John McCullagh July 20, 2004
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As she stepped off the coach it started to rain.  She didn’t mind.  She was home ………home again after so many long years away.  It would take more than the weather to dampen her spirits!  And anyway, it wasn’t really proper rain!  It was a fine soft drizzle and as she lifted her face to the sky, it felt warm on her skin.

She collected her luggage and moved quickly to the river wall.

The view was even more breathtaking than she remembered.  Her gaze followed the river flowing out to sea and alongside it the canal not flowing anywhere, but quiet and still and further along at the lock, a barge, waiting for the water to rise and then, the beautiful bay with the majestic mountains sweeping down on either side.  She breathed it all in.  She wanted to eat it, drink it and absorb it through her very pores.  She wanted never to lose it again.  Just for a moment tears clouded her vision and the view was blurred.
 
“Excuse me”.  Someone touched her elbow.  She turned to see a young girl smiling.  “Can you direct me to Lindsey Hill?”.

Lindsey Hill………the name was so familiar!  But……where was Lindsey Hill?  As she spluttered, making feeble suggestions and desperately trying to get a mental picture of the place, the girl said, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize.  You are a stranger here too!  Don’t worry, I’ll ask the coach driver”.

 
You are a stranger here too!  The words pierced her heart and she suddenly felt cold as she realized that, yes, she probably was a stranger in her own home town!  With that sobering thought, she turned away from her beloved view and headed for the shopping area of the town.  Surely, there she would meet old familiar faces?  She had not of course allowed for progress!  The fine old main street was now a traffic-free zone.  PEDESTRIANS ONLY, the signs all said and she swallowed a lump in her throat.  Gone were the trees and the cobble stones and the quaint old shops she remembered so well.  Where was the Barber’s pole, bright red and white and the shop where they mended umbrellas?  Now there were Hairdressing Salons with snooty stylists…………and who needs an umbrella mended!  Just buy another, they’re so cheap, made in Hong Kong or Taiwan.
 
She wandered in and out of the shops.  “You’re not from the town.  Are you on holiday or just passing through?”  Everywhere she went there were questions because she was not recognized.
 
Those awful barricades with officers in dark green.  The bag search.  The body search and even more questions.  Would it ever feel like home?
 
She sought sanctuary in a Tea Shop and sat at a table by the window.  From there she watched the people passing by and hoped to see someone she knew.

The waitress arrived with her order, and as she sipped her tea, she studied the shop interior.  It was a long, narrow place, with a stone floor and low ceiling and the smell wafting from the kitchen was of freshly baked bread and cakes.  The walls were lined with tea- pot laden shelves.  Tea-pots, all shapes, sizes and colours…….and they were for sale.  Such a lovely idea!  What better place to sell tea-pots than in a Tea Shop?  She noted one in particular and decided to buy it. 

The shop owner arrived to deal with her purchase and as he lifted the precious pot off the shelf he said  “How lovely to see you again.  You’ve been away so long!  It only seems like yesterday we shared the Town Hall stage.  All those lively pantomimes and one or two heavy plays!”.
 
Oh!  She could have hugged him!  He had really saved the day.  So many precious memories came flooding back and on they talked and talked……

She thanked him warmly for the memories, the chat and of course the tea-pot and as she stepped outside the sun appeared from behind the clouds.

She was happy.  She was home.  She was no longer a stranger.

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