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I’ve just been travelling back in time.  This may sound a bit weird, but it happened on a train journey today, as I went to London for a meeting.  First of all I stood on Coventry Station platform and listened to the announcer telling everyone where the next train was going to stop.  For a couple of years in the seventies I travelled to school in Coventry by train, and here were the same old names being read out.  “Canley, Tile Hill, Berkswell, Hampton-in-Arden”…  And once on the train to London I left my books and papers for a while and just looked out of the window for the first dozen miles, as I recalled the landmarks of the old journey back home to Rugby . 

Just by Rugby Station are the shrunken remains of the once-extensive GEC factory where I worked for three years before we were married.  The front offices are still there, also a select proportion of the workshops and assembly areas, so I can still visualise the place as it was.  On down to London , and the reminiscence continued.  I was going to a meeting at our Church’s main offices, just south of Kings Cross, so my journey took me out of Euston, along and down past the halls of residence where I lived for two years at University, and within shouting distance of the student hostel where Erica and I met.  Time travelling indeed, as in the course of an hour and a half I revisited scenes familiar from nearly thirty years ago.

From a distance, nothing has changed.  The railway follows the same course.  The fields between Coventry and Rugby are just as they were, the cement works still guarding the approach to Rugby Station.  The buildings of London I used to live in are still in the same place, and I can still identify which window belonged to “my” room overlooking Cartwright Gardens .

Go closer, and of course everything has changed.  The halls of residence now boast double self-opening doors with a swipe-card entryphone system to keep the warmth in and unwanted visitors out.  The factory in Rugby now employs hundreds, if that, where once it was two thousand.  Yet it was good to see the old places again.  Not to wish myself back there, but to remind myself of good times, good friends, some of the things that make me me.

On a yet bigger scale I suppose I did more time travelling at the beginning of September, when with a party from our church I went to the island of Iona .  This is the spot from where St Columba first spread Celtic Christianity to Scotland in the year 563.  While there our group and other visitors went to the bay where St Columba first landed, saw the remains of an ancient hermit’s cell and worshipped in the Abbey which was built, ruined and rebuilt on the site of St Columba’s first church.

St Columba wouldn’t recognise the modern slipway onto which the ferry deposited us.  He would find the rebuilt Iona Abbey, despite its centuries-old structure, still much too large and modern for his taste.  He would think our dress was luxurious and immodest, and goodness knows what he would make of the handful of cars on the island!

But he would recognise the silhouette of hills on the isle of Mull from behind which the sun rose every morning.  He would recognise the sound of the waves on the shore and the distant view of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave .  He would recognise the moon and he would calculate the passing of the weeks by its shape.  He would also recognise the sentiments and some of the words still used in worship on his island.

We are privileged to share these roots with him.  And with those who came after him.  The most fundamental parts of our heritage  - national, social, religious - can not be altered by humankind’s tinkering on the edges.  They are still there to go back to.  I recommend a little time travel to you all.

 (c) Copyright Bill Young 2004