In previous posts I've bored you all rigid with ponderous ponderings on the nature of time, as well as rambling reminiscences of my childhood and how I've never been quite able to comprehend how I went to bed one night as a teenager and woke up what seems like the very next day as the grumpy curmudgeon I am now. Well, the bad news is that it's more of the same, I'm afraid.
As a child I was always looking backward. When I moved from the first house I remember (but not the first I lived in), I made little pilgrimages to my old street to look at my former abode and derive some comfort from the familiarity of its presence. What's odd about this over-developed sense of nostalgia is that I only lived three or four minutes away and was a mere five and a half years old. Wow! Not even six and already hankering after the 'good old days'.
This compulsion to revisit the past has been a prominent feature of my personality all through my life to this very day. I recently added photographs of the views from the windows of my previous houses to my screensaver facility so that I can again gaze on familiar scenes whenever the mood takes me. At the click of a key I can re-experience any one of several landscapes that once met me when I drew back the curtains in the morning at various stages in my life.
However, there was one particular house (the third after the aforementioned ones above) I lived in for several years that I didn't miss 'til over a dozen years after moving out (and two houses down the line) and I've often wondered as to the reasons for this 'delayed reaction'. If you're interested (or aren't currently engaged in watching paint dry), feel free to join me as I explore the possible explanation for the curious complexity which has puzzled me for many a long year.
When I moved from the house in question (back in 1972), my life still revolved to a great degree around the neighbourhood it was situated in. I continued to attend the school just across the road from it for another two and a half years. I still went to Summer and Christmas fayres in the church at the top of the street, and my mother dutifully trotted along to the Sunday services every week, even though there was another congregation of the same denomination just around the corner from our new home. (In fact, it was from this group that the one my mother went to had sprung.) My friends all lived near or around my old domicile and I continued to frequent the area for quite a few years after.
It wasn't unusual for me to come home from school (and later, work), have my tea, and then return to my previous neighbourhood to hang about the local shopping centre (about thirty seconds away from my old front door) with my pals. Perhaps that explains why I wasn't consumed with the same rabid pangs of nostalgia I nursed for previous houses; I saw it so often that I simply never had a chance to miss it. The ambiance of the house was preserved in our new home by the presence of the same furniture we'd had in every place we'd ever lived in - plus, our new house was similar in many respects to the first one I remembered, hence it conjured up a feeling of familiarity that pre-dated the dwelling we had just recently vacated.
It wasn't until we had again moved house (in 1983) and were ensconced in yet another new residence that I gradually started to miss the one we had quit way back in 1972. What's strange about this was that I was simultaneously wallowing in nostalgic notions for the homestead we had just left (to say nothing of the ones which preceded them both), so it certainly can't be denied that I was spoilt for choice when it came to such sentimental self-indulgence. Maybe I'm just greedy?
Perhaps another reason I only started to miss this particular house when I did had something to do with running into an old classmate from primary school in the neighbourhood shops across from my old home in 1984 or '85. ALEX LOWE by name, and as fine and decent a bloke as you could ever hope to meet. We exchanged greetings, enquired after one another's well-being, and then Alex asked: "Are you still living across the road?", nodding in the direction of my previous abode. He was surprised to learn that I'd moved away about twelve or thirteen years earlier, and it made me wonder how many other people I knew still thought I lived in a place I'd left almost half my life away at that point.
Talking of Alex (and veering wildly off topic), I hope he won't mind me recounting that he once appeared in our secondary school play as a fairy, uttering the immortal lines: "I'm a fairy, bright and gay, helping others every day!" I don't recall anything else about that play, but Alex's turn got such a huge laugh on the night that everyone remembered it - and constantly quoted the lines back to him in lisping, falsetto voice over the course of the next few terms. (I know I did, little bastich that I was.) He always took it in good humour, being the fine fellow he is.
I'd planned to expand the scope of this topic and try and explore (in an epic exercise in tedium) wider themes than I actually have. For example, what it is that draws us to our past and connects us to where we came from, and whether or not it has any bearing on the direction we take in life. Can a house in which we once stayed shape our perceptions of ourselves, or would we be precisely the same as we are regardless of the bricks and mortar which shield us from the elements? However, the realisation has now dawned on me that it's simply too big a concept to concisely and competently capture within the confines of a blog post - in an interesting and entertaining way, at least.
I'll have to content myself with the hope (slim as it may be) that I may have prompted some readers to indulge in a little quiet contemplation of whatever memories reside within the repositories of their own minds.
Or, failing that, helped cure them of their insomnia.
Or, failing that, helped cure them of their insomnia.