Going Back To My Roots: Back to My Hometown

The Slightly Paranoid Disclaimer Intro

The novel I’m currently working on is inspired by my hometown and life there in the 1980s.

Just to be clear as I really don’t want to get sued by some disgruntled person from the ‘Spotted’ Facebook group, my novel is NOT, I repeat NOT set within my actual hometown. It is the inspiration for this small town in Oxfordshire. Well, we write what we know sometimes, eh?

I have used my council estate experience from that town to create my own 1980s council estate world. NOT, I repeat, NOT based on that actual estate.

Get the message? Let’s begin.

Zipping Up My Boots

Going back to my roots - path to homeI  spent quite some time back in the family home last summer. Unfortunately it wasn’t under chosen or pleasant circumstances. My mum went into a hospice and then died in July. I needed to be back at home to spend time with her and then my family after her death.

Being back in my hometown felt odd. I have visited regularly since I left but have not been there for a length of time.

Going home is a strange business. You feel a juxtaposition of the familiar and the alien. You see the town and feel its comforting familiarity but as you look at it in more detail you can see that things have changed.

Pounding the Pavements

I often walked and ran to get my head in order and to have a nose around. I felt like I’d been sucked into a time warp. You can thank me later for that ear worm. Go on, put your hands on your hips etc.

I ran past a corner shop that was no longer there. It was where I used to buy my sweets on the long walk home from school.

On our estate, we lived ridiculously far away from everything. Penny sweets gave us energy to make it home.

The corner shop is now a house. I wonder if the current residents know that their living room is where my childhood dreams were made as I bought my magazines and hoped one day to write too.

Do they walk through to their kitchen and know this was where all the spare jars of sweets were kept, which we purchased by the quarter?

I moved on in my run, sad to see the changes but realistic about how time marches on.

Running past my primary school, I felt like a giant. The fences were low, the signs tiny, and the playground the size of a postage stamp. I once felt I had acres of space to unleash my imagination as I played.

The railings once felt prison-like, keeping our little bodies within the confines of school. Now I can almost leap over them.

I moved on up the road. The Post Office has gone too. You guessed it, another house.

No more cheerful couple who made every child feel valued for their meagre custom of a few half penny sweets.

Gone, the lovely old lady at the Post Office counter who would talk for Britain and not care about the queue trailing out the door.

Gone, the place where I bought boxes of chocolates for my mum on special occasions.

Rose-Tinted Glasses

Going back to my roots - going homeI know life moves on. Little corner shops and Post Offices close all the time. Kids become adults, where we would never fit on primary school chairs and toilets.

As I write about a world in an Oxfordshire village and a council estate within it, I avoid as much as possible wearing the rose-tinted specs. Back then is what it is.

I do wish sometimes for those days when life seemed easier and people took time to communicate and foster community. However, I was a child then. Life is always easier when you’re a kid. Unless someone steals your Care Bear or trashes your Transformer, that is.

We evolve, we build, and we change things. We have no control over that sometimes. The world moves fast and we have to keep up as much as we can. However I do wonder, particularly as I look at little places like my hometown, if we haven’t gone too far.

It is a mecca of overpriced clothes shops, hairdressers, and specialist shops that shut down regularly, only to be replaced by another one. Gone are most of the more useful and beloved shops; the owners either unable to pay the exorbitant rents or having no one to pass it on to when they retire. It’s sad.

The Writer Who Can Go Back in Time

The beauty of being a writer is that I can transport myself and my readers to any time in any place.

I’ve loved writing this novel so far because my hometown memories and the ambiance of this place are forever immortalised within my words. NOT the actual town though, remember?

As I write, I draw upon memories of places where I had my first kiss, the pub where I first got drunk, and the bench where I sat after school. They may no longer be there but in my writing they are alive and well.

I chose to move from my hometown. I lived there all my life for over 30 years. I needed to go. It was becoming claustrophobic.

With distance and time, I’ve rediscovered a love for the familiar of home. It pulls me in and I allow the nostalgia to wash over me until I am ready to go back to my present home.

Sometimes you need to leave the past where it belongs, until you’re using it for writing fodder that is. I have the best job ever.

Do you no longer live in your hometown? Have you been back? Share your memories and thoughts about returning, or not, as the case may be. It might just help with my novel!

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.

