However, it was the birthplace and final resting place of Laurie Lee, one of Karen’s favourite authors. Most of you, I’m sure, will be familiar with the title Cider With Rosie even if you have never read the book.
I wasn’t expecting much from Slad to be honest.
But to be even more honest it was one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I have ever visited. There was a gentle calmness about the place which soothed the soul.
We found Laurie Lee’s grave with ease, pottered about the village – barely more than a single street – and then settled down for an ice cream at The Woolpack.
I was a little nervy of the pub if the truth be told. Karen had told me about one of the memories Lee had recounted in his book which centred around one of the village lads meeting an unfortunate end after a night of drinking in this very pub. Having travelled to New Zealand and returned much wealthier, said local boy was rather full of himself and, much to the chagrin of the those he’d left behind who’d never travelled much further than Pitchcombe, he proceeded to spend the entire night boasting and I daresay belittling the relative parochial mentality of his old childhood chums.
His pride met with fist and blows at closing time and the locals, having sweetened their own worldly inadequacies with the gift of a good kicking, left the poor chap unconscious in the snow.
He froze to death and was found dead the next morning.
The police investigation drew only shrugs and silence and there the matter ended – except for those in the know, of course. I’m sure Lee must have ruffled quite a few nervous feathers by including the story in his memoirs.
Thankfully I have not (as yet) travelled to New Zealand and decided I would keep my past holidays to Egypt and America under wraps... just in case. After all the pub could well still be a local tavern for local people.
As it was we were met with good humoured friendliness and a kindly, non-curious acceptance given that it was plain we were complete strangers (there can be no more than 20 people living in the entire village).
I think we spent a couple of hours there. Doing not very much at all. Just enjoying and soaking up the atmosphere and dreaming.
For all there were telegraph poles, chip and pin machines and modern cars parked about the place, it felt as if Slad had somehow been loosed from the normal constraints of the passage of time. Change obviously comes slowly and by small increments to this tiny little village. Even the adverts on the pub waste bins were for R White’s Lemonade. I haven’t seen that advertised publically in years.
It was a good place. Life felt wholesome there. Honest. More simple.
Of course, these are all just first impressions made in the space of a single moment. For all I know there was a bondage club in the house next door and the woman at the end of the road regularly hosts parties where car keys are thrown into a fruit bowl where peaches of all nationalities have never rested but have instead been bounced off the walls and a rubber sheeted four-poster with the kind of passion that one only sees in French art house movies.
But somehow I don’t think so.
Laurie Lee sleeps peacefully in the church yard over the road and Slad is still very much his dream.