Hertfordshire safari

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Waking up in a chill English hotel room, it takes me a while to extricate myself from the confused jumble of the Financial Times, hearing aids, spectacles, my Pradaxa necklace and other existential flotsam and jetsam on the bed where I’d thrown myself after an intensive day helping a paralysed friend get a computer to the repair shop.

It was complicated to start with as we didn’t understand which button to press to lower the wheelchair to avoid decapitating my friend on the roof of the not altogether suitable vehicle. But once on our way, weaving across Hertfordshire from Borehamwood to Watford, it was smooth enough, even enjoyable.

The computer repair man was kindness itself, coming out to our vehicle and explaining how all might not be lost on the hard disk despite the computer’s reluctance to start.

I’ve hardly met anyone new for the past year while my friend has met lots of carers but not been out of the care home so we are both diversely dazed. But I’m impressed as well by meeting so many people who probably aren’t paid that much with poor working conditions who could easily respond to the direness of life grimly or bureaucratically but who were instead prepared to help someone who needed a break.

I didn’t like Borehamwood to start with. I found  it run down, suburban, tatty without much architectural or other interest. But it’s growing on me – there are many odd shops, stores selling Romanian, Bulgarian and other East European foods, which I fear may fade away post-Brexit but which are a welcome change from the bland sameness of modern retail. There’s also the Elstree film studios, with hopeful clusters at the side of the approach roads looking for a glimpse of famous figures unknown to me. It all makes for a quirky mix although I wouldn’t want to live here.

And later  today, I’ll travel down to Islington to meet other later friends. London has become a city of shades and memories for me, where old friends have died or moved on in life and not been replaced as I am not involved in any social activity  here. But I enjoy being there and meeting those that remain, although the bad air and general bustle overpower me now.

In a couple of days time, I will resurrect another old friend, my west country self, when I travel down to Dorset to round off my Dorset church project. I am going to spend time in the libraries of Dorchester and see what they have to offer on nineteenth century church restorations. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about this – the development of neo-gothic, architectural and aesthetic aspects, the impact, positive and negative on historic buildings, the details of the building process (where did the stone used come from, etc., which builders, architects were involved),the influence on restorations of ideological developments within the believer community (and the social composition of the Anglicans and relationship to non-conformism and the latter’s neo-gothic buildings), the response to the wave of restorations and growing resistance. This would be good to round off my project but this plan is too massive, too much of a time swamp if done well when I want to shift focus to other projects. I think therefore that I will make a preliminary study of how such a study might be written, its components/structure/important issues and what material is available and where but not actually produce it; as much as I can achieve in a week, to be continued in small spurts when I feel I want to think about Dorset but not so much that Dorset closes over my head and gets in the way of other work that is important for me.

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