Everyone loves where they grew up, don't they? Don't they?
I did. I didn't when I finally reached the age where cinemas and nightclubs required driving and crashing on floors but before that mini-watershed, that major irritation which led me all the way to the heady heights of....Plymouth, well I loved it. I still do.
I understand the way nostalgia works. I know it casts a filter (tilt-shift?) across all your memories. Except on this I am confused because my childhood was....complicated, and so there is no reason for me to remember through glowing eyes, instead only for everything to be cast in grey. And yet. And so. A siren call for a man also entwined within my memories, but here lies only the good.
I grew up 'down the road' from Glastonbury. But I also grew up down the road from Lyme Regis. From Bridport. From Minehead and Weston Super Mare. From Exmoor and Dartmoor, Exeter and Bristol. I grew up in the middle of quite the most beautiful, remote, peaceful, heavenly place. Flat, mind. Something I never understood my mother banging on about, you know. Not until I moved back to the county where I was born and left before I knew it and understood the siren call of hills and mountains and being on a level with the top of everything and then suddenly I understood.
I've run up Glastonbury Tor and reached the top a little out of breath. I have climbed painfully to the top, dying quietly on the way up, cursing the lunatics who thought putting a hill in that configuration was a good idea. I've sat with my eyes closed as the sun set, I've sat with my eyes open watching the sun rise, the resonating notes of a didgeridoo accompanying both. I've walked up it following the paths and I've walked up it following the paths.
But it's not just that. I've walked down country lanes in silence. Utter and complete silence. No planes, no cars, no people, no bikes, no helicopters (you live in Somerset? You know that's relevant), no microlights. I say in silence, but of course it never is, because the corn rustles in the breeze, the birds call to each other, the beez buzz and the sun shines. It shines on and on and on, in my memories but also in my photographs. The lanes are lined with foxgloves and cow parsley, after the passage of the poppies and cornflowers which were preceded by the primroses and snowdrops. The rhythm of the year is measured and marked, harvest festivals, easter fetes, may days with may poles and ribbons and learning the steps and always forgetting them again. I country danced in front of the cathedral at Wells. I walked for miles in the cold which felt terrible causing chilblains and white fingers, icicles inside the window but actually were no cold at all compared to how cold it is here. We cycled for miles in the sunshine, crashing out whenever we needed to, snatching sneaky cigarettes in the corners of farmers fields, on the wall at the bottom of the car park, or up the tree at the back of the local park. We spent hours on that wall, come rain or shine, occasionally with chips and curry sauce to warm us up from the Chinese (the only Chinese in a 15 mile radius) around the corner.
I've watched endless carnivals. Not many people know about Somerset's insane obsession with decorating flatbed trucks with a metric tonne of lights, festooned with people dancing (tied on to their perilous perches with hidden climbing harnsesses). Or the fair which rivals Nottingham's. I only went once to the Bridgwater fair but I'll never forget it. I've driven and ridden past endless neon cardboard arrows pinned to signposts and road names, and finally found out what they were for one night when we followed them into somewhere North of Taunton and the tunes and DJ's and people from school who didn't expect to see me there all came together and suddenly the pitch shifted every so slightly.
I might have been born in Lancashire and I love Lancashire, so I do. My mother is from here and it seems appropriate that circles close. But I am a hippy at heart, a child allowed to run free for less than charitable reasons but free nevertheless and my heart belongs to Nag Champa and patchwork, to treadles and spinning, to picking fruit and actually making jam and pies with it (endless pies, endless jams), to folkish music and common land used well and properly, to horses used well and properly, to chocolate box covers the tourists haven't discovered yet, to rope swings and splashes, to jam jars full of minnows, to climbing trees and learning to map read, to eyes full of wonder and mist and hope and endless beauty.
Somerset is endless beauty. Summer land. Sun sets. Split heart.