A step back in time – first published 11 February 2014

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The second week of February 2014 I found myself revisiting my lost youth. No, I didn’t go out buying mini skirts, dying my hair pink or spending all night in a nightclub. This case of revisiting my lost youth was more about trying to find college courses in my area. This, in turn, was about making me slightly more employable, not to mention giving me something interesting to do. 

11 February 2014

If I lived in Winchester I could get government funded courses in computing and a host of other things run especially for the unemployed. Winchester is a long walk on a regular basis though, especially with all the flooding. The Job Centre were less than helpful when I asked them about courses a little more local than the other end of the Itchen Navigation. All they could suggest was asking at local colleges.

Far be it for me to complain but it does seem there is a great deal more Job Centres could be doing to help people find work. Their main focus seems to be trying to cut the official unemployment numbers by finding ever more ridiculous and petty reasons to sanction people, thereby removing them from the statistics and not having to pay them. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that finding people jobs would be a more useful route to go down to achieve the same aim. I’m just saying…

Anyhow, this morning I found myself walking through the rain to the local college, the one I attended more years ago than I care to admit. I wasn’t exactly hopeful but as the Job Centre suggested it, albeit at my instigation, I thought I’d better. I don’t want to give them an excuse to sanction me. It felt quite odd to be walking through those gates again after all this time. The main building is much the same but a mass of little satellite buildings have sprung up since I was last there. Finding my way to reception was slightly more difficult than I expected.

When I walked through an area that I remember being corridors and classrooms only to find it now a very plush looking cafeteria and shop I forgot for a moment I wasn’t sixteen. I found myself looking around at the students mentally calculating my place in the pecking order. Believe it or not, back in college I was one of the cooler kids, although not in the super cool category of course. Mostly this was down to owning a motorcycle and wearing a leather jacket which just goes to show how shallow teenagers are. Then I remembered I’m a fifty something mother of three therefore super uncool. It was a long hard fall back to earth.

Eventually I made it to the reception area. This was in a part of the building I actually recognised. When I say recognised…everything has changed. There is now a very fancy reception area with a huge desk. The one familiar sight was the door and the stained glass above it, oh and the curved windows encasing the stairwell to the science block.

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Turns out the Job Centre sent me on a wild goose chase. There are no free courses for the unemployed until May. I’m hoping to have a job long before then! Even then the only thing they offer is literacy and numeracy, both things I have covered (well maybe the numeracy is a stretch but I do have a CSE in maths). So why are the colleges in Winchester taking advantage of the government funding to offer courses for the unemployed while Southampton colleges aren’t? Come to that why do the Job Centre staff not seem to care? Oh well, it was a walk. As I was out and about anyway and the rain had stopped, possibly only briefly, I thought I’d check out something else I’d been puzzling over with all my new found free time.

A while ago, when I was looking for interesting places to walk to, I stumbled upon a list of all the listed buildings in Southampton. Some were quite surprising but I’ll tell you about that another day. One in particular puzzled me. It was on the Main Road and, from the house number, it seemed to be fairly close to me, just the other side of the village. Why hadn’t I noticed it before? So, as I was at the top of the hill already, I decided to go and have a look what made it so special.

First I popped into the butchers to see if there were any good mid week deals. One of the advantages of being unemployed is I can take advantage of these offers before they run out. Today I got a three for £10 deal on packs of six Aberdeen Angus burgers and a nice piece of brisket, enough for Sunday and a stew. It fitted into my ruck sack just right. Because I was so early the Echo hadn’t been delivered to the paper shop so I made a mental note to pick one up on the way back.

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The wind that had hampered my walk up the Big Hill wasn’t much better as I emerged on the other side of the village. Basically it’s one long road with a few bends, undulating hills and a precinct in the middle so I was going in the same direction. I walked down the next hill, looking at the house numbers as I went. Then, just as I thought I was coming to it, there was a gap where new flats had been built. It had to be there somewhere, maybe behind the huge tall fence. As I came towards the bottom of the hill, I thought I could just see the apex of a thatched roof over the top of it. Maybe this was the place.

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The fence went on and on and, once I was at the bottom of the hill, I couldn’t see anything at all over it. Then I came to a small side road. Maybe the front of the house would be round there? Nope, just more fence. There was a kind of car port and a gate, but this was shut and made of the same tall fence panels. Risking a good telling off I walked into the car port and peeked through a tiny gap. From there I could see a little more roof and almost a door but that was as good as it got. Even walking back and trying to peek over a lower garden fence further up the hill didn’t help.

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A quick look at WalkJogRun told me another side road would take me to the back of the thatched cottage. Maybe I’d be able to see it from there? Here at least the gate was open but, unless I actually went inside, which I wasn’t prepared to do, all I could see was some kind of extension. Quite why the people who own this particular listed building feel the need to hide it away so carefully I have no idea. I wish they hadn’t though because I’d love to have actually seen it.

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From what little information I can glean it is called Shephard’s Cottage and is the last cob and thatched cottage in the village, possibly in the city. Made from straw and animal dug (nice), built in layers on a timber frame then washed with lime. At first I wondered if there were sheep in the village at some point. I knew there were farms linked to the Manor back in the 1600’s. Actually it is named after the family who owned both the cottage and the nearby brickworks in the 1800’s. Pappy told me there were brickworks when he first came to Southampton from Oxfordshire during the First World War. Either way I didn’t see see the cottage and I won’t unless the gales blow down those high fences.

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My three and a bit mile walk ended just as the rain began again which was a bit of luck. Well, that’s what I thought until I realised I’d forgotten the Echo and we were out of coffee! Of course it meant braving the heavy rain and eighty mile an hour winds, not to mention the small pond that appears to be forming in the Crescent close to my house but a girl can’t live without coffee. The front page of the Echo, when I finally got my hands on it, seemed slightly superfluous. The main news was about the storm I was currently struggling against. Oh well, it was all extra miles even if I did get wet and almost blown away.

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Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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