Like a lot of people we have a loft (attic) full of boxes of stuff, most of it probably junk in the ‘let’s put that in the loft, we might need it at some point’ category. But we also have a few boxes of memories and treasures.
Last week we ventured into the loft to retrieve what we thought was a box of books…
What it turned out to be was something completely different.
The box contained:
A pile of my husband’s clothes from 25 years ago
Cricket magazines from my husband’s childhood
Portsmouth football club programmes, mostly from the 70s and 80s, but two from 1962
And a carrier bag with a few items that belong to me…
A New Testament bible
This has my name written inside and the date ‘1981’.
Throughout my teenage years I was a member of the Girl’s Brigade and went to church every Sunday. I loved being a part of it all. I went to weekly meetings, played in the Girl’s Brigade band and went to camp with them. I also enjoyed going to church. I have quite vivid memories of my church going years. I knew I had a belief. I knew I had a strong faith, at the time I thought it was in God. However, I could never wrap my head around the idea of an evil entity i.e. the Devil. It just didn’t sit right with me. I can remember questioning it on more than one occasion but never really getting a satisfactory explanation.
I wholeheartedly believe that my years of regular church going set the stage for my eventual journey into Paganism and Witchcraft. The seed of having a faith had been planted, it was just about me finding the right faith.
A metal pin badge for ‘Secretary of the Young Farmers Club’
I joined the Petersfield branch of Young Farmers when I was about 18 years old. There is a whole “left home at 17/18 years old to live on a farm with a pig farmer story” behind this. I LOVED Young Farmers and belonged for about five or six years. During that time I became Secretary to the Petersfield branch. Lots of social activities, a lot of them involving the pub to be fair. I drunk enough Southern Comfort during those years to last me a lifetime! Lots of county shows, fairs, exchanges with other groups, annual conferences around the country and inter Young Farmer competitions (including pig judging). And my scones won first prize in County Shows for two years running…
And I got to live in a little cottage in a field in the middle of nowhere. Huge garden surrounding the cottage, a dirt track leading down to it and open fields as far as the eye could see. Beautiful, beautiful countryside. No mains gas and the electricity went out every time we had a storm. Oh, and no central heating. I still worked during the week in an office, but during the weekend I helped out on the pig farm – I loved it all. Being so close to nature, so in tune with the seasons and working with my favourite animal. When I look back on it, although I loved being outside and in that setting I am not sure I truly appreciated the opportunity as much as I would have done if I knew what I know now. But again, it was a stepping stone in the right direction towards my chosen spiritual pathway.
The third item
A 1922 illustrated hard back copy of one of my favourite books – The Wind in the Willows. The copy has seen better days and is a bit battered but seems to be all together. I don’t remember purchasing it, but it is possible as I have always loved second hand books stores. It was inside the cover that was a bit of a surprise.
There is a handwritten inscription just inside that reads:
“Rachel from EM F Wallis. With best wishes for a Happy Birthday”
Not so surprising perhaps as my name is Rachel and I do have birthdays.
I don’t remember or know of any EM F Wallis though.
But the most intriguing part? The inscription is dated ‘April 1950’.
I wasn’t born until 1968…
It may have been that I saw the book in a store, read the inscription and had to buy it or it might be that my dad saw it in a store and bought it for me. But I cannot remember either happening.
I have no explanation for it, but I shall treasure it just the same and ponder on the spookiness of it all.
I give a belated thank you to the Girl’s Brigade and Young Farmers for setting my on my journey to finding Paganism and Witchcraft. I firmly believe they both played a big part in paving the way.
And to Kenneth Grahame for writing such a beautiful book.
EMF Wallis whomever you were, you gave excellent birthday presents! And to the Rachel that the book was originally gifted to, I hope you enjoyed reading it before it ended up with me.