Change is a-Foot
I arrived in New Milton in 1996 and have had connections with the town on and off ever since. A lot has changed on the High Street in that time – supermarkets have been rebranded, pubs have disappeared with a decline in social drinking. One in particular, The Trout, has been demolished to make way for the new health centre. The second-hand furniture traders have given way to the Costa Coffee franchise where I am writing today. But crossing the railway bridge as I walked into town this morning gave me a glimpse further back into the past.
A pine furniture retailer has given up in the face of Internet competition. Its trading unit, immediately opposite the station, has been boarded up, presumably to prevent vandalism while plans for its future are advanced. In the process the name sign above the shop has been removed to reveal a much older, painted name above the unit – that of Cecil G Foot. Peeling painted letters on a discoloured tan background give a clue to the vintage of the signage which I guessed to be about 100 years old.
Intrigued, I researched Mr Foot online and was quickly rewarded with several historical articles detailing both who he was and the history of the large retail unit concerned.
Cecil Foot was an estate agent and auctioneer who took possession of the shop in 1928. But he was also well known for refusing to take up arms to kill in the first world war.However, no white feathers for cowardice came Mr Foot’s way, for he was awarded a medal for valour in his role as a stretcher-bearer.
So Mr Foot saved lives, he survived his war service, he traded, he lived, he died. And though his legacy was recorded in the local history books it has taken almost 100years for his name to reappear once more on the hoarding above his shop. MrFoot has, as it were, risen from the grave to re imprint his name on the psyche of the town.
Shops come and go.Generations pass. Change is ubiquitous, happening all around us so continuously that from moment to moment we barely notice. And the same level of change that is taking place all around us is also taking place within us. 90% of all cells in our are replaced each year. Event the least frequently replaced are changed within 15 years.
I am, quite literally, not the same person I was last year. I retain a sense of continuity by way of memory of past events, accurate or otherwise - energy patterns lodged in my brain that convinced me that, though Michael might have a few more grey hairs or a few more aches and pains than he did five years ago, he is essentially the same person. For the most part, we quite simply cannot cope without the sense of identity, of ego that memory gives us. For if I am not ‘Michael, son of Leonard, 67 years of age, with all his personal history, his education, qualifications, profession, children ? grandchildren and life events, then exactly who am I?
Most cannot deal with the uneasiness brought by awareness that we might not be who we think we are.Most simply choose to ignore the most glaringly obvious facts of a universal inconsistency until they stand in front of us, shake us by the shoulders and spit in our eye. Instead it’s ’Yes, well I do change, of course, but I am obviously the same person I was 20, 30, 40 years ago. I still like reading books, travelling, stimulating conversation and good movies. All that means, surely that I am me.’
Until it doesn’t.Until a plan-disrupting life event – a birth, a death, an illness confronts us with the reality that life not only begins and ends but is beginning and ending every moment of our conscious awareness.
And then, if we are willing to listen, we realise that we are as leaves on an enduring oak. We are brought into being as the tree exudes its life into us in spring. We brighten and thrive in the summer warmth and light, we wane as the tree draws back energy in autumn. We shrivel and fall to feed the Earth when the illusion of our independent identity is drawn back into the tree.
Cecil had his day.Traces of his energy lingered silently behind a new name board that hung above his shop for 80 years more. And with the passing of that identity, the echo of his voice is still there for those that have ears to hear. It speaks of the illusion of permanence and the inevitability of transience. Thanks, Cecil. Because you are still speaking I will spend my time more beneficially today.