I WOULD like to express both my gratitude as well as my disappointment regarding my visit to your country from Canada after a 30-year absence.

As a teenager in 1968 I spent two wonderful and magical years at Dogmersfield College near Odiham.

The warmth and welcome of the people, as well as the friendship of a local family who at the time operated a pig farm, were instrumental in certain decisions that I took in those early formative years. For all this I am most grateful.

After an absence of over 30 years I returned to England with two goals in mind: to rekindle the friendship with the Gifford family and to visit the college where I was sure the ghosts of my friends were still roaming.

This wonderful family accepted me into their house as if not a day had passed since our farewells. One objective was fulfilled. The second however proved to be not only unobtainable but humiliating.

Last Saturday I cut across the fields from my hosts' house and after two miles trekking through waist-deep weeds and brambles I stood on top of a small hill overlooking Dogmersfield College. It was basically the same as I had left it many years ago except for the construction that seemed to be taking place around it.

I ran down the hill in eager anticipation that I might be able to have a look round, if not inside, the building.

I explained my situation to what seemed to be a young and rather sullen security guard. I mentioned that all I wanted to do was to have a quick look around and to visit the graves of The Brothers at the back of the house.

I do not know what I expected but it certainly wasn't the cold and hostile reception that I got from the handful of people at the site. I was told that not only would I not be allowed to go around the college grounds but that I was to leave immediately.

I tried to repeat my request but it fell on deaf ears. As I turned to walk down to where I thought the drive used to be that led to the main road one man yelled out "get going or I am going to f...ing lose it".

I was not about to quarrel with this ignorant lout, who I suppose believed he was doing his job as a security guard if not as a human being.

However as I retreated from the scene my heart seemed about to burst. Something was irrevocably lost and I knew that I would never be able to evoke the memories I was hoping for that morning.

It may be argued that the men at the site were doing what they had been paid to do, to keep intruders out of the building site. One may also ask if there was an alternative to their approach to the situation.

I would say yes. There were several other alternatives but a small mind would not be able to entertain these and so I was left with an empty feeling inside me but at least with the knowledge that my 7,000 mile trek from Calgary was not in vain. I had met some really wonderful people here and that is the memory I would like to take back.

Charles Macelli, Rosedale, Alberta, Canada.