Saturday, January 18, 2014

Very occasionally I find myself on Google maps re-living my childhood, street-viewing my way down the lanes past the houses I saw every day, peering over the digitalised hedges at fields I knew every inch of.

Lately my childhood has been coming back to me in wistful jumps, probably because my own child is growing up and I am always thinking of the things he might remember about where we live, what I say, where we go. I have absolutely no clear memories of being very young, my memories start at about 5 or 6 (I've always had a bad memory!) but I do store impressions and atmospheres extremely well.

I have so few pictures of my own childhood homes (two in the same village, we moved to a bigger house when I was about 13 but it was only just around the corner) - there is a huge box of them somewhere but it's still all in my head... almost all of my memories are from outdoors and involving me and my sister ranging outside in the rural village where I lived until I was 18 and left for university.

When the council installed signs, making roads that had never had names in the past, Langtye Lane received its title and we were outraged but used it anyway. Sailor the farm cat, swimming in the pool in the sprawling grounds of our neighbour's enormous house, crawling through the undergrowth at the lake a few fields across from our house, and a few years later writing 'NO' in illicit cigarettes the boys from down the road had hidden in the dust under one of the evergreen hedges there. Jumping from hay bale to hay bale in the barn that was deemed dangerous, flipping through the next door church visitor's book and seeing my scrawling childish writing on different pages through the years. The grave stone of the twelve year old boy kicked to death by a horse in the 1800's.

Leaving tiny loaves of 'bread' for the fairies, making cat noises through the hedge at unsuspecting travellers, the broken mini that was overgrown with brambles before it was cleared to make extra garden for us, the ripe bulrushes I was unable to prevent myself from exploding, covering myself with soft feathery seeds that stuck to my fleece for weeks. Hula hoops and cartwheels, chasing the chickens to try and hold them, creeping as far as we dared up the side of the posh neighbour's garden, I remember every stile, the night time snow walks, the year my dad was the village Santa and I had to dress as an elf.

The time we peeked through the door of the old barn and saw a snooker table and naked lady calendars. Later the barn was converted into a house and we could no longer make dens in the ruins with shelves for abandoned toys and dragged up planks of wood for tables and chairs.

The summer we spent with the girls from down the road, sweatily pulling weeds from a patch of land for the farmer in return for lemon drizzle cake, jumping over horse jumps, seeing who could hold the electric fence for the longest, buying fizzy sweets from the village shop in time for the solar eclipse that we watched through the green blur of the farmer's blacksmith's mask.

Then as a teenager, walking to the pub and sitting on the climbing frames at night with my friends, the late night heart spilling talks, secrets, the angsty marches round the damp fields just to be alone with my hideous adolescent thoughts, that single afternoon I contemplated throwing myself into the (weedy and shallow) lake when my best friend went out with the boy I fancied.

Sunset from the end of the garden - 2006
And then a few years later, the strangled conversation with my father, tagged on the end of a call about something trivial, revealing that my parents were separating. The Google street-view images are from a few years ago and still show my mum's car in the drive and the 'chien bizarre' sign on the gate, but since then the house was sold, I don't remember the last time I saw it and I have no reason to go back.


  1. I do exactly the same thing. I have no reason to, and done even want to go back, but I find myself looking for what once was. This is beautiful Eleanor, thank you for sharing.


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