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.
Olympic torch relay sculpture
The weather gods have been slacking. I was wearing socks yesterday. In June, a whole week before Wimbledon which generally heralds dark grey skies, icy rain and bitter winds. Sunday wasn’t much better. There was a moment at lunchtime when I thought a pair of gloves would be welcome.
So today, although I heard the sun was expected, I still pulled a warm jumper on over my blouse before heading down to Guildford to meet my new dentist. It wasn’t a social occasion, we weren’t going to chat over canapés and Prosecco, but I was one of the few women at Waterloo Station not wearing either a hat, or that misleadingly named hairband with knobs on, a fascinator. There were so many men in top hats, it was like an edition of the Beano minus Dennis and Gnasher. Ascot. To be honest, I prefer the horses.
I had the day off and my dental check up was overdue, so off I went. By the time I reached GU1, I realised the forecast had not lied, and I spent the rest of my time with my jumper slung around my shoulders. It’s quite a Surrey look, so I have had plenty of observational practice. Lunch was a sandwich in the Castle Grounds, a place I walked so many times as a child that my DNA is embedded in its paths and stones. The castle was swathed in scaffolding and green netting. Men walked along walkways made from planks but I couldn’t see any notices to say what they were doing. Maybe, I mused, the castle keep is being converted into luxury flats. It has an enviable position, a long history, and is set in lovely gardens. An Englishman’s House is his castle after all. I am sure if castles went out of use today there would be an immediate move to convert them rather than leave them as historical piles in prime locations.
It’s different going to the dentist these days.
When I was little we would wait in a small room, heated by an open fire in winter, then be ushered through to the surgery which was huge. A black chair stood in the bay window, so if it hadn’t been that you had to face the ceiling most of the time you’d have had a great view down to the river and across the valley. There was a large cream machine in the corner. I never did find out what it was for, and some hard chairs that we waited on. There was a rolltop desk adorned with pictures of all four Beatles exhorting us to eat apples. The dentist was in Quarry Street. My sister and I knew one side of the road well. It was round the corner from our grandparents’ house and where I used to go to fetch my grandfather’s newspaper on a Saturday and spend the thruppence he gave me in Piper’s the confectioners next door.
Quarry Street is quite transformed these days, almost chic. Piper’s is long gone. for a while it was a saddlery. I don’t remember the name, now it is a restaurant. Anyway. The dentist was on the other side of the street which Mother warned us against crossing alone as it was Dangerous. So it was only when went to find out if our sweet consumption had decayed our teeth that we got to the other side.
Most excitingly, and this is a very early memory, one of the residents on the far side of the street kept a pig in the cellar. My sister and I used to eagerly look through the grating to see its snout raised looking back at us. Poor pig. Some twenty years ago I mentioned the pig to my mother. “A pig?” she said blankly. Evidently it had not etched itself so clearly on her memory, or maybe she was far more conscious that we were of how cruel it was to keep it in a cellar and what its destiny would be. Continue reading
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.