Sunday, 2 June 2013

Ten Years On

Saturday 25th May 2013

As we head south on the M40 on a beautiful sunny evening (long-awaited), it is strange to think that ten years ago this weekend we were heading up the same motorway in the other direction to start our new life in the north. Today in the back of the car, on our way to holidays, we have three distinctly growing girls: ten years ago we had a baby, a toddler and a pre-schooler. Where did those years go? I ask myself.

I struggle to accept that then I was on the cusp of 40, still able to kid myself that I was young; today, on the cusp of 50, I fear the same can no longer be said! The years have passed both in the blink of an eye - and slowly and surely. On the one hand it all seems like yesterday, on the other a lifetime of experience has been accumulated in a decade.

The friends we left behind are still there, of course, but new ones have been made and form the backbone of our happiness in the High Peak. For two of our girls it is truly home - it is all they really remember. For the oldest it is home too, but she has memories of our life in London which hover around the edges of her mind, coming to the fore in unexpected moments.

The year we arrived, 2003, was an exceptionally warm and sunny one (we have not seen then like of it since!). Already in London we had had hot sunshine since April, and I will never forget driving to our new house over the single track lane from Dove Holes into Combs: the yellow gorse glowing yellow in the morning sun, the roof of the car down, and the whole of the Combs valley and glistening reservoir stretching out below us. It was magical, truly magical.

Less magical was the fact I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders- and a mewling cat on the back seat of the car! The effort to make that move, un-looked for, unexpected, when I was not in good health and had just endured nearly four years of building works and house moves - one of them international - and new babies and a husband I hardly ever saw, was immense. And I had reached a point of such deep heartache and loss that moving somewhere where I had no connection and knew no-one was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I was lonely enough already; I did not need my sense of isolation to be compounded.

Yet somewhere in all that muddle and confusion and distress I knew that this place I had come to was special. I knew that, with utter contradiction, this move was what I needed to start the healing process. I needed the calm, the beauty - and it gave that to me in abundance that first summer.

It is true that the healing process took years - and much effort - to be completed. After about four years I started to feel that I no longer felt out of place. I had made some lovely friends and built up my domestic world so it was working for me rather than against me. Some of my vowels were staring to shift - and I'd got used to the cold! The strangeness, the lack of belonging, had diminished; enough life experience had been built up to form the memory bank on which one draws when defining that sense of attachment. Finally it no longer felt weird to travel north to get 'home'.

So have I become northern - the premise of this blog when I first started it in 2007? Well, truth be told, vowel-shifts and blood-thickening aside, I can never be northern. Ten years is not enough. It takes generations - like so many of the people who live around me here - and I can't compete with that. Yet there is no doubt that I love this place, despite the wind and rain and its remoteness to so much of the rest of my southern and European life. Somehow it enters your soul. The best I can come up with right now is that I feel as much at home up here now as I do down south - and there are a great many things that I prefer about life up here. My range of friends is hugely diverse, people are friendly and down-to-earth, I breathe clean air and I travel around more freely.

The down sides are that I am a long way from my ever-ageing parents and mother-in-law, my brother and all my other friends and relatives; we are a long way from the sea and further away from the European continent - a far cry from my former lives in the Alps, the Pyrenees, Milan, Padua and Paris.

Yet every day that I wake up and see the immutable views of Combs Moss or Eccles Pike and Kinder Scout from my windows, I feel lucky to be alive. And that, truly, is something worth moving for.


Sarah said...

Your landscape is truly breathtaking and I love your post! Sarah

The bike shed said...

The odd thing about this post is how it reverses my journey - from far north (Northumberland) to what feels to me like deep south (Wiltshire and South Wales) . I will never be a Southerner - never be Welsh for that matter - though I live there about half the time. And yet it increasingly feels like home, even the travelling between the two - Wales especially so.

I've come to realise that familiarity, through repetition of the daily comings and goings is even more powerful than the associations we have through so called special times in our lives.

That said, the landscape of the Peaks is truly special - there's a deep and centred quality in its very bleakness - no veneer to it's beauty. I love it very much too.

Nutty Gnome said...

You've been up here long enough to be 'almost Northern' now though! :-)

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