For several years Roamer has been living a double life in two different places, working and residing at locations that are over 80 miles apart.
I have an office at each address where I write, store readers’ letters and communications, and keep reference books and archives.
My main office is in my permanent home on the edge of Belfast Lough relatively close to the News Letter and the other work-related and social haunts that I frequent.
My other ‘secondary’ workplace is in a house atop a rolling, green drumlin not far from the shores of Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh.
But it’s not all joy and tranquillity dividing my time between such pleasant, scenic bases - there’s a downside to this double life!
Apart from the wonderful privilege of time-sharing a beautiful, briny seascape with a panoramic, inland waterway, there’s an ongoing problem: it seems that I regularly require a file or document that’s always in my other office!
Last week I urgently needed a telephone number that was in my contacts book an hour and a half’s drive away through a torrential storm! There were ways and means but the conundrum temporarily raised my blood pressure, cost me an
expensive tankful of petrol, and nearly put me and my car into orbit when I suddenly encountered a newly constructed ‘speed hump’ in Clabby on the border between Fermanagh and Tyrone.
I returned for another short while to my Belfast abode on Monday and faced yet another irritation - I’ve a large room here where I keep the bulk of my personal and professional accoutrements and accessories.
A big window ‘looks out’ over the Lough - if I stand on a stool and crane my neck to look out over the lengthy array of rooftops that fortunately hides a busy, intervening dual carriageway.
This room is furnished with an enormous old second-hand desk, several dusty and defunct computers, shelves, boxes, filing cabinets and all the gubbins that are necessary for work.
Most important is the ever-burgeoning store of letters, e-mails, messages and communications from Roamer’s readers!
It’s because I’m forever dashing between my two abodes that I must apologise to everyone who has sent me such interesting material - the backlog will be shared on this page in the very near future, I promise.
I’m reminded of Mole from the Wind in the Willows, returning at Christmas-time after a long absence to look for his cosy little burrow on the riverbank! His friend Ratty accompanies him as Mole hunts for his underground home-sweet-home.
“I know it’s a shabby, dingy little place,” he sobs to Rat, “not like your cosy quarters, or Toad’s beautiful hall, or Badger’s great house, but it was my own little home, and I was fond of it, and I went away and forgot all about it…and everything came back to me in a rush, and I wanted it!”
Ratty kept close to Mole’s heels as his log-snouted, furry friend sniffed the air for the tell-tale aroma of his riverside nest.
“Suddenly, without giving warning, he dived; but the rat was on the alert and promptly followed him down the tunnel to which Mole’s unerring nose had faithfully led him.”
Mole was back home, in the familiar surroundings of Mole End, and his face “beamed at the sight of all these objects so dear to him” - the oil lamp, a little wooden table, and a cupboard bearing “a tin of sardines, a box of captain’s
biscuits, nearly full, and a German sausage encased in silver paper.”
They have a scrumptious banquet, accompanied by some carol-singing field mice, and Mole thinks “how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. It was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.”
Welcoming Roamer back to his Belfast office after a few months’ absence are books, stories, documents and newspaper cuttings sent to me by readers - about times past, about roads less travelled, about loved ones long gone, and photographs of treasured keepsakes.
There are enough jokes and japes and amusing tales to keep us all smiling for a century!
There are several intriguing loose ends that have been lovingly tied together, and some friends who’ve been reunited after many years’ separation.
Most intriguing are the rarely-told accounts of local folk who have left their mark on history, but seem to have been forgotten.
With all the recent wartime anniversaries, and many more to come, and with Roamer’s travels to and from his two offices, this page has shared fewer readers’ reminiscences than it should have done.
This will soon be corrected!
When Ratty and Mole come across the mythical piper at the gates of dawn in the Wind and the Willows Ratty says “It’s lucky we’ve got the stream with us, to take us home.”
They listen to the piper’s music “that runs on without a stop, but with words in it …the reeds’ soft thin whispering.”
Memories are made of this - they’re the streams that sustain!
“You shall look on my power at the helping hour,” the piper’s music continues, “but then you shall forget.”
The reeds take up his song “and it dies away in a rustle and a whisper. Then the voice returns.”
As will all of Roamer’s readers’ letters!