Little pictures came to life in my head . . . trainspotting as a boy on Shrewsbury Station in the 1960s; then sweeping floors, emptying ashtrays, making cups of tea during my first job as a teenager in the 1970s; and finally publishing a book about this town I love so much, and that would have been, what, 12 years ago now?
Such memories were prompted by the eyecatching Mansers building (which, I have to say, looks particularly spectacular lit up at night). You see Mansers replaced a blink-and-you'd-miss-it little building of the 1930s which had connections to all of those memories I've just mentioned.
Now, before we go any further, let me be clear. Even though I have been known to rant on about the ugliness and inappropriate nature of some modern buildings sprouting up in our beautiful, historic Shrewsbury, I actually have no problem with the Mansers stucture.
In 2003, it received the Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council Design and Heritage Award and also the Brick Awards' 'Best Commercial Building'. In 2004 it got the Shrewsbury Civic Society Award of Merit, and in 2005 the Civic Trust Award. Its position in Coleham Head does not offend me and I think it is a rare example of a modern building sitting happily amidst Victorian housing.
That said, let me now explain that burst of recollection, spanning a large chunk of my life.
It all comes down to the Shrewsbury Circular (a long-since-vanished publication which was packed with local adverts and delivered door-to-door; in some respects a forerunner of the AdMag) and its quaint little base - the aforementioned 1930s building at Coleham Head.
Memory Number One:
There was a knock at the door. It was a blond-haired lad of about ten years of age, stood there with his dad, selling the Shrewsbury Circular.
This was the summer of 1968.
The lad – who was about the same age as me – looked down our long hallway to see if he could see our telly. Tops of the Pops was on and he could hear The Beatles singing Hey Jude. And then, with a thick scouse accent, the boy spoke: “Best group in the world,” he said.
Turns out he was right then and he's still right now.
I bought a copy of the Circular off him (it cost one penny) and he asked me if I was interested in trains.
“Well, I suppose so,” I said, thinking it a rather odd question.
“Dya wanna come train-spotting with me?” he asked.
And that was how it all started – my love of railways.
Scouse and I used to go off to Shrewsbury Station in an evening and get the numbers of the mighty diesel locomotives that thundered through every few minutes. The classes of locomotives had curious names (or nicknames anyway). They were Brushes or Bo-Bos or (best of all) Warships which sometimes were painted British Railways green but sometimes were a striking maroon, and these Warships even had exotic individual names – Vanguard, Formidable, Avenger, Benbow, Centaur, Champion, Goliath, Hercules, Glory, Intrepid, Jupiter, Zenith, Zephyr and Zulu.
It breaks my heart now to think they were all later scrapped at Swindon. Apart from just two which have been preserved: Onslaught and Greyhound.
It was the Warships we really went for. But we would more often than not have to settle for the Brushes and Bo-Bos.
We had great fun, Scouse and I, just hanging around together on the platforms of the beautiful Shrewsbury Station. And I think it was an experience which helped develop in me not just a love of railways, but a love of history, a love of architecture, and a love of Shrewsbury.
Now I come to think about it, there was a lot more to train-spotting than just taking numbers.
Memory Number Two:
It was the summer of 1973.
Wizzard, Suzi Quatro, 10cc, Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, and The Sweet were all over Top of the Pops. And Slade were at number one with Skweeze Me Pleeze Me. (Spelling was not their strong point).
I landed a little part-time job (just a couple of hours each afternoon as I recall) at The Circular office. I'd just finished school and was in the summer holidays before beginning my life as a student at Shrewsbury College.
The job really did involve emptying ashtrays (everybody smoked in those days), sweeping the foors (wooden floors packed full of metal ingots from the old printing machines that had fallen and become embedded in the boards), and making the tea. Each day I had to clock on and clock off, using an antique machine.
But most of all I recall the lovely walk along the riverside each day from Castlefields to Coleham Head, sun glinting off the river.
Memory Number Three:
Back in 2000, when I was looking around for a printer to make my book (Shrewsbury: A Celebration) a reality, I went directly to the old Circular. By then the Shrewsbury Circular had transmogrified into WPG (Welshpool Printing Group) and were just about to move into new premises, but history and association count for a lot. And they didn't let me down. In a matter of weeks, my book was for sale in Waterstones and WH Smith and I was chuffed to bits.
In a little corner of my heart, at least, the dear old Circular lives on.