It’s not so easy to get nostalgic when your grandfather grew up on the Old Kent Road. And generally speaking I don’t hold with anywhere north (of the equator that is). Certainly I only like the M6 tollroad because it circumvents Birmingham. But visiting Cumbria with John, land of his forbears, I find myself getting all family minded and feeling all misty eyed about the UK.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to ditch Bali for Cumbria. The rain is giving the windows a good whipping, the stonework is about six foot deep and even that’s not enough to stop me from sitting on top of the rayburn drinking in the heat, and once more I find my driving skills unsuited to one lane winding country roads (maybe slow down a bit John says, with one hand wavering over the handbrake) but there’s something rather lovely about a churchyard full of Aldersons.
There’s even a John and Sarah Alderson, our ancestors (well John’s – there I am again claiming them as my own, but Sarah Alderson from 1732 wasn’t born one either and there she is in the graveyard laying claim to six feet of Cumbrian soil).
And the old Alderson farmhouse, standing bluntly over the stunning Eden Valley, is now no longer a rambling stone shell but the place of the world’s most incredible shower (a shower so good I contemplated actually sleeping in it rather than in my bed).
It feels good to connect Alula with her roots, she’s been so rootless for so long. And even though she’s oblivious to the sense of history (she still thinks she’s going to live to be a billion and a hundred) I’d like to think it will give her some grounding in the future. Then I’ll take her to the Old Kent Road and let my dad take her to Millwall football ground so she can connect with her other roots and learn some proper hooligan behaviour. She is after all half south londoner.
But there I am happy to vagabond my whole life, with no desire for one home and no calling to set down roots in one particular place and here I am confronted with centuries of one family living in one place. It’s kind of mind-blowing. And I think I need to think about it for a few days before I figure out what family and place means to the sense we create of self. Is there more to it than just being sagittarius?
And, you know, I think I might spend that time thinking in the shower.