Friday 28 March

It’s been about ten years since I last set foot in my old home town. Ten years since I saw my remaining friends here. Ten years since I wandered past the house I grew up in and chanced a peak over the garden fence. It was time to put that right.

Taking the bus from Leeds to Wetherby was insightful. A journey I used to know so well, I found much has changed. So too the little market town I used to call home. New things here, old things gone, some things that have stayed the same. Carrying a rucksack and booking into B&B accomodation, where usually I’d phone dad for a lift back up the road. Usually I’d munch a steaming plate of super noodles and eat an Oxo cube in front of Gamesmaster on a Monday night. I felt like a stranger in my home town.

As I stroll through the streets and alley ways I frequented in my youth, I hear the echos of the past. Conversations here, incidents there, a kiss, a fight, urinating in a bush, that first taste of booze. Hiding from mum on the walk from play group.  Tomato soup and jumpers for goalposts.  Trying to catch a peak at the first girl to get breasts changing in her bedroom. Times I’d laughed and cried. A solo trip down memory lane revisiting things only I know. Personal experiences and an angle on the past that nobody else could share. Days I’ll never see again.

Meeting old friends in old haunts and I’m glad to see that somethings never change; they’re still a bunch of wankers. Apart from the usual suspects, there isn’t a face I recognise. It’s as if the whole town has changed hands. Such safety in the familiar has gone. We’ve passed on the mantle to another generation. A generation that prefers partying in Leeds or Harrogate to getting hammered on ten quid on a Friday night and still having enough for fish and chips on the walk home. Times have changed in very sense of the words. Mates have lost their hair, some have kids, some have managed to steal a BMW, while others are still shit at pool.

There is a certain comfort I take in walking the streets my parents walked as somehow a return here brings me closer to them. I wonder what my dad would have thought of the total reconstruction of Wetherby Methodist Church, a centre of worship so dear to his (and our) heart(s). I wish they were here to see it. Something makes me wish we’d never left.

But such is the way of the world, and time and tide wait for no man. Once again I buy that one-way ticket out, and leave 19 years behind me. I think it’s going to be a very long time before I’m back here again; but when I do, someone will be at my side.



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Tuesday 18 March

I’ve always felt a bit funny standing and peering over a fence at a house that isn’t yours anymore.  Imagine if a woman inside on her own was to catch sight of me staring into her backyard for no apparent reason.  The police would be called.  You’ve got to be subtle about it.  Move position regularly and pretend to be taking in the country air.  It just doesn’t seem right tiptoeing around a house you spent over 10 years in.  Once your home, now somebody elses.  And my how it has changed.

Foresters House always had so much potential.  It sat surrounded by a jungle of a garden at the back, and an overgrown vegetable allotment at the front.  But sitting in the middle of nowhere, it was a paradise of peace.  A perfect place for my parents to retire to.  Alas dad did all he could, but with failing health in twilight years the promise of a new Eden was left to wrack and ruin.  I always wanted to write a letter to one of those garden make-over shows and get them to create some kind of Japanese Zen thing where the nettles had taken over.  It took me weeks to get the place anywhere near presentable to a potential buyer.  Now, with the zest of the new owners youth clearly apparent, our old home is on its way to achieving domestic greatness.  I just wish mum and dad could have seen it.

Standing by their graves in light rain and I’m pleased with myself for making a passable arrangement of flowers in the little jar thing.  I don’t have a picture, save on a disposable camera, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’ve got some mad flower arranging skilz.  I’ve never been one to linger long in such a place, as I don’t need to stand in front of a headstone to talk to them.  They’re always with me.  But there are many times I catch myself with the thought; “oh I can’t wait to tell mum and dad about that”.  Then I realise that isn’t possible.  I wonder what they would have thought of all this change?  Of the girl standing beside me?  Of my world travel?  Of Liverpool in with a shout of winning the Premier League?  I guess I’ll never know; but I reckon they would have been happy.  I know I am.


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Going home

Wednesday 12 March

It feels somewhat strange as we board a 10 hour bus to Glasgow.  A wonderful few days in sunny Twickenham with my sister behind us, it’s now time to take that long road North.  Ella has had the pleasure of meeting my delightful twin, who’s literal opening conversation was about the various sizes and extent of her dildo collection.  “Hi Ella, nice to meet you.  I’ve just ordered a new dildo.”  Never before has the ice been so vehemently broken.

Alas we must temporarily part ways for a trip home.  I’ve not been back in nearly three years, and I’m quietly nervous about what awaits me.  As usual and as expected, the journey is an utter nightmare.  Megabus can do one.  With little or no sleep achieved, Ella and myself fall out into surprising Glasgow sunshine and stagger to the nearest hotel.

