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LOOKING BACKWARDS  

                                           by NOEL HARROWER

The quest began when I was small and Auntie Louie came for tea and told of times when she was young and just about as big as me. She’d lived with Dad above a shop where Grandpa sold his boots and shoes – not plastic ones that flip and flop but sturdy ones with hobs and nails. Their street was gaslit after dark and every weekend in the park brass  bands and children played. Their granddad wore a silk top hat and spoke a brogue they puzzled at, and when he died, great aunts appeared all bonneted and dressed in black. And after funeral rites and cake the children were invited back to see their Scottish home. My Aunt was 9, my Dad was 5. They travelled north by midnight trains across the Forth bridge they swept to Culross, Fife, where time had slept. An ancient place, with cobbled streets, red pantiled roofs and market cross and home built by great-grandpapa with post office and village store. Above - a room where sisters sewed to fabricate and decorate lace curtains, linen tableware - a genteel cottage industry. And while they stayed at home so long their brother joined the spinning throng and travelled south to Manchester. A painting of great grandmamma surveyed the work the sisters did. Aunt Jennet held her in esteem. She said she came of titled blood and had eloped when she was young to wed our humble grandpapa.                                                          1 The story of this wild romance had put Aunt Louie in such a trance                   it started me upon a quest to find the truth. I could not rest, and down the years, I searched through records lost in dusty tomes  - noting many names and dates, and staring hard at old tombstones. A little tree began to grow computers added to the spree. It blossomed and it ranged quite wide as cousins swam in on a tide from distant lands across the seas. And still the living woodland grows as branches sprout, and no one knows where this dance leads Sometimes I feel I’m lost inside a family forest – tall and wide.   ----------------------------------------------------------------------
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