Friday, 9 September 2016

What happens when you don't know where you're going.

It's been sunny for a couple of days and that was a rarity this summer - so we went out in the afternoon but we didn't know where we were going.

I hate that.

First of all we couldn't decide if we drove left or right when we left the house.

So, I decided we'd stop off at the charity shop in the next village and make our minds up on the way.

That didn't work out but I did find a really nice 'Pierre Cardin' jacket for £5 - so that wasn't a wasted trip. I don't know why I go on buying things I'm probably not going to need but I do.

We drove on and then Robyn saw a sign for 'Herschel Park', which is just at the beginning of Slough.

It looks like a reclaimed rubbish dump......which is exactly what it is. The council built a massive mound of rubbish next to the motorway to shield out the noise from the houses and then planted wild plants everywhere. It's grown up well now and as you can see, the thistles know that summer is over;

Although the pond weed is still blooming;

There was a mass of trees, shrubs, wild flowers. It's nice.

And then something really, really weird happened.

I didn't realise that 'Herschel Park' is actually joined onto what was 'Upton Park'. This was once the grounds of an impressive mansion house but as Slough grew, the mansion was altered and a housing estate built on part of the grounds.

One section was kept as a park and it's still formal with a pond and some great trees;

You can always date a stately home (or where one used to be) if there is a 'Cedar of Lebanon' growing; this was a trophy plant for the rich that arrived here at the end of the 17h century and the beginning of the 18th. They take a long time to grow and usually outlive the family who bought them.

Sometimes like here, they even outlive the house.

But I was hit by some very strange memories from 47 years ago which was the last time I was here. It hadn't really changed at all and it was a bit chilling.

I was 10 at the time and was taken there on a school trip by our class teacher, 'Mr Wiseman', who was a paedophile. This was obvious to most of the children in the class but not to the school or our parents.

Remember this was the 1960's and no one listened to children back then.

We had a great afternoon running around in the park, playing chase.

The thing about paedophiles however, is that they are patient, devious and very manipulative. This was an era when teachers were normally very unpleasant to children - cruel even. Not Mr Wiseman - he was always arranging trips, putting things on for us when no one else ever did.

Later on that year, he organised a 'weekend away' to Hastings, for the whole class. I remember this very well and at the time I decided not to go and not even to tell my parents about it.

Who knows, if they'd known they might have made me go.

I was very upset I couldn't, I felt cheated. Lots of kids did go but no one ever talked about it afterwards.

It's left me with a lifelong attraction to Hastings, because I always resented that I missed out. I've been there quite a few times since to make up for it.

Mind you I'm not sorry I didn't go there with Mr Wiseman.

Years later, in the 1980's he was arrested and ended up in court and in the local paper. Hopefully that was the end of his career. He was by no means the only one.

So after a very strange time travelling experience, we carried on with still no real idea of where we were going.

We ended up at Cookham and walked along the river meadows, sitting by the river and watching birds catching fish, rowers rowing and coaches shouting at them and the last holiday makers of the summer on their boats.

And overhead was a 'Chinook' helicopter, a cool £60 million pounds worth of our tax money.

We were buzzed by one of these when we went to Ewelme earlier in the summer. It may have been the same one, for all I know.

A very strange day.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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