On my way to Southampton on Saturday (Saints 2 - Stockport County 0) I once again paid a visit to my boyhood village, Hythe, which sits between the shore of Southampton Water and the New Forest. I paid my respects to my late mother`s resting place and had a walk around those familiar surroundings.
The picture (click on it for a larger image) shows Hythe`s High Street, which has seen many changes over the years but whose landscape is much the same, except perhaps for the introduction of a Waitrose supermarket at its far end, on the site of what was a large house, the Villa Amalthea. One other noticeable change has been the pedestrianisation of the High Street, but the shops are still there and the Lord Nelson pub. What`s happened of course is that the shops had all changed hands over the years with the exception of Madgwick`s Fish and Chip shop.
I went to Hythe Primary School with John Madgwick, whose parents ran the fish shop and John inherited the business and kept it going until he retired a few years ago. He installed a manager to run the shop for him so he could spend his days pottering in his bungalow garden in School Lane. On Saturday, I noticed that the shop sign no longer said ER Madgwick and Son and it was obvious that John`s interest in the shop has finally come to an end.
John and I also went to school there with William Scammell, who went on to become a leading poet, critic and biographer. In one of his books, Five Easy Pieces, John was thinly disguised as Dabwick, as `Billy` Scammell, as he was known to us, recalled his own boyhood days in that `village by the sea.`
"If you wrestled with Dabwick, the fishmonger`s son, you got beaten twice, once by his weight and forever by oil of herring and cod. He was the first among us to have a real job - in the shop, of course, - a fisher of housewives - and treated himself liberally to cigarettes and beer on his wages. In the Lord Nelson, whose back bar looked out across Southampton Water to the leviathans of P & O, Cunard, the Castle Line, he escaped from the cruelty of classmates. He took to wearing terrific brogues at one end of him and a checked cap at the other and became a globe with interesting poles, vanishing into the promised land of grown-ups."
Of course, the only constant thing in life is change, but I was sorry to see that the last of those familiar High Street shop signs has finally disappeared. Billy Scammell sadly left us ten years ago but I hope John is still in his School Lane bungalow and still getting his daily cod and chips. Next time I`m there, I`ll find out, even though with some trepidation.