Thursday, March 09, 2006

Threads through Time

The concept of human relationships taking the form of webs which intersect on many different planes of society is something familiar to readers of novelists such as Thomas Hardy (e.g. The Woodlanders) and Anthony Trollope (e.g. The Kellys and the O’Kellys). It is a concept that has long been a fascination to me, even more so since practising medicine within a close rural community.

However, it has only recently come to my attention that there are also linear threads (as opposed to webs) which link individual and seemingly disparate events within one’s own life. Perhaps such an awareness only comes about after a certain age, at a time when a person’s collective experiences have reached a certain ‘mass’ and such interconnections can thus be made.

This realisation first came to me whilst reading Alan Bennett’s book, Untold Stories (see my article entitled The Literary Stalker.) Last weekend, I was re-reading some of Bennett’s diaries. In one particular entry he speaks of the enclosure acts of the 18th and 19th centuries and how the lands of North Yorkshire were affected. Bennett informs us that “In 1890, John Hulton used the land allotted to him from the enclosure of Marske Moor in Swaledale to create a new farm, Cordilleras”. He goes on to say that “Today, the farm…has been swallowed up by the Ministry of Defence’s Training Area”.

It was as I read the name of the farm that long-forgotten memories flooded back. For eleven years, I served as an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps. On one particular exercise, my Field Ambulance was stationed within derelict farm buildings somewhere in North Yorkshire. All we knew about the farm was that it used to be known as Cordilleras. That particular location has poignant memories for me, as it was there that I learnt, in the early hours of the morning as I sat in my army Landrover, about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

I had previously met Diana on the occasion of the opening of a maternity hospital in East Yorkshire, where I was the Senior House Officer for Obstetrics. Just recently, I visited Kensington Palace, the former home of Diana (see my Postcard from London (1)).

So, all of a sudden, because of a totally unrelated comment by a diarist, my mind had linked several events during the course of my life – the maternity hospital, my military activities at the time of Diana’s death, Cordilleras Farm and the reading of Alan Bennett’s diaries. In other words, a cerebral thread had developed, linking a series of otherwise isolated events spread over an eighteen year period.

Is it of interest? Well, such musings at least keep me amused and out of harms way!

However, more importantly, is such analytical linking valid or is it a nonsensical process of no material relevance? I do not know the answer to that. Although, I suspect someone with a higher grasp of philosophy may well be able to argue the pros and cons. Indeed, I would be interested to receive any erudite comments.

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