Ancient & Modern

Believe it or not the town of Staines-upon-Thames is ancient. Ad Pontes (“The Bridges”) is the Roman name for the town. It was a settlement on the road between the provincial capital Londinium (London) and Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) where the Thames river was crossed. Maybe a day’s march each way. The name Staines means “stones” and it was highly likely this referred to a prehistoric circle of nine stones which has long since been lost.
Why this history lesson? Today, standing on windy Staines High Street you need an exceptional imagination to visualise what it may have been like around AD 50. That said, because it was on an important Roman road going west it’s likely that there was trade and commerce as there is to this day. People from all over Europe probably passed through the town everyday nearly 2000 years ago.
Lunchtime this Saturday there was a regular market in the High Street. Lots of hustle and bustle where you can buy a pasty, a plant or print for the wall. Three groups were out campaigning for the forthcoming referendum: The Lib Dems, The Greens and Vote Leave. So, the two opposite camps of REMAIN and LEAVE were roughly equally represented.
What did I discover? Top line for me was a real mix of responses making it impossible to call if there was a poll of people on that day. There was a civility on both sides of the fence that nicely restores one’s faith in humanity. Naturally, not everyone was interested and a surprising large number of people were still mulling over the information still to make their minds up which way to vote.
If you walked all the way down the High Street you could get leafleted by McDonalds, a chip shop and an evangelical church group. Next to us a market stall was offering samples of their feta cheese. Watching if a passer-by tried the feta cheese was a good indicator that they might take a leaflet.
Approaching couples provided interesting moments especially when one person was for IN and the other was for OUT. Or that one had assumed that they both shared the same point of view and they didn’t.
Unsolicited stories popped up too. One woman told me her retired Dad had done important work for De Havilland. Being an aviation professional he had convinced her to vote to REMAIN. One man stopped me after he had spoken to the Vote Leave camp and said: you know they are still telling lies that we spend £350 million a week on the EU. No prompting from me at all. Without stereotyping too much there was a tendency for younger people to be much more willing to take a leaflet and read it than a number of the older passers-by.
It was a Saturday lunchtime well spent. The overall response to our REMAIN message was positive. Let’s hope that’s the same up and down the Country.

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