Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Listening to old people

I was reminded recently of my time living in suburbia. It's a far cry from my life now. Living in a fishing village in Cornwall is about as far away from my life in Essex as it's possible to get. We went to live in Chelmsford so that my husband could commute into the city every day.
Our house was a new one built on an old Victorian bottle dump. It flooded twice every year and the builders were called in to sort out the problem.
A lovely old builder arrived one day, said he could put it right and then settled down to tell me the history of the place.
Before the bottle dump it had been part of the park land but it's history went back a very long way. I had found fragments of tile and mosaic whilst I was gardening and he told me that the house was built on the original site of a Roman villa. It was the first fordable point of the river close by. Barrow loads of ancient oyster shells were still lurking inn the soil and everything the builders had found had been put back firmly into the ground so the work could continue.
I found this fascinating and he then went on to tell me that the local lane I used to cycle up regularly had contained the local gibbet....that gave me a very weird feeling the next time I went up it in the dark!
He was a truly interesting old boy and I was glad to have met him.
It's good to talk to old people and more importantly to listen. I often meet youngsters who are quite clearly bored by the old ones they come into contact with. But take the trouble to listen and a whole new world is revealed. We all have stories to tell and they are all worth listening to.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. I think that we are in danger of losing the social history of the country. There are oral history projects out there, most seem to be aimed at survivors of the last war. I don't see much being done with the 'Baby Boom Generation' who went through Korea and ever war afterwards, let along the huge social changes made in our Cities, Towns and Villages.

    I listened to an elderly gentleman today on Radio Kent, trying to articulate the Kent of his childhood 78 years ago. He can't bear to return to his birth village, it has changed so much. What it needed was the presenter to offer to send someone to record his story, instead, he was cut off in full flow. Which spoilt the moment (and diminished my respect for the presenter).

    I suppose in the information age, we probably have this conserved, but that seems to be about the media and politics. It's peoples lives that need to be recorded.

  2. what a delightful story, thankyou or sharing this :-)