Yesterday I drove, with F, to the village where I spent most of my childhood. (I was about to add “growing up”) to that sentence, but since it may be contentious that that process has ever taken place I refrain from doing so). The trip was another opportunity to stretch the legs of our new car, as well as to satisfy a vague desire that I’ve had for some years now, to see whether things had changed much in the almost 50 years since I had been there.
A number of things surprised me, and one in particular astonished. In the former category falls my ability to recall street names and the fact that, whilst most of the buildings that I recalled remained, one or two, including the second primary school that I attended, did not. The astonishing thing was my recollection of the street I lived in and in particular the distance from my house to the end of it. The child me remembered this as long and consisting of a fairly steep downhill slope. The reality was quite the opposite. The end of the street was only a short distance away, and the slope much gentler than I remembered. I guess this is because, to a child, everything is larger than to an adult. But it astonished me just the same.
As I recalled the names of the neighbours who lived around us during my childhood, another realisation gradually emerged in my mind. That that was the last time in my life so far when I am able to name so many neighbours. In relation to everywhere else that I have lived since then I would be hard pushed to name two or three neighbours. Perhaps that’s reflective of me as a person. Or maybe it speaks to some atomisation of society, where we don’t form the same kind of social groups as we did in the past. In any event it is remarkable.
The village had declined quite a bit since I lived there. What I remembered as a rather lively if small shopping area, with two Cooperative society outlets, a butcher, the obligatory fish and chips shop and the sweet shop/café run by Danny Valente’s family had all gone. If there wasn’t tumbleweed blowing through the streets then it could only have been down to the work of the local street cleansing department.
Another recollection as I write. Since the village had little to commend it by way of night life, throughout my teenage years it was necessary to make what I recall as a long, 45 minute bus journey to the nearest decent sized town. It probably took us no more than 45 minutes to drive back from my village to Edinburgh, some way south of that decent sized town.
The journey provided an opportunity to test out the cruise control in our new car. It has a setting, obligatory as far as I’m concerned, to maintain both a constant speed and a constant distance from the vehicle in front. It worked flawlessly, and impressed with its ability to maintain both speed and distance without drama. Magic!