Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Home

A week or two ago found us visiting family and friends down south as it was L's February half term (just one more of those to go now after 16 years of education...). We reconnected with our roots: Sussex and London. Yet despite those 16 years that we have been building a family home here in the High Peak, it is always a pleasure to reconnect with the place where we grew up. Home will always be home. It's in your DNA, your blood, your heart, your soul, your senses. However you like to dress it up, it is simply the memory bank of all that makes you you.

We stayed in my old family home with my mother and pottered around lovely Lindfield with its village pond, its pubs and its alluring independent shops and we bought jam doughnuts for tea from the bakery. We drove to Brighton over Ditchling Beacon and my mind was filled with so many diverse memories: the London to Brighton cycle race we did many moons ago, panting up that tortuous hill on the chalk hills of the South Downs; the regular trips to see the paternal grandparents in their hillside bungalow with a cherished rose garden; the time we went grass-ski skiing (yes, it was actually a thing!) on those South Down slopes; elegant Hanningtons Department Store (long gone); the Green Shield Stamp shop (long gone) where we swapped our stamp book collections for cheap wine glasses (there are still some in my mother's cupboards - they're bombproof!); Habitat when it was the hippest shop on the High Street; my first terrified young teenage entry into Miss Selfridge and my exit with a new blue 'bomber jacket'; the funky streets down from the station where I'd buy cheap jeans and drainpipe cords and hoped I might glimpse the boy from sixth form who had a Saturday job there; cinema trips with assorted boyfriends to see the likes of Star Wars, Midnight Express and Death Race 2000 in the days when you had an A and a B movie - followed, as I grew up, by drinks in the trendy new neon-blue cocktail bars near the seafront; and not least the carefree day I went down with N in a red Audi convertible to collect my engagement ring in the historic network of tiny brick-paved Lanes (where Quadrophenia was filmed); the memories are endless and it's only when you go back that you realise quite how many of them there are.

And if Brighton is about my childhood and adolescence, then London is all about my burgeoning adulthood and independence: the first jobs, the parties, the 'ownership' of our capital city morphing quickly enough into the early years of marriage, house ownership, grafting up the greasy career pole, starting a family, becoming responsible.

It would be easy to get maudlin and depressed about the passage of time - to see only the changes that have taken place over more than half a century of living. Or you can see it instead as the roots from which the strong plant grows because, you know, some things never change: as I played the 'penny falls' on the packed Pier with my 16 year old and her friend, I was delighted to see that you can still get hours of fun out of a tub of 2p pieces! I had imagined the thrills would these days all be measured in pound coins - how wrong I was. The Victorian installations, the salty sea air, the pebbles on the beach, the fish and chips, ice cream and candy floss and the sound of seagulls: life's pleasures can still be timeless and simple. Life in London was sometimes a little less simple, it is true, and a few ghosts still haunt me there, but a dog walk by the river in Richmond in the sunshine and meeting up with old friends redressed any imbalances soon enough.

And now I am back in the High Peak, my adopted home of 16 years past. Many more memories have been made here and I cherish them all. I will never be a Northerner - it would be presumptuous to claim that right. But just as, on returning south, I can newly appreciate all that makes me southern, on returning north I achieve a renewed perspective on my life up here. Home may always be home, but it takes a foreign eye to appreciate the beauty of an adopted one.









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