How I've revisited my childhood from halfway across the world

"As the years rolled away I started to feel twinges of that nostalgia."

I’m sure I’m not the only bloke in the world to have found that, as I get older and move further and further into the future, I yearn more for the past.

It’s called nostalgia!

When Jacqui and I got married in 1959, about the farthest thing from my mind was my past, especially as we were about to start a double adventure, beginning our lives together and sailing off to the other side of the world in New Zealand – about as far as you can go from England without starting to come back again!

But as the years rolled away I started to feel twinges of that nostalgia; I’d be sitting at my drawing board, thinking up some design idea and suddenly find myself thinking, “I wonder what Keys Avenue (where I spent my early years), looks like now?” or “I wonder if my old primary school, Filton Avenue School still exists?” This feeling got noticeably stronger as time went by, until I eventually felt I ought to do something about it – but what?

You would have thought the idea would have come to me a lot quicker, but it took me several weeks to realise that I had in front of me the perfect tool for the sort of research I was considering, and there it was, right in front of me – my computer of course! This all happened about fifteen years ago and I was much less efficient or knowledgeable on the dreaded machine than I am today, but at least I had mastered most of the basics, so I started searching.

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The very first thing I did was to find Keys Avenue on Google Maps, a wonderful little piece of software that can take you literally anywhere in the world in about two seconds flat. I was quite surprised to find that the old street looked very much as it did when I lived there in the nineteen forties and early fifties, apart from a few modern windows having been fitted and sadly, evidence of burglar alarms on pretty well every house. Not only had they not been invented for use by the masses I my day, but they wouldn’t have been needed anyway – it was quite safe to go off shopping without locking any doors at all then, but apparently there have been changes – a sign of the times, I guess!

I then started looking for my old friends in the Avenue, all of whom I had not seen or heard from since we left the district in1956 – over sixty years ago!. The names I searched for were John Bass, Derek Ransley, Derek Long, Reg Silverthorne, Derek Balmer, David Glasspole and Michael Jones, the latter not being a Keys Avenue resident, but he was a close friend of us all, going to Filton Avenue School like us.

This was where Mr Google was VERY useful! I was pretty sure John Bass would still be in the Bristol area and Google agreed – turned out he lived, (and still lives), in Clevedon. Then there was Derek Balmer, again someone I was pretty sure still lived in or around Bristol, as I knew he was President of the Royal West of England Academy of Art. I picked David Glasspole next, for the simple reason that his is not the most common name in the world, and it took me about ten minutes to discover that he lives in maidenhead! I picked my mate from three houses up the road from where I lived next – Derek Ransley. Now I knew with some degree of certainty, that he lived somewhere in America, because on two occasions over the years he had come to England on holiday and we happened to meet up in Bath, where we had a drink and a chat together in my local pub, The Porter Stores. So I concentrated on the American Ransleys, of which there appeared to be about half a dozen, one of whom had indications of an academic life. On pure ‘off chance’, I gave that one the pleasure of my attention and blow me down, I was right!

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From there onwards things tended to grow by themselves – David knew Reg Silverthorne’s address, again, like Derek, in California, and Reg knew where Michael lived, in Winterbourne, etc., etc., etc!.

I must say I was stunned that pretty well ALL of the old and original gang from Keys Avenue were still around, the only loss apparently, being Jim Fisher, who became a scientist but passed away some years ago. As for the rest, I am delighted to say we keep in fairly regular contact, all seem to be in reasonable health, considering our advancing years, (we must all be in our eighties!), and enjoy a pleasant life style. May it go on for many more years to come!

Have you found technology a great help to connect you with your past?