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Talking with time

Here at this place, quite close to where my mother lives in south-east England, four different times collide:

  • centre-right, the remaining archway of the Roman-period gateway and Roman tile-and-stone wall around the town
  • to the left, the whitewashed walls and terrace of The Hole In The Wall, the thriving 17th-century ale-house built on top of ‘the hole in the wall’
  • behind, the now-disused Victorian water-tower, affectionately known as ‘Jumbo’ for the brass elephant-windvane above the wooden cupola
  • below, the modern road, slicing through the hill and through history, with regimental badges from the town’s military-garrison lined along the retaining wall

Each time with their own story; each story with their own time; all meeting together in the same place, story upon story.

Broader stories can collide with place, too. To give just one example, this is a town where the warrior-queen Boudicca (Boadicea) was no legend, but all-too-concrete fact. Or rather, lack of concrete – because by the time she’d wreaked her revenge here, nothing remained of the Roman city other than the inches-thick layer of ash that can still be found everywhere beneath the modern town.

And a few paces to the right from here, the origin of another legend: Humpty Dumpty. We might know Humpty Dumpty only as a nursery-rhyme now, but it was the nickname of a squat iron cannon that the Royalist troops mounted high up in the tower of St Mary’s Church, to defend this gate, when the town was besieged during the Civil Wars of the 1640s. Evidently Humpty Dumpty did its deadly job well enough to be remembered by name, but eventually the Parliamentarians disembowelled the tower with a well-placed cannon-shot. And yes, Humpty did indeed come “tumbling down and broke his crown” – the cannon was smashed on the rubble. “All the Kings horses and all the King’s men” – the Royalist defenders – “couldn’t put Humpty together again”: and the town was lost soon after.

Although sometimes a story is just a made-up story, often – as here – there are real events there too. Perhaps more often a story is a blend of both: and that’s especially true where different times collide within one place, causing the stories to blur together. At times we might need to be more like archaeologists, gently pulling apart the layers of story to find the subtler facts and deeper meanings hidden within.

What are some of your own stories for where times collide, for your family, your community, your business?

What are the places, the people, the events? What were the meanings, the lessons-learned?

In what ways have those stories changed over time? In what ways do the different stories, different times, different places, different people, all collide with each other, blur together? What are the layers of story there?

Stories are our means of talking with time: capture those stories in your Zahmoo story-bank.

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Image credit: Author

August 17th, 2012 by Zahmoo
Filed in: For Business, For Community, For Family, Research
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