Sunday, 5 January 2014


When I, as an adult (allegedly) almost in my thirties, set foot over the threshold of one of my childhood homes for the first time since moving out 16 years before, the first thing that struck me was how much at home I still felt.  It was almost as if I'd just popped out to the shops across the road about ten minutes earlier and then come straight back again.

Perhaps this was in part due to how much of the 'familiar' yet remained.  The same paper on the living-room ceiling that we'd had put up;  the same lowered hall ceiling that my father had fitted; the same bathroom tiles that we'd been responsible for;  the same kitchen tiles (now painted) above the sink.  Some things had changed of course.  For a start, the sink was now stainless steel, and, in the living-room, the old-fashioned tiled fireplace and mantlepiece, like something out of The BROONS, had been replaced (or covered) by a relatively more modern-looking one, but the overwhelming 'sense' of the place as I had known it still hung heavy in the air.  Truly, it really was as if I'd gone back in time and the intervening years seemed almost like a dream.

Even the back garden was untouched - the same wood and wire fence, the same gate, the same rockery at the foot of the lawn - all just as it had always been.  To once again touch (and hear the sound of) the latch on the gate as I'd regularly done as a child on my way to school in the mornings was almost a spiritual experience for me.  The sensation of reconnecting with one's past in such a tangible way that it seems like the present is not an easy one to convey, but that's the only way I can describe it.  I had stepped back into the past, with the events of what had come after almost wiped from my memory as if they had simply never happened.

That feeling couldn't be sustained of course.  For the simple reason that, in the space of a month or so, the field across from the back of the house was dug up in preparation for amenity houses for the elderly being built.  Two years later, the old garden fence and gate had been 'sent off' and brash, young 'substitutes' had taken their place.  Another two years after that, the church across from the front of the house had been demolished and replaced by a new one.  At around the same time, the house's original windows and front door were removed and PVC ones installed.  Over the last 20 years, other changes have transpired; new street lamps, new pavement surfaces, new school built, and various other alterations - all of them resented by me.  Alas, time and tide waits for no man, as the old saying goes.

However, for a period of almost two decades, the old house and neighbourhood had stayed pretty much the same, allowing me the indulgence of believing, for however (relatively) brief a period, that time had stood still.  I'm glad I reconnected with that aspect of my past in its last dying moments, before it was too late and everything changed forever.  I suppose such experiences can never be anything other than bittersweet, in that they tease you with the glory of what once was - but, alas, cannot always be.

Other than in the mystic band of memory, that is.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...