be defined by your postal code in a way that is so much harder in London, and I know exactly why I left. Of course in London, when I say I grew up in Surrey, people have me down as a stockbroker’s daughter, five bedroomed house, my own pony and goodness knows what. It can be annoying to always find yourself on the wrong side of someone else’s geographical prejudices.

So it was quite strange to find myself looking in an estate agent’s window today at a cottage in Shalford, and thinking perhaps one day I might move back. The place is full of memories. When I saw the girls walking down to the town from my old school, they could have been the girls from my class. I was a Saturday girl in Boots for three whole years. My aunt’s pub has changed almost beyond recognition, but it still stands. The second hand bookshop where I spent hours is now a furniture shop with sofas in the window. Some memories are not my own. The path by the river I see from the bridge on the way to the station is the same path my parents walked when they were courting. There is a traffic island where my father and grandfather had a shop. My parents lived in the flat above it, and my sister was born there. As a child, I walked my grandparents’ dog around the Castle Grounds and Rack’s Close every weekend. The top of the mound by the castle keep is not the most beautiful part of town, but I think I spent so much time there that, according to Flann O’Brien’s molecular theory, some of me is the castle motte and vice versa.

25 thoughts on “Home Thoughts From the Train

    • Absolutely. I did go to another dentist when I first moved to London but ended up with lots of problems and went back to my old dentist like a homing pigeon when the reminder came.

  1. Aah! Sweet.
    I noticed the shop where I used to accompany my grandmother to buy fresh fish at North Street end of Swan Lane is now a noodle bar.
    My aunt’s (and before her stewardship, my great aunt’s) pub has had its name changed again. In our family we called it the Bs.

  2. Guildford sounds lovely. I really enjoyed hearing about it and your memories. I used to travel back home to visit my dentist. But once I moved six hours away I gave up. I miss my old dentist. He had a handle bar mustache and I always wondered if it tickled his nose. This was when I lived in Colorado. I haven’t had a decent dentist since. They don’t have flare 🙂

  3. Lovely post, Isobel. I have never been to Guildford, as far as I’m aware, but your writing brought back a nostalgia for other places I have known and loved.
    And yes, it’s worth travelling to a dentist you trust! For years my family drove from Buckinghamshire to Hereford, and now I travel to Northern Ireland!

    • Where in NI do you go? I’ll be there at the end of July visiting my cousin in Co Derry.
      Guildford is worth the visit. But be prepared for hills. It is on the North Downs. Funny how our memories walk the places we have known.

    • No. The only time he has travelled on the train with me is when I first got him and brought him back from Brighton. I don’t think he enjoyed it very much. From the station, I took a taxi home. My friend has a cat that regularly communities with her on the train between London and Edinburgh, sometimes with kittens too!

  4. I’ve been through Guildford, but that was 1983. Still remember it. Somewhere in that area … can’t really say where, I visited a most lovely place — The Swan Hotel. I’ve tried to google it, but I’m not sure I find the right one. It was definitely not far from Guildford..

  5. Fabulous tur you tool us on Thank you. I live vicariously through your posts like this, never having yet traveled to the places I’d love to see.

    Reading your words are gentle teachings on my soul, I adore reading terms that are strangers to me. I have no clue what “Saturday girl in Boots” is and think that I must be missing something mire than meaning you wore boots on Saturdays. I have such a fasination for treminology.
    Learning more about places and things outside my small world. You & the Internet are amazing! I’m so glad you wrote this even though you had no signal to send it at the time.

    • Thanks BB. A Saturday girl is the term for teenagers who are still at school and work in shops on Saturdays. Boots is chain of chemists. So not very exciting really I am afraid!

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