Given the main purpose of the journey was see the dentist, you might not think it was that good a day.
Celia had said she’d come to Guildford with me. I only learned later that her main experience of it prior to yesterday had been the one way system, a system which has probably caused more mental anguish and geographical confusion than is fair.
It’s a quick journey from Waterloo, and soon we were walking through the town. For those of you unfamiliar with Guildford, hills feature quite strongly. The railway station is at the bottom of the town, near the river, and my dentist is at the top, not far from a rather lovely sculpture recalling the Olympic Torch Relay.
We walked up the High Street with its celebrated cobbles. Every corner in Guildford houses memories for me. I grew up just outside it, but one of my aunts ran a pub in the centre, and my grandparents lived two minutes away from her and opposite the castle. My Saturdays were spent in a fairly tight triangle between the three.
The plan was that Celia would explore while I saw the dentist. She thought she’d probably be back towards the bottom of the town by the time my appointment was over.
But when I called her, she was only a couple of hundred yards away, buying up much of the stock in the Oxfam Bookshop. Led astray by her example, I bought a clutch of greeting cards.
Often when I go back to Guildford I pay a visit to one or other place that holds memories. I used to combine dental appointments with visits to see Aunt Kath who lived in Shalford. In my childhood, the town and surrounding villages teemed with family members. Now there are none.
But it was very pleasant to stroll about, to visit the various corners and streets with someone for whom the town was a new experience. My favourite moment was when we turned onto Sydenham Road and Celia said “A castle!”, her surprised tone making it clear this was something she had not expected.
We peered into the garden of the house where my grandparents lived at the end of their lives; looked at their house which is now a Bistro; wondered why the sign had been taken down that identified Lewis Carroll’s house; walked the Castle Grounds.
Celia spotted a likely place for lunch where we ate excellent quiche, or flan as we used to call it. I found shoes I liked but not in my size. Celia made an unplanned purchase of two cushions.
The walk out to the part of town where the DIY, tile and kitchen shops hang out is not the most attractive, and I give Celia top marks for her patience while I dithered about units and examined cupboard doors with a borrowed tape measure.
At the check out where I returned tile samples, I asked about paint, and a lovely girl called Kim, who has just moved into a house new to her, gave full and cheerful advice. I’d have literally liked her to come and paint my flat. *Literally* featured large in her sentences.
The walk back to the station was by the river, along what, back in the late 1940s, was a cinder path. I know that because my parents did their courting there, and Mother used to talk about it.
Now there are wonderful sculptures from old trees, and a model train to die for.
I’m not due back at the dentist for six months, oddly enough on Celia’s birthday. I wonder if she’d like to come back.