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 livingroom ceiling that we'd
had put up;  the same lowered hall ceiling that my father had fitted;
the same bathroom tiles that we were responsible for;  the same tiles
above the kitchen sink.  Some things had changed of course.  The old-
fashioned tiled mantlepiece, like something out of The BROONS strip,
had been replaced (or covered) by a relatively more modern 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 an old-folks home
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.

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