Do you happen to still live in the place where you were born, like the farmer? Or have you, like me, moved around a lot over the years? And if you have been a mover-around, have you ever been back to the place where you were born, and where you spent your "formative years"?
I have been compiling a book of our family's history, as a present for my grandchildren. I know they are not particularly interested now, but in case they become interested as they get older I am putting it all into one place for easy accesss.
I began by drawing a map of the small village in Lincolnshire, where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. It was a friendly village on the banks of the River Witham and - being I suppose a curious child - I knew everyone who lived there. I knew their names, the names of their houses, their pets, their grannies - everything. I was not above turning up at their doors with my dolls pram, to show them my latest doll. Nobody ever turned me away, nor did they fail to show interest. There were no locked doors in the village and everyone helped everyone else. I don't suppose for a moment it was anything like the idyllic place I make it sound. But to the eyes of a child, it was the perfect place to grow up. When I gained a scholarship to the city high school, everyone celebrated, as I was the first village child to do so. And after that everyone took an interest in what I was doing.
A friend, who still lives there, sent me a map of the village drawn at the millennium. I show you both maps above. Where the population in my day was probably about three hundred, it is now over twenty thousand. There is a housing estate on the very place where we used to go for violets every Spring. The whole field used to be carpeted with them and the smell of violets filled the air on a sunny day.
The lane - Allaballa as it was called - was my father's and my favourite place to search for wild flowers and birds' nests in early Spring. Father knew all the secret places - we would look, but never touch or disturb - and I would record it laboriously in one of the many notebooks I filled over the years. Allaballa went to houses many years ago. As did the field alongside it, where my mother and I out mushrooming one Autumn came across a hare caught in a cruel trap.
My mother managed to get the wire loosened but the poor hare was terribly injured and died as we released it. Mother's favourite dish was jugged hare, so she carried it home and we had it for lunch the next day. But I can still see the tears coursing down my mother's face when she released it and saw its terrible injuries. (maybe that was the beginning of my love of the hare).
We can't go back and expect everything to be the same, can we? In reality the village was probably not like I remember it anyway - I have, over the years, maybe sentimentalised it. What remains is a picture in my mind, idealised like a Miles Burkett Foster painting.
But what made me think was comparing those two maps and realising that the opposite must also be true. If early man came back he would no doubt be unable to recognise anywhere, and while some settlements would have grown into huge towns, there would be many other places which had disappeared altogether. There would be places where wild flowers are growing in profusion, where pretty woodland has sprung up - and he would stand and look and remember when he had a dwelling on just that spot. Like the Thomas Hood poem, which someone read yesterday at our poetry reading:
I remember, I remember,
the house where I was born.
The little window where the sun
came peeping in at morn.
I suppose we can call it all part of life's rich pattern, all part of the ever changing scene. If we were like desert nomads and wandered with our dwellings wherever our cattle took us, then maybe we would not attach so much importance to the places of our childhood.
Do you have an important childhood place you would like to share with us? I do hope so.
###more watery words - I have had a comment from Kazia in Poland, with the following words:-
rzeka, rzeczka, rzeczulka; strumien, strumyk, strumyczek; potok. Thanks Kazia.
Keep them coming - I shall put them all on one giant wordle eventually.