It wasn’t the same; it never is. He hefted his carryall, switching hands as it became increasingly heavy. He turned, trudging back along the curiously shortened street, searching in vain for the remembered magic of his birthplace, the chill wind piercing his light weight clothing. Although only mid afternoon, the grey sky darkened, pressing down on terra cotta chimney pots and slate roofs.
They had boarded up the windows of the sweet shop. A dispirited ‘To Let’ sign, pasted on the door, was beginning to peel off, the letters faded by the weather. The shop next door sported a sign in sympathy, ‘Back in ten minutes’. Ten years more likely!
The few people on the street shot him quick suspicious glances as they hurried past. Who was the foreigner here? he or they? He averted his gaze, suddenly conscious of his appearance. His wide brimmed hat, alone, labelled him a stranger.
Suddenly he was back at the pub. This time he went in, shouldering open the swing door. For the first time that day he saw someone he knew. He greeted the man sitting in the corner. The old man looked at him with dawning recognition.
” ‘morning Tom, haven’t seen you around much lately.”
“Twenty years!” said Tom, “I’ve been in Australia.”
“You don’t say!” the old man said absently. “Who do you reckon will win the cup this year?
(c) Copyright H.St.V.Beechey, 1994