I love travelling in England and, when I was younger, Scotland. As an adult I have even ventured into Wales but not nearly often enough as I want to.
Last week I went up to the Motherland which is Middlesbrough in North Yorkshire. I took a train because I love trains, they’re much faster than buses (also I don’t get travel sick on them) and the scenery is usually pretty amazing.
On the way from Darlington to Middlesbrough the landmarks throw themselves at you; the first sign of the Cleveland Hills (I forgot to get a photo of Roseberry Topping while I was there, damn!), the Newport Bridge and, as you begin to get things ready to get off the train, the magnificent Transporter Bridge.
It’s not a town I’m particularly familiar with anymore. In 30 years of living in Bristol I’ve been back to visit just half a dozen times mainly because I’m very good at leaving places. If the move is even a few miles away to a new neighbourhood I don’t go back, I start again and enjoy the newness. I’m not very good at staying in touch with people mainly because my social skills are appalling. I can be very blunt when I choose to be but I prefer to sit and watch people because it is, more often than not, more entertaining than actually engaging with them.
It was a good trip home. I saw my mum and my sister and we laughed a lot. I caught up with a couple of friends that I hadn’t seen since I moved to Bristol and we spent three hours talking non-stop about anything and everything.
I slept, or rather didn’t sleep, in the lumpiest bed I have ever experienced – it was hell. My own bed was made to order and has an orthopedic mattress so anything softer than extra firm is hell. It was a convenient guest room in the block of flats where my sister and mum live but convenience doesn’t win over sleep so it’s definitely a hotel for me next time I go.
I found meal timings really strange. I eat when I’m hungry and, if I’ve done a lot of walking, then it’s two meals a day instead of a meal and a snack. My family eat at set times and always a main meal and snack so I found that quite difficult. It’s odd how it’s not just distance that separates – it’s also years and habits that change and form themselves around the people we become.
While I was there I took copies of some of the photos from Scotland that my dad took when we were kids. They brought back a lot of memories though I think I would have rather not remembered being covered in fresh water leeches after a dip in Neuk Dam when I was nine! It also drove home that, despite distance, we’ve remained an essentially close family picking up where we left off in an instant – true bonds.
I particularly remember my cousin Stewart being at my brother’s funeral. I answered a knock on the door to find him there and him holding me really tight and I knew then, though I knew not how, that everything was going to be all right, we would get through whatever it took because we were a family.
One of the friends I met up with said how she loved coming to our house to see us because there was always laughter in the house. I think in spite of the friction (I am the sandpaper to their matches!) and everyday strains of family life we do love each other and we each have the talent of laughing both with one another and at ourselves.
A walk in a local cemetery led to us finding a family grave. It was modest given the size of the communal ego of the particular branch of the family it housed but it told a different tale from the accepted family legend and has given me a puzzle to solve.
So, is the past a different country and should it ever be revisited? Yes and yes, but wisely and with eyes very firmly fixed on the present. It’s okay to look back but never to stare.