The day started bright and early with a trip up the M1. We got to Northampton mid morning, parked up, and went for a stroll around the town centre. It’s certainly a place which is heavy on memories for us both. The chippies. The busking pitches. The vintage clothing stores. The fluorescent lighting in the shopping centre. The place where we used to get our photos developed...
We went into the Derngate Theatre and spent ages trying to work out where the old entrance was situated and why it got replaced by a wine bar with a cheese counter.
We went to the old Music School just before lunch where we met Peter, Beth and Rachel. It’s many, many years since Sam was last there, so we went for a tour around the building, literally opening every single classroom door and sharing the memories which rushed in like the smell of dusty rosin in a cello case. There wasn’t a single room which we’d not rehearsed in at some point. Sam’s wind quintet. Chamber orchestra. Big band. Clarinet lessons. Youth choir. Sinfonia. Wind Band. The practise room where I used to give ‘cello lessons. The upper hall where composer James MacMillan taught us about heterophony. We stood in the places where we’d sat in various orchestras. It really was a treat. It’s a happy, happy building which has the habit of making those who walk its corridors feel like the chosen ones.
Lunch happened at the lovely vintage place where a very grumpy man was very rude to the woman behind the counter and we all ate baked potatoes.
We went back to the music school after lunch and crowded around a computer screen to watch an unedited film of Nene, shot at Peterborough Cathedral. It was a joy to be able to show Sam the full length version. Snow had kept him away from seeing it in the flesh.
We got back in the car and drove through the sheeting rain to Higham Ferrers, where I grew up. We had a little stroll about the town, nestling under umbrellas. The church was locked. I always think it’s incredibly sad when churches are locked during daylight hours. It says a lot about the location. Or those who run the church.
We had a quick wander past my old house and then went on our way. I’m told the kids from the junior school which the house backed onto - who performed Nene at the Albert Hall - got very excited at the prospect of seeing the enormous walnut tree which we planted on my Dad’s 40th birthday. I’m also told the same kids were gathered together in an assembly to be played the last words I said in the film that the BBC made about my Nene journey. I mentioned how wonderful it was for me to meet and work with the pupils because they’d made me realise that I had roots. I was speaking the truth.
From Higham, we drove up the A6 to Kettering, where Sam was brought up. We stopped for a little while outside his old house and talked about our memories of Wicksteed Park which it was opposite.
The sun came out as we drove back down the A6. We followed the road through Higham and Rushden, up past my old rugby club and the crossroads where Waikiki night club had stood before it was burned down. It was at that particular club that youths from Rushden would regularly fight their Bedford counterparts. The idea of beating someone up purely because they come from a different town is pretty bizarre.
We passed through Bedford and joined the M1 somewhere near Luton before stopping at Toddington Services for more tea.
A gloriously nostalgic day.