An end to the journey

A row of 1930s detached bungalows sits beside the West Coker Road out of Yeovil. Elegant properties, they would once marked the outskirts of the town.

One of these bungalows was always a source of fascination for a child staring through the rear window of his father’s car. It was either the one that stood nearest to the town or its next door neighbour.

The source of fascination was something utterly ordinary. Each bungalow had a driveway that ran beside the building to a garage at the rear. The fascinating one had a trellis fence across the driveway, no car could pass the bungalow.

Every time we travelled along the West Coker Road going to or from my grandmother’s house in Nash Lane, I would look out for that driveway. I could never have explained the reason for a fence being of such interest.

Perhaps the trellis fence was a reminder of the railway level crossing gates that once had been a familiar sight. Yeovil once had four railway stations. Perhaps the closed driveway evoked memories of the white crossing gates barring the progress of traffic. The Beeching cuts closed the line from Yeovil to Taunton and the stations at Hendford Halt and Yeovil Town. Only Pen Mill and the Junction remained. The lines would be recalled with fondness, yet our family never travelled by train even once.

Perhaps the trellis fence was symbolic of something deeper than level crossing gates, perhaps there was some subliminal meaning that is unrecoverable after a gap of more than fifty years. Who knows what thoughts pass through the mind of a small child who hasn’t yet the vocabulary or the understanding to articulate the ideas passing through his head?

A telephone conversation with a university academic had been the catalyst for the recollection. He had commented that people usually did doctoral studies at the beginning of their career, rather than at the end.

It had not occurred to me that I was at the end of my career. I feel as though I haven’t done anything yet, as if decades have slipped by while I was waiting for things to start, as though there would be something new and exciting just around the corner. In my second year of secondary school teaching, I had not seen myself as someone at the end.

Perhaps the trellis fence was a symbol in the subconscious anticipating a time when there would be an end, when even the ordinary would no longer be possible.

Using Google Streetview, I went down the West Coker road. The trellis is no longer there.

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