12 comments on “Going Back To My Roots: Back to My Hometown

  1. I share a similar sentiment. I couldn’t get out of my hometown fast enough when I was a teenager. It was not a happening place when I lived there, but now, when I go back, it always saddens me to see how much worse things have become. Fewer shops–especially the mom-and-pop ones–are a knife to the belly. Run down homes and shuttered schools are the same.

    However, there is a certain irony in my life today: I live in a town that is essentially the same: blue collar, bar on every corner, chain restaurants with the neighborhood dive that’s really just like grandma’s cooking. And I teach at a country school that’s essentially the same as the one I used to make fun of as a kid. And I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

    1. It is sad to go back and see changes that aren’t for the better. I guess our hearts and minds are often within the familiar old settings.

      That’s interesting that you now live in a similar kind of neighbourhood. I considered what my main character would do after leaving her hometown and she went for the complete opposite. As the novel progresses, she misses aspects of her hometown.

      Thanks for your comment. Your insights are really useful for my novel.

  2. Your worries about people from your hometown reading themselves into your novel made me smile. I am equally paranoid about some of my characters – but I guess this is inevitable since we can only write what we know, however obliquely. I’ve toughened up as time goes by and more people read my draft novel and it becomes less private.

    On the other hand I’ve had fun with names and other benign references; small jokes that will only mean anything to people who know me.

    1. Good to hear you know where ‘m coming from. To be honest, I’m not too bothered about the links being made to my hometown and the estate I lived on. I see this as a dedication to those places. I’ve been mindful of my references.

      Like you, I’ve had some fun with harmless jokes only I know. Writing is a wonderful source for that!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Hannah. It’s useful to hear from another writer in a similar position.

  3. I left my hometown at 18, I am now mid-40’s, I have not been back. Mainly because I have no reason to. My parents moved my brother and I as babies from their hometown to the middle of nowhere for work. In their mid-life crisis they came back to their hometown, and we kids followed. Therefore all my family, including the ones I never knew as a child, are not in my hometown anyways …. convoluted?
    However there are time I dive into memories of home and think, if I ever go back, I’m going to be a mass of uncontrollable, weeping, weirdness mess. And I dont think it will ever happen.

    1. It’s strange how a hometown has such a strong emotional hold on us. I guess it’s because it’s wrapped up in memories.

      Maybe one day you’ll pay your hometown a visit. It could provide writing gold!

      Thanks for sharing, Theresa.

  4. I think writing is a way to slow down and look at what to keep from the past, what to chuck, and how to merge these two divergent tasks into a more uplifting present. So looking forward to reading this novel!

    1. Beautifully put, Kirstie.

      I hope to have this novel out there as soon as possible, once these neverending drafts finally end!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. I live on the other side of the river now. It’s very weird. When I go for long dog walks, I look across the river and see where I used to walk and play. Just a bike ride down a twisty lane and there’s the estate. I went back to it a few years ago because my kids wanted to play in the skateboard park that’s still there. While they played, I gazed around, absolutely drenched and weighed down in memories. I felt like crying, to be honest. Loads of it is still exactly the same. The parks are better though! And they built on the allotments that used to be in front of my house. That’s all houses now. Hundreds of them. But the green is still there and last time I looked the big metal Spider was too! (Huge climbing frame I could see from my bedroom window.) I lived in two homes on this estate and there are loads of good memories as well as bad. Memories on every single street and alley, I guess. It’s weird when you go back. Other people live there now, so you don’t really belong. You’re a stranger. Yet somehow it still belongs to you. I write about it a lot too, like you too, using what I need, fictionalising some of it and so on. One of the houses I lived in is used in my next novel, and the YA trilogy coming out after that is also set on the same estate, though I have changed the names of everything!

    1. Reading your comment resonated with me on so many levels. That feeling of both strangeness and familiarity at the same time is a weird sensation.

      When I saw my old estate recently it felt odd seeing other people living there but at the same time it felt right. Time has marched on. It’s a different era and it belongs to a different collection of people now.

      I love how you write about the places where you’ve lived, adding your own touches too. Like you, I don’t use the same names!

      Thanks for so eloquently summing up how I feel, Chantelle.

  6. I felt much the same way writing my yet-to-be released collection of poems and essays “Tractor Bones and Rusted Trucks: Tales and Recollections of a Heartland Baby Boomer”

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