There was a time when all you’d have to do is walk down certain Glasgow streets and you’d bump into someone you knew.  Those days are long gone.  I scan faces for recognition, but time moves on.  So too has the face of the city, which is almost unrecognisable in parts.  My old acting school, RSAMD, is now called “The Royal Conservatoire”.  There’s massive new shopping precincts.  Posh new hotels.  Construction where familiar buildings once stood.  But still that old hippy dude playing the same crap riff on a crap guitar.  Good to see somethings never change.

And indeed as reliable as ever, friends come out for a few catch-up ales at an old haunt.  Naturally this turns into utter debauchery, and we find ourselves waiting for the off licence to open at 10 am the following day.  Welcome (back) to Glasgow.




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The madness of flying, London and women

Friday 07 March

While I stand in line with a boarding pass and passport, I’m looking around at my fellow passengers and thinking; ‘these are the people I’m going to die with’.  Such is my fear of flying, which gets significantly worse each time, as my brain is convinced that this is the one that’s going down.  This is my ticket.  I’ve actually considered the possibility of flying after a recent air disaster, because surely the statistics are in my favour and the chances of a repeat catastrophe are slim?  What the hell am I doing at an airport?  What the hell am I doing getting on a plane?  A plane that is flying to the UK?!

Wedged into a middle seat and strapping myself in I practice the brace position.  I like other people around me to know that I’m shitting myself.  I’ve tried everything to calm my nerves; drugs, booze, sleep deprivation and all night benders.  Nothing can get me out of that panicked head space that this behemoth of a vehicle is going to take off into the sky and stay there for three hours, before coming to land safely and without incident.  The usual clanking sounds strike fear into my heart and I whisper an audible “fuck” as we lurch down the runway.  Little do I realise I’ve dragged the guy to my right down with me, and he starts freaking out too.  But once at cruise height, we settle into conversation, and it does much to pass the time.  His name was Stuart too.  I made a plane buddy.  He’s a lifesaver when about an hour to go I get the irrational fear that the fuselage is going to break in half.

A short time later and I’ve set foot in the UK for the first time in forever.  I’m standing at the baggage drop and I feel a remarkable phenomenon.  I can understand everyone.  It’s like that movie What Women Want, where Mel Gibson can mind read all these girls and they’re all in his head.  After two years and six months in foreign countries, it’s like someone has translated my ears.  They’ve been unclogged.  It’s something I’ve just never thought about.  You become numb to the conversations around you because you can’t understand a word.  It’s just a noise.  Now everything is clear and it’s right inside your head.  Everyone is speaking my language – and it’s weird.

Negotiating the tube is a nightmare, but even at the height of rush hour, I’m getting a certain kick out being able to read signs, listen to people, and cross the city with relative ease.  It’s nice when you know where to go and how to get there, even if it is London.  I’ve bundled myself into a McDonald’s (for the wifi I assure you) near Holborn, and I discover my laptop has died.  I’ve got maybe an hour to contact my sister before she leaves for Newcastle and I’ve nowhere to stay.  I reach to plug my machine into the wall socket, and discover it’s for a British plug.  Obviously.  I race to find a WH Smith.

Up and down the street I run, with time against me.  There are far too many people in this city, and all of them are getting in my way.  Eventually I locate a Boots, buy a travel adapter, and make a bee line back to McDonald’s.  Of course the socket there is locked and the manager refuses to allow me access.  Apparently they’ve lost the key.  “Don’t you have a phone?”  He incredulously asks.  No I don’t have a fucking phone.  Do you think I’d be doing this if I could call her?!   He directs me to a sushi restaurant across the way.  I narrowly avoid death on the London streets as I zip over the road, buy a token bottle of water and set up my net book.  Plug sockets yes, wifi no.  Screaming bloody murder and sweating like a rapist, I once again rush out into the night to try to locate power and wifi in one place.  We put a man on the moon, surely it isn’t too much to ask.

Failing miserably and as a last-ditch attempt to locate my sister I wearily fall through hotel doors.  The kind receptionist takes pity on my sob story and allows me onto the lobby computer.  Within minutes I’m in contact, and I discover my sibling has been sitting in a Costa Coffee on the corner, the exact same one I’ve been running past several times.  I’ll forgive London when I’ve supping a pint of real ale.

With her flat keys safely in pocket, an hour or so later and I’m making my way to meet the reason I’m back here.  My heart is in my mouth and my stomach is turning knots, but this has to be done.  Alarm bells have been ringing for days, warnings ignored, and better judgement cast asunder; but it’s all worth it when I finally see Ella.  After days like today I’m convinced I need my head examined.





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