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
I 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.
I 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!