Sunday, April 06, 2008

Going back to my roots

(Political opponents, skip this entry, it is not for you)

In the words of Odyssey, for those of you who are of the right age to remember back to the disco hits of 1981, when I was a mere girl of 16 (sic), this song has been echoing in my mind for the last 36 hours.

"I feel my spirit gettin' old, it's time to recharge my soul.
I'm zippin' up my boots, goin' back to my roots, yeah,
To the place of my birth, back down to earth."

This weekend saw the rededication of my childhood church, St Andrew's Methodist Church, Tamworth, Staffordshire, following a refurbishment. The church opened on September 3rd 1966, my family arrived in Tamworth from Sedgeley on my 4th birthday in 1969. This weekend the church celebrated its 40th anniversary and refurbishment with a "Friends Reunited" service and supper.

I went to Sunday School every week at St Andrew's until I was old enough to stay with the congregation for the whole service. I also joined the 4th Tamworth St Andrew's Brownies and later the Guides at the church and remember with great fondness the Gang Shows we used to put on each year. It must have been 1977 when we guides did "Coconut Airways" by Typically Tropical "Woah, I'm going to Barbados...I'm going to see my girlfriend". We were dressed in flower garlands and bikinis and grass skirts as we danced along to the music in a suitably demure routine.

I also recall going camping with the Brownies to mid Wales, probably about 1973 or 1974, I dont know where it was, but we stayed in converted stables somewhere sufficiently close to Ffestiniog that we went on a railway trip and also to the Blue John Caverns. A few years later when I was a Girl Guide we went to Beaudesert at Cannock Chase and camped, in old khaki ridge tents which were probably war issue and definitely coming to the end of their useful lives.

We sat round camp-fires and sang "Land of the Silver Birch" and "Gin Gan Gooly Gooly" in "rounds" and roasted sausages.

It was all great fun, and my first times away from home without my family. I found out years later that they were quite anxious about me and how I was fairing, but it was nothing like Alan Sherman (to quote yet another old song at you). I had a good time really, although it did rain very heavily in Cannock Chase and apparently it was a miracle that I was the only girl to sleep through the downpour overnight as our belongings floated out of the tent and down the hill.

I think I was a Brownie (rather than a Guide) when I helped plant a tree in the church grounds, so this weekend I paid particular attention to the trees, in case one of them was "my" tree. We took lots of photos of me in front of the few likely trees that I might have planted and we hope to compare the background, showing the church, in the cutting Mum still has from the Tamworth Herald showing me wielding the spade, so we can see which one it was. I can feel another old song coming on, prizes for this one too, but I could not resist

"See the tree, how big it's grown
But friend it hasn't been too long
It wasn't big
I laughed at her and she got mad
The first day that she planted it, was just a twig
Then the first snow came
And she ran out to brush the snow away
So it wouldn't die"

Yesterday it was a sunny day, for the celebration supper, but today, when we arrived at St Andrews Methodist Church, Thackeray Drive, Leyfields, Tamworth, snow was covering the tree top. Now how appropriate is that?

Certainly it was just a twig when I planted it, and assuming it survived and is one of the trees there today, it has certainly grown "big" in the intervening 30 odd years.

I will post the "before" and "after" shots when we are sufficiently organised.

We spent some time with Cynthia and Patrick Rickwood who were friends of Mum's all those years ago and who now play a very big role in the church, and while we were chatting on Saturday night the possibility arose of my doing a reading at the re-dedication service this morning.

I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to read Luke chapter 24, The Road to Emmaus. It was appropriate for Easter-time, appropriate too for the rededication of the Church after its refurbishment, but also an interesting choice for a reader who the congregation did not yet recognise (and of course I am not comparing myself to our Lord, but the synergy of him speaking to fellow travellers on the road who did not realise that he was an old friend, while I spoke to members of the congregation who knew me only as a child, was not lost on me).

