My sister and I exchanged emails this morning. We try to speak regularly on SKYPE and whilst we could probably speak more often, once we get going, we can easily while away an hour or so without drawing breath. It's good to talk. I miss my sister.
In her email this morning, as well as telling me she was suffering with the cold that hit my mother - I knew it wasn't a Spanish bug - she told me she's off to London for a couple of days tomorrow with some friends. This in itself was no great shock - my sister has a wide circle of friends and is always off somewhere or other with them. What did make my eyebrows shoot up was the fact that she said she hasn't been to London since she came to visit me when I worked at Waterstone's - at a time when Tim W. was still very much in charge, (he interviewed me and gave me the job, making me responsible for the music department in the Charing Cross Road store and for which I will be forever grateful) - and when it still had its apostrophe! The dropping of the apostrophe caused quite a stir at the beginning of the year - though the name remains and Tim has long gone.
As I often do, I'd like you to bear with me on a short detour from the main theme of this post. I'd like to concur with the line in Wikipedia that states that Tim set up a new kind of bookshop, that 'employed a highly literate staff'...the people I worked with at this period were absolutely fascinating and some have gone on to develop further the areas they were interested in during their time at the shop. Jonathan Rich ran the fiction department and went on to write himself, including episodes of 'The Bill' and 'Casualty' and also a drama-documentary for the BBC on Egypt. I have just discovered he is also a voice over artist which doesn't surprise me at all as I remember his wonderful melodic voice very well indeed and having just listened to some of his recordings, I'm blasted back to the past when we worked briefly together on the same floor of the store. Jonathan was a joy to work with, funny, clever, a big softie (hugs on the hour, every hour) with a wicked wit and a real love of music - it's been such a treat to listen to his voice again, even if it's to hear him advertising software solutions and estate agents! I also remember being very fond of a serious chap called Ray Monk, whom I once accompanied to a rendezvous at St. Paul's Cathedral for him to buy a saxophone. Ray ran the philosophy department and is now a Professor of Philosophy at Southampton University with a string of prizes and books to his name - mainly on his abiding interest, Wittgenstein. Elizabeth, who ran the Travel department left to go to Zimbabwe, Colin, who ran the Health department had been a psychiatric nurse, the 'Saturday' boy was the son of the author Hunter Davies...it was an interesting place to work. (I ran a pretty good music section too.)
Back on track now. At the time, I lived in a place which has also changed its name. In 1985, Staines-upon-Thames was simply Staines and it was sometime during this year that my sister came to visit. I remember very little about what we did but it must have involved walking into the town centre along Gresham Road several times. I know this because on the last day of her visit, my sister slowed down as we passed one of the buildings on this road and then started to laugh. She laughed so much, she had to sit down on the pavement. She laughed so infectiously that I started to laugh too without having the slightest idea why. When we laugh, we laugh til we cry. So there we were - sitting on the kerb - tears rolling down our faces, unable to speak. Behind us was a building and my sister kept turning round and pointing to the sign, trying to explain why she was laughing but every time she looked at it, she'd start laughing again.
Why the hysteria? My sister is only mildly dyslexic (undiagnosed) but all week, as we walked past the building, she had been struggling to decipher the words. On our last trip, she worked it out....
If ever an institute needed to change its name - this has to be it!