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Thursday, 15 May 2008


I suppose all of us can think of people who influenced us in our youth. They were sufficiently different from our parents and peers in an attractive way. Rick was someone like that for me.

He was the warden of a Youth Hostel in the Forest of Dean, one of the isolated and beautiful corners of Gloucestershire. I'd joined a club that went off on cycling weekends, stayed at hostels and drank a fair bit.

So one December, I met Rick. Except I didn't at first because on the desk in the hostel was a note: "Warden in pub across the road". Didn't leave us much alternative! This was near 40 years ago, the pub had a piano, a pianist and people were singing. I'm not sure that lager had even been invented but brown ale I do remember. No one would have understood the expression "binge drinking"

We went over to see Rick quite often after that. Learned to cook sausages in the oven, sat on seats that had started life in busses long before recycling became fashionable. Sometimes we slept in the dormitory that had once been the village theatre. We helped Rick paint the place.

I remember the time Rick invited us into his private room and there on the wall were joined up maps covering all of Wales. That perhaps is his most tangible legacy to me because when I got my own place, I spent all one Easter weekend with wallpaper paste and Ordnance Survey maps. The results are by my side as I type this, a map with corners in Northampton, Reading, the Elan Valley and the fringes of Swansea.

Rick was a quiet man who was on his own a lot but sometimes there for a lot of people.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I like that map :D

And I like Rick... and everyone I know like him. There are not enough of those people in the world but they should be valued wherever they are found.