So supper on Saturday was good, we met some old friends and ate a lovely buffet, not quite as "special" as Carol's but not very far behind, believe me, and today we had our service.

Because I introduced myself before the reading, explaining my relationship with the church, afterwards lots of people came forward to introduce themselves. And you would not have believed it, even if you had seen it with your own eyes.

Even 30 years after we left the town, even then, people still remembered and made those old connections. I was approached over coffee by the lady who was one of my Sunday School Teachers, together with the widow of the man who lead the Sunday School. I also renewed my aquaintance with Brown Owl, my Brownie Leader and my Captain, who lead the Guides.

I told them all that the community hall in St Andrews was key to my upbringing and key to my christianity. I am a Christian because of those people, they took a 6 year old child, they talked to me about Jesus, they enrolled me in the Brownies and later the Guides, they taught me to "do a good deed everyday" and to "Love my neighbour" and "not to pass by on the other side" and to "love my neighbour" and today I am a Labour Councillor in Kensington and Fairfield because I genuinely believe that is the best way I can fulfill those childhood instructions.

If ever a soul required recharging, then it would have been super-fired today. "Going back to my roots" this weekend has reinforced my determination to "do my duty", not just as a Brownie or a Guide or a member of the Sunday School, but as a fully fledged member of the adult community.

I owe so much of my character and my beliefs to St Andrew's - and of course to my family, who it was a real pleasure to have with me this weekend. I hope I can repay their efforts to keep me on the right path. Thank you so very much for being there for me.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lou

You should get in contact with all the Guide/Scout & Boys Brigade groups in your area. Uniformed services do far more than the Youth Service do - we cater for 3 times the number near me.

Guiding & Scouting can make a big difference to peoples lives & helps make the citizens of tomorrow!
Hope your well!?

xx
Paul Brighouse
Group Scout Leader
3rd Pendlebury (St John's C.E.)

Anonymous said...

(Scouseboy)Louise, I really enjoyed reading this entry.It shows people you have a lot more sides than just a political one. One thing that puzzles me. How did you arrive at Liverpool from Tamworth via Boro?

Louise Baldock said...

Hi Scouseboy, I lived in Meltham, near Holmfirth for 6 years too, before coming to Liverpool.

We left Tamworth for the North-East in 1978 with my father's job. In 1998 I left the North-East and moved to West Yorkshire with my own job.

Then I moved to Liverpool in 2004 to start a new life as I had very close friends here.

Best move I ever made!

Louise Baldock said...

Paul

How do I find the local groups? I would love to, we all three would.

Thanks for the idea, Louise

paul said...

Lou

Each area is divided into Districts. Liverpool has a few. imagine. You need to speak to the District Commissioner. Check out http://www.merseysidescouts.com/county/districts.php
not sure which you'd be under or call Gilwell Park (Scout Association HQ) for the DC's contact details 0845 300 1818.

Be warned! Like any voluntary organisation they are always desperate for adult support - so tend to concentrate on there own stuff & don't like to take on other things & some can be quite set in their ways! However I've always said that they need plugging into some of the wider community stuff (they even have a community badge!) and you may be able to help with that? Sounds like there is a lot of regeneration going on round your way they could get involved with? The community badge requires Scouts to undertake 8 hours community service. I've had Cllrs & MP's attend our meetings before now to talk about community issues.

Good luck!

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks Paul, a job for post May 1st, which I will welcome and enjoy

Lx

Robert said...

I knew it, despite the love of Coventry and Tamworth, you're a Black Country girl at heart. My wife, Susan Griffiths, was born in Sedgeley and grew up in Tipton. I spent many happy hours over the years in the park beneath Tamworth Castle when my grand-daughters lived there. Thanks for letting us share your recent visit. Thanks.

Louise Baldock said...

LOL re Black Country girl

"Wor arf a loff"

The photos of the snowy trees in 2008 are all present and correct, but the clipping from 1970something is not yet at hand, patience please