What is a home? Aside from a house I mean? I mean it more in terms of the place you are from vs the place you now live?
As many of you know I recently relocated this year to Chesterfield from my hometown of Rotherham. They are only about an hours drive from each other but they are different in so many ways.
Rotherham is the place I was born. My mum has a thing for moving house (which if she reads this she will deny) but she does. I lived in 12 houses in Rotherham including one of my own and when I lived with my dad for a while. That means 10 were while I lived with my mum. We always lived in a village and one in particular was where 8 of our houses were. The village I lived in was that type of old mining village where people can’t let go of the past. Everyone’s always telling you how much better it was when ‘the pit’ was open. There are a number of big staple families who are extended in the sense that the grandparents, parents, aunties, uncles, cousins etc all live in the same village and there might be up to 20 in one family due to the inter-family marriages and relationships. One big family name man might be married to another big family name woman for example.
The thing with That village is that everyone wants to be a part of that community. The women like to walk down the main shop fronts doing their shopping and catching up on local gossip. Newcomers aren’t really welcomed and are mostly run into the new estates around the outskirts or don’t stick around too long. There is a high rate of crime and unemployment and most girls I went to school with have several children and were pregnant teens. The boys are either on drugs or selling them. If you don’t know people you’re liable to be intimidated and scared by the gangs that patrol the streets and hang out in the bus shelters. Parents let their children smoke and everyone must get their membership card for the working men’s club as soon as they turn 18. Even before that as children they are expected to visit Santa there and receive an apple and a selection box and in the summer they run the ‘club trip’ where everyone who is anyone in the village boards on the many coaches and invades the British seaside for the day leaving the village a ghost town.
I understand the pull of it for the older generation. Holding onto bygone days The village is the perfect time warp for them. The men can have their bitter in a tap room where women are still barred from entry. There’s a ‘turn’ on the stage, a round of bingo and cheap beer. There’s a traditional butchers and grocery store and plenty of places to buy a bacon sandwich. It is one of the only places you will ever visit where 99% of the population are white and the other 1% is only made up of the owners of shops and takeaways. It is not a village that welcomes strangers particularly if they are foreign strangers or non-White strangers.
Despite this understanding of nostalgia inspired in other people I always detested it. I detested Rotherham in general. From the racist, redneck type village I lived in to the scruffy town centre full of jobless bums, drug addicts and alcoholics. Half the shops are closed down, the crime rate is high, their nightclubs have closed and there is no work or jobs readily available. Transport is terrible and it can take hours to get anywhere you want to go because only one train every half an hour stops in the sinkhole that it is.
Chesterfield by contrast is a wonderful little town. Admittedly we know nobody here so maybe we look at it with rose tinted glasses but I genuinely cannot find one real issue with it. As part of Derbyshire there’s plenty of countryside, there a spots of local history from the iconic and well known crooked spire church to the beautiful walks down the canal. The town is full of shops that appear to actually stay open, there are upmarket bars and restaurants offering gourmet meals and wonderfully made cocktails. There’s a museum and two theatres. It is rare you see or hear of any trouble and despite living almost inside the town centre it is quiet and peaceful and free from trouble. There are good connections by (reliable) trains to Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham and you can be in London in an hour and 50 minutes. There is nothing not to like.
So it brings me to my original question. Despite hating Rotherham all my life and wanting to get out of there. Despite finding a lovely town where I enjoy residing and can find plenty to do and feel safe while I’m doing it. I have to ask myself why when I went to Rotherham to visit last weekend did it feel like I was coming home? Every familiar road we drove down, the houses and pubs and shops that we passed. The way people talk, the sights and sounds and smells all felt like home and left me with a desperate nostalgia and a feeling like this was where I was supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong I visited with my dad and saw my old room where my sister now lives and I never felt those feelings there. Thurcroft itself felt almost strange and unfamiliar, the house felt like I was a guest. Things have been moved and changed, appliances replaced with new and the house was no longer home to me. At my mums house it still felt like my mums but I have never lived there so while wherever my mum is will always be home to me her house has never been my home to live in.
No it was more than that. More than a house, a car, a family. It was about my roots. It served to remind me that no matter how much I wanted to turn my back on that town, to walk away and not look back and be happy to finally be out of there it inevitably will always be the place I know best where I spent 25 years of my life living, playing, dancing, partying, eating, loving and working. It’s the place I went on my first shopping trip, had my first job, met my first boyfriend, made friends, went to school and every other event that marks my life. I don’t think it’s possible to ever erase that no matter how you try and run from it.