Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won't drown.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Fucking hell, it's that pair of sisters and their ill-disciplined dogs. Hide the cake and don't make eye contact. Does the short one ever stop bloody sobbing?

This is the house where we spent our happy childhood. I recently came across this photo of it in a book, dressed up to welcome home a son from the Boer War. The huge iron gates, melted down in World War Two and never replaced, are almost hidden under swags of ivy, and the stout stove-piped pride shines from those frozen Victorian faces.

We left it in 1977 and have been trying to find a way home ever since. It reads 'Welcome Home' and after almost four decades, I thought we should go.

Last week, I stole The Pretty One away from her life and shot away to the Lake District for some undiluted nostalgia. We ate a lot of cake in slate-y grey landscapes, shot through with blazing copper beech and relentless drizzle.

A family have lived in that house for thirty years.  We met their daughter.  She recognised our names from the message we had written in the secret cupboard our dad discovered when re-wiring the attics.

She showed us the a long curved stone with the house's name carved on it and we told her the Northern Socialist had chiseled it in the legendary hot summer of 1976, measuring the letters and tapping carefully for hours. It is still painted, bandbox black-and-white, every five years. That bit made us cry uncontrollably.  I hope we didn't frighten her too much.

I felt my heart break that she had lived a life I still dreamed of. The Pretty One, always less full of shit dramatic then I, pointed out all the adventures we would have missed if we had stayed. I'm still pondering that one.

That night, we saw this fabulous production, which echoed our lost lives of make-believe, of wardrobes as camps, beds as ships and sheets as castles. It was surreal seeing this beloved story, in the dramatic scenery which inspired it, in a bittersweet haze of nostalgia.

We started the seven hour drive home before it was light. I felt wrung out and aching with longing to stay, to creep back into my attic room and stay forever among the dust and memories. But by Birmingham, coffee, the need to let the dogs pee and the Pogues had brought us back into the moment.

I've been determinedly living here ever since. There's no choice.  Sometimes that's what you need.


  1. "you can't always get what you want" ah well, you know the rest.

  2. You always know how it is, James.

  3. I remember that hot summer of 1976. I was living in a garrett in Belgravia, and it was unbearable, both getting up the endless stairs and then trying to get cooler air in through the attic's balustrade-covered window; such was the life of a young trainee banker. No nostalgia for that, I'm afraid.

  4. One can never go back. It is just never the same. You are fortunate indeed to have such cherished childhood memories of home. Hold onto those so they will forever stay alive and share them with your bots.

  5. Wonderful post once again. I can't get enough of them. Where can we order your book of short stories?


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