In my childhood we lived on a road called St. Leonards Road. St, Leonard is apparently the patron saint of prisoners, captives and slaves (amongst other things).
I wonder how many people who passed our house in those days thought that I looked like I was in some form incarceration. I suspect that it looked a bit like I’d been sent to the naughty corner; the reality was that I was in one of my favourite places.
This special place was in the corner of our bay window where I sat on a wooden footstool. This simple perch was crafted by my dad as a school project, if I remember correctly, and it lived in the corner for the sole purpose of being my seat. It had turned wooden legs and a woven cord seat. At footstool height it was perfect for the childhood me to sit, peer over the window ledge and take in the sights beyond.
If people wanted to find me, they knew were to look.
We had a smallish garden out of the front of the house, where the bay window overlooked. The garden itself was worth looking out of the window for. My parents were and still are master gardeners and there was always something different to see. I particularly liked the huge daisy like flowers that would sprout high into the sky in the summer.
Beyond the garden was a footpath which, in those days, was quite well used. There were some shops down at the end of St. Leonard’s road which people would walk to for provisions, or fish and chips. The shops are still there, but people now drive there and I don’t think there is a fish and chip shop.
The road outside our house had the added interest of being slightly to one side of the end of a t-junction. I would spend hours counting cars. Some days I would count cars by colour; on others it was cars by manufacturer; on other days I would count who went in which direction. The counting was always in my head, it was a mental game that I played, it would have felt weird to write it down. I would get to learn the routine of some of the cars even though I didn’t know the occupants.
The road that fed into the t-junction was an offshoot of another road which lead up a steep hill. From the top of the steep-hill we would see if we could free wheel our bikes all the way to the bottom around two corners and into the driveway of our house. My dad would play the same game in his car, especially when we were all inside.
To one side of the t-junction were houses, on the side were we were was a field. All of the houses on our street and the surrounding area had been built around the the same time, in the middle of these houses a plot of land had been left undeveloped. This would become our play area and the place where I first learnt the splendour of gazing up into a night sky free of light pollution. It would also become the place where I sent to school, eventually.
Sitting and watching the world go by is one of life’s simple pleasures. It doesn’t cost anything but fires the imagination if you let it. Sometimes the people passing our house were on their way to an adventure in some far off land, perhaps they were pirates. The cars were rocket-ships or hover-boards, two cars together were in a chase. Boys on bikes were up to mischief. The older lady who looked very prim and precise on her sit-up-and-beg bike with its handlebar basket was really a spy.
I still love to sit and watch the world go by, but my imagination is less vivid which feels like a shame.