I remember when I visited my last work that wasn’t self employment after having left, a stepping in from outside while also knowing what was within, something not available to the true outsider. My last visit to Yorkshire was comparable in various ways. Where I was is not a bad place to live. It’s stunningly beautiful, relatively safe compared to the rest of the world, reasonably friendly, people there have quite a strong work ethic and a generally honourable approach to the world. Having been there for such a long time I know the underbelly too, the troubles and difficulties people have had, their frailties and vulnerabilities, the problems living there can bring too. Being in the North house prices have dropped fairly dramatically so there was a lot of interest in what I’d got for mine, which was predictably a lot less than it had been worth when I’d been forced to leave, but tbh I was relieved to have succeeded in getting it sold at all. It’s taken heading for four years. Few are selling and it’s getting worse. I’d been haemorraging money on it and if it hadn’t I’d have soon been in serious trouble. It was a very hefty millstone round my neck. The shop at the top of the road had been on the market for a similar length of time and he’d had no interest at all. You could see how hard that was for him, not just from his words but the fact that the shelves only had a front row. He’d barely any stock and I’ll be surprised if at some point down the line he doesn’t go bust. These are hard times. I wished him well and saw the envy in his eyes. Another old neighbour came rushing out when he saw me walking down the road. In part to wish me well but also to share his difficulties and to ask what I’d got for my house. Unrealistic hopes filled him, including how terribly well the people who had got mine would do on it. They have a great house, but they’ll never make anything on it. My oldest neighbour who had been there when I arrived was speaking similarly. They were doing the house up (mind you, they’ve always been doing the house up) and considering selling and going elsewhere. Mostly pipe dreams.
We had a skip to empty the house of all the old tat my son had filled it with, plus a few bits of mine I hadn’t got round to removing. We filled it, the next morning all but the black bin bags would have vanished. One neighbour said ‘you’ve got some good stuff in there’. ‘help yourself’ I said. ‘I have’ said he. A guy walking with a stick that ultimately I suspected was a con for the social, since he managed to carry an old TV and a chest of drawers away when no one was looking, kept coming and asking if he could have this that or the other. He also asked for a lift to his house with it. Told me some sob story about being slung out by his wife and how people round there would steal the milk from your tea. Not true at all, except I suspect of him. He was a spokesman for self pity and taking advantage in whatever way he could.
As we were packing my sons things in his work colleagues van another neighbour, an alcoholic lay preacher came lurching out of her house and started telling me some tale about her visit to the hospital. It became clear she had completely failed to notice I hadn’t been there. That’s quite a feat, failing to notice someone has been absent for nearly 4 years. She’s completely harmless and surprisingly quiet and unobtrusive for an alcoholic, but a bit of a pain if you get stuck talking with her. When she came back out of the shop to go home I saw my son, his collegaue, and I must admit me too, stepping into the shadows to avoid her launching again. I wonder how it feels to have people avoiding you like that. With the attention span and memory of a goldfish I guess you probably dont even notice.
One of the things about raising children in one place is that you get to know their friends too. They become like an extended family, there is a deep fondness on both sides, a similar familiarity you develop with neighbours over the years, an understanding. I saw several of these too. Those relationships are something you cannot replicate and I will probably never develop again. That’s ok, but it is odd, people who while chosen as friends by another are somehow part of the fabric of you. These people I’d known since they were small, watched them grow, remember all the dramas of their lives, the stumbles along the way, a fondness for their idiosyncracies, as they too have of me.
I was more than ready to move on when I did and I’m hugely relieved the journey these last years have catapulted me through is over at last, but I’m glad I got to go back, to say goodbye, to remember. And now I really can begin again.
So, this is rambly, probably of interest to no one but me, but then this is my blog, and here it is.