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The Romance Review

Aylesham - A Lady in Her Own Standing

 

Nestled between the notorious city of Canterbury and the medieval town of Dover you will find her, growing rapidly in population, yet retaining her mining roots. Looked down on by some, dismissed by many, she shrugs off the loftiness and prestige of those around her. The place of my childhood, Aylesham Village, lovingly nicknamed Sunshine Corner. My husband calls her, “The place that time forgot.”

Established in 1926 as a mining community, Aylesham attracted and embraced miners from all over the British Isles. Some came out of necessity, desperately seeking work. Others were rejected by their own pits and labelled militants. They all came seeking a new life and prosperity, with their pockets empty but their hearts filled with determination. The diversity and uniqueness of her original settlers have moulded and shaped the character of Aylesham and made her what she is today.


I left the village when I was 21 years old and immigrated to Canada. I went in search of adventure and a new life. That vast and majestic country has housed my form, nurtured my soul, provided me with a career and a wonderful family, but England will always been home. Now as I’m growing older, I tend to reminisce more often; the memories of my childhood entertain my thoughts frequently and fill me with nostalgia.  I remember vividly the profusion and delicate fragrance of the wild roses scattered throughout the village. The leisurely walks through the wooded Spinney Lane in the spring, with her carpet of primroses and later, in a mist of bluebells. The regimented cuisine of fish on Fridays, salad on Saturdays and the ever-reliable Sunday dinner. I recall the congregations of women, standing outside the shops adorned with colourful aprons and metal curlers, exchanging the local gossip, as they rocked their big-wheeled prams back and forth. Packs of mischievous dogs roaming and littering the streets, unsupervised and uncared-for; a mixed breed of canines, coming and going as they pleased. Rows and rows of clothes lines with their fresh white linen blowing in the breeze, generally on Mondays. The Welfare Grounds, where we watched our dad play football on a Saturday afternoon. Its primitive play equipment and all its nooks and crannies where lovers stole forbidden, romantic moments, was an adventure land for us kids. The unforgettable, annual, seaside trips, sponsored by the working mans club. Like a regiment of soldiers, laden with goods, we would march to the station, fill the train to capacity and leave the village abandoned. We would make sand castles on the beach; wade in the sea and anticipating the thrill of the fun fair and the taste of candyfloss at the end of the day. Oh, what simplicity! Oh, what joy! As a child, Aylesham was my haven, my place in the world.

The people of Aylesham are unique in many ways; they have a distinct accent and vocabulary of their own. They have a strong sense of humour, love for the absurd and a habit of poking fun at what they love without meaning disrespect. Most of the people that live there are descendants of the original settlers and are quite familiar with each others history. They show a genuine but inquisitive concern for their neighbours which might be considered intrusive by some. There is an invisible bond that binds them together. Strangers are cautiously welcomed. Although these Aylesham people may appear to be a tad unsophisticated at times, they are the cheeriest, kindest, friendliest and most caring breed of folk you could ever wish to meet.

The negative stigma that has attached itself to the village has always puzzled me. Although she does have her share of illicit and unscrupulous characters, the same can be said of any other town of her size. I have always believed that her reputation is unjust. Those that would harshly judge her have not lived among her people and felt the comradery of such a close-knit community. Although her amenities are limited, she is slowly coming to terms with contemporary life; just at a more leisurely pace than some. She has weathered the storms of nature’s wrath, tragedies, mining strikes and the closure of her life’s blood, Snowdown Colliery, but still manages to retain the essence of her mining roots. She has absorbed the verbal abuse and discrimination from those around her with dignity. She has nursed, nurtured and sustained her own. She is indeed a Lady in Her Own Standing and I am proud to call her home!