is that certain aspects have changed so much over the last twenty-five
years or thereabouts, that some areas are almost unrecognizable to what
they once were. To anyone who moved away in the early '80s and has
never been back since, the town remains preserved as it was in the amber
of their memories. If ever they were to return on a visit, I'm sure they'd
be in equal parts amazed and horrified at some of the changes which
have taken place.
Truth to tell, I'm almost envious of them. To gad about on the other
that one's home town remains as it once was seems a reassuring notion
to me. In that way, the playing fields of your childhood remain forever
inviolate. Same goes for people; if you don't know someone has expired
since you last saw them, they're still alive to you and will be for as long
as you are. What does it profit you to learn that their life's race
ended halfway through your own?
I remember being in a camera shop a number of years ago and
class (and probably other classes also). ALAN PARKER was (and is)
his name, a fact which won't make this tale one whit more interesting, but
which I feel compelled to mention for no other reason than that it happens
to be the case. The conversation ran something like this. Me: "Hi, Alan -
what're you up to these days?" Him: "I'm on holiday at the moment."
Me: "Not going anywhere?" Him: " Yes - here!" Me: "Eh?" Him:
"I emigrated to Australia a couple of years back, and I'm over
visiting my folks."
To be honest, I can't actually recall whether it was Australia,
for the purpose of our tale. I was actually quite surprised by the news,
mainly because it didn't seem like anywhere near two years since I'd last
seen him - five or six months at the most, I would've thought. The realiza-
tion that he'd been living in another country and pursuing a new and dif-
ferent life for that period, while I subconsciously imagined him to be still
tripping merrily around the streets of my town, ready to run into at any
moment, was a sobering reminder that things aren't always as we per-
ceive them to be. In my life, nothing much had changed; in Alan's, a
whole new horizon lay before him - and he was already several steps
on in the journey which had taken him beyond the narrow (if
comforting) confines of my own world.
A few weeks back, myself and a friend I've known since I
which now sits upon the sizeable area of land where once resided my
old secondary school. It was a strange experience because, inside its
boundaries, there were no visible 'landmarks' to indicate our location.
We could've been in any new-built housing scheme in Britain; it was as
if we'd walked through a dimensional portal and found ourselves some-
where else entirely. Beyond and out of sight, lay the familiar environs
we'd known since childhood, but within these strange new streets we
were in an unknown place in an unknown land. It was with a sense of
relief that we returned to our own world some minutes later,
back through whence we had come.
In my more fanciful moments, I sometimes wonder if the 'dear
what goes on in the place they left behind; or do they imagine (like the
distant wanderer) that everything remains the same as when they left it?
If granted a day's visit to their home town from whatever celestial realm
or dark netherworld they may inhabit, would they be surprised and dis-
mayed to learn of the changes which have taken place in their absence?
"What? My old house has been demolished? The old cinema has been
gone for twenty years? My favourite toyshop is now a newsagents?
The Cairneys don't live at number thirty-three any more?" Or would
such trivial concerns be beyond them in their joy at feeling the wind
blow through their hair once more, and again experience a sun-
kissed walk through green fields for however brief a period?
Try and let me know if you go before I do, will you?