Crossing a bridge into the past

I spoke in Durham recently at an Academy of Chief Executives event. It was quite an emotional experience in a way. I grew up in Durham, leaving there to come down south when I was thirteen. I never knew Durham as a teenager or adult so perhaps the romance of childhood clings to the place, especially as I’ve only been back a couple of times in between and then only really passing through. Now I was ‘working’ there – being paid to deliver my creativity workshop.

The place feels like home, and perhaps not just because of my own history, but of the history of the place; the quietness and calmness. Rarely do you get such lush green around a river in the centre of a city as you do in Durham. It has nearly two thousand years of very well documented history and stands grounded as a remote spiritual and intellectual island dominated by the Cathedral, surrounded by higgledy-piggledy old buildings, most defined now as World Heritage. Apart from the art deco cinema where I saw all three Star Wars films being boarded up, along with Woolworths, little seemed to have changed since the 1970s. Little seemed to have changed since the 1870s.

Durham is a tiny city (the UK’s smallest) and you can walk the length and breadth of the centre in a few minutes. In a way it’s a metaphor for me of childhood. A time that seems so very long when it’s all you have. Those formative years loom so large in making us who we are and yet it’s only 12 years. We have a working memory of only around 7 of those years, just 7 magical Christmases (if we were lucky). Many of us spend the rest of out lives trying to re-enter the Eden of those 7 years – or sometimes sadly to try to escape it.

So there I was, effectively walking through the past, my past, or so it felt. I believe it’s good to re-connect to that earlier self of ours. To remember what it was like to be you in that creative, hopeful, imaginative prime. But at the same time to realise that you can’t go back to stay, that things have changed and moved on. But joining up your past in important. It made you what you are and your memory of events and emotions form the resources that you draw upon to generate your creativity today.

What would you say to that child if you met them on that bridge? What would they think of you now?

When I was 19 I wrote and recorded a song about this feeling. You can listen to it here. Flowers and Bridges

Flowers and Bridges
by Ayd Instone ©1990

Hello, again my friend, where have you been?
It seems so long ago since we met in a dream

I was only waiting for the sunset to arrive
And then I’m home amongst the hills and sky
And earth beneath my feet and I’m home
Was only waiting for the sunset in you eyes
Then I’m home amongst the flowers and bridges
Where we used to meet.

You’ve changed, I had envisaged that.
But you’ve still got that smile
It’s nearly morning, so I can’t stay long
See you again in a little while

I was only waiting on the platform for a train
With a ticket that will take me there
And bring me back again
I was only waiting with the flowers in my hand
Upon the bridge across the worlds
And into another land.

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