Thursday, 9 February 2012

My house... In the middle of my street

So it's not actually my house, in that I don't own it.  But it is home.  And that's what matters.  I've lived in the same neighbourhood I grew up for much of my life.  I went away, and came back again. 

There's something terrifically comforting about living in an area I know like the back of my hand.  In the midst of seemingly cataclysmic change, where nothing seems stable or certain, to know I could circumnavigate my postcode with my eyes (half) closed, is terrifically important.

I grew up here.  My primary school is round the corner.  All my activities as a child happened locally.  I live moments from where I learnt to ride a bicycle, and where I grazed both my knees determined to master my Fisher Price roller skates unaided. 

Of course, the area has evolved, and changed.  People I grew up with have moved on, as have their parents.  The house I grew up in belongs to someone else.  Other people have moved here.  They don't know it as intimately as I feel I know it.  They don't have the same memories of the seasons changing and what that looked like to the infinitely curious child for whom the leaves falling and the chestnuts appearing was an excitement of monumental proportions.  The playground looks different.  Underneath the swings and the see-saw is something of a softer landing to the one I remember.  And everything looks so much smaller than I remember it.

Walking down the high street earlier this week, and stopping to have a bite to eat in one of the many chain coffee shops, I realised that it too is changing.  It's not just that I'm bigger and therefore my perspective has changed.  The landscape is constantly undergoing its own changes.  Traffic calming measures prevail on the streets that never seemed anything but calm.  Parking is permitted, but only if you pay.  The swimming pool was closed for years, and has now reopened.  It looks vastly different, and the smell of chlorine can no longer be discerned standing on the street outside.  Estate agents and coffee shops stand where the butcher, the baker and the metaphorical candlestick maker once operated as independent enterprises.  There are now 3 supermarkets to choose from, but few family run businesses.  Progress?  Perhaps.  It depends where you're standing. 

The video shop that opened in 1985 and probably hasn't lent anyone a video in at least fifteen years (given that VCR was replaced by DVD which has since been overshadowed by Blu-ray) closed last weekend.  It was selling DVDs by the handful - 3 or 4 for £10.  Being a sucker for a bargain, and hoping to replenish my stock of unwatched films, I spent some time deliberating over my movie choices and simultaneously struck up a conversation with the owner who is departing as he can't afford the lease.  He's leaving and moving on.  It caused me to think about the importance of my own stable base - my house (well, flat), my home.


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