Stay at home. That’s the message. And in one way it’s clear where that is. You know your own address. Well, usually. Lockdown has blurred life in many ways: I woke one day confused as to whether it was Wednesday or Thursday, then rather pleased with myself at having worked it out that it was Thursday, only to discover at 11.30am that it was in actual fact Tuesday. I felt I’d slipped down a Snakes and Ladders snake. But you know at least that it’s the building you feel you pay way too much Council Tax for; the address, when you used to remember it, that you Google repeatedly to check that you’re in the right band – always convinced you’re not. You know it’s the bricks and mortar, or if you’re really lucky, lathe and plaster, that you’re glad to return to after queing for twenty minutes outside Asda. Especially after you’ve also queued behind a woman at the checkout, who was giving an excellent impression of never having shopped in a supermarket before. A ‘noble’ woman who was buying for four people, who s.l.ow.l.y. picked up each item after it had been scanned, pondered who she’d bought it for and s.l.o.w.l.y put it in one of four bags. Who then painfully (for me; the pain was all mine) picked it out again and reassigned the item to another bag. Then you just can’t wait to get home, and you know exactly where it is. The place you can s.i.l.e.n.t.l.y rest your head on the coldness of the kitchen worktop and mutter things to yourself about ‘noble’ people.
But being ‘home’ is more than that isn’t it? There have to be certain things that make you have that feeling – where you feel safe, comfortable, connected. Paul Young in the 80s told us that wherever he lay his hat was his home. We’d sing along with him at the school disco, not questionning him. But that’s not true is it? It’s a sense of place, of peace, that goes deep inside your core. A place where your shoulders instantly soften, making you realise that they weren’t, well, soft. I think we tumble through life, experiences sticking to us like goose grass, places and feelings forming pockets of ‘home’ scattered around the world, some stronger than others. One of these for me is Ingleby Arncliffe, a quintessential North Yokshire village where I lived some magical years as a child.
It’s a place for me where shoulders soften. Where you can take a deep breath and actually exhale. Fully. Ingleby Arncliffe: a childhood of rounders, Fox Off and sledging with all the village children; ages strewn across the spectrum, but all thrown together to forge a history and connection that would unknowingly stay with us a lifetime. It’s not home now, but it’s one of the places that I feel at home; it’s somehow mine and I belong. I feel a sense of ownership, of protectiveness towards it. When the village school closed recently a part of my history closed, and so, part of me.
I sometimes run up the hills behind Ingleby and sometimes wander round the village itself and and look wistfully at ‘my’ house’. Surreptitiously mind – I don’t want to look like a mad stalker. It’s a house that I think I subconsciously benchmark all other houses against. It’s what a ‘proper’ house is supposed to be. And do you know what? It’s for sale! I know. I thought that I should buy it too. But that wouldn’t work would it? It couldn’t be home now I think. Can you go back and live in the same house twice? But I did stand outside and look at it longingly the other day when I found out. Wait, maybe you could buy it. No, I’d be jealous if you did. Wait, wait, maybe you could, and then invite me round for tea. That would be nice.
You’d love the run up the Cleveland Hills though. (Running is not complusory. There are other options such as walking.) How far is it? you ask. Well, up hill about eleventy gazillion miles. But down, I’d say about…2. I like running it partly because it was one of the events in Ingleby village Sports Day. First to the Booster Station and back. We all referred to it as the Booster Station – I’m not sure what it’s official name is.
Not quite sure what it boosted – probably radio, though it was thought of as an early warning for nuclear bombs too (children think these things). Especially as there was a button that beeped in the Blue Bell pub, that was somehow, maybe, perhaps connected to it. We felt good knowing that Ingleby Arncliffe and Ingleby Cross would be safe come the apocalpyse.
You wend your way up, past Whomping Willow like barriers. Which you vault nimbly….
Past a rambling Enid Blyton cross-roads.
I’ll take you through the gate on the right another time to Osmotherly, you’ll like it there too. It’s where sheep get washed… kind of…
But here you go left past purply flowers. (It’s like you’ve taken a wrong turn on the ethernet and stumbled across a horticulturtal blog. And you were only googling how to dye your grey hair…)
I suppose you could get lost, but if you do you really shouldn’t be going out the house at all. Basically you take paths that go up, when you want to go up, and down when you want to go….down. If there’s a choice, take the more downest or more uppest one. And if you see signs like this:
Take heed. (It’s like talking to Bear Grylls, Julia Bradbury and Ranulph Fiennes all rolled into one, isn’t it?)
Keep the wending thing going, peek round corners:
And so to a photo-taking plateau.
Take in the views. Shoulders will soften – views do that whether you’re home or not actually.
If it’s a warm sunny day, maybe this is the best view:
Lie on your back and hear the silence. See your past and ponder your future. Be glad you can.
And so you’ll come to the Booster Station. You can’t beat a bit of Gulag-barbed-wire secrecy. Stand up close, near the yellow flower thingys and you’ll smell shredded cococnut. You will. Honestly, it may seem like it, but you haven’t actually tripped upon this year’s lockdown Chelsea Flower Show.
That I get a feeling of home from seeing this apocalyptic mass of machination, reinforces the quote: ‘home is a place that you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to come back to’. To have stayed my whole life here would have been, for me, stifling. I needed to leave, to explore the world, to gather experiences that build within me a sense of home. Then I needed to come back.
I’m at home being with my family in the car laughing as we go for a day out. I’m at home quietly watching my daughters – I used to love watching them do nothing in particualr in their class assemblies. I wouldn’t hear the other children, I would just watch my own child, as if the sound was muffled. It was very peaceful. I’m at home looking at the favourite thing that I own: a lamp that my grandmother left me. It was a container for acid, being made from glass, that my grandfather made into a lamp for my Nana. I look at it, think of her humour, her sense of adventure, her, and feel at home. I’ve moved house well over twenty times but not till my lamp is out do I feel at home.
The Booster Station is as far as you can go at the moment, but ordinarily you can do the Cleveland Way a 109 mile trail that will take you to want-to-visit places such as Saltburn, Whitby, Helmsley, Roseberry Topping. It’s not too shabby a way to descend though, back the way you came. Don’t run though or your knees will hurt. But you’ll pass a white-whiskered man, who’ll make a humorous quip that will make you feel vinicated in walking skitterishly from uneven stone to uneven stone. Always happens, yes. At the bottom you would normally have several options. One, pop some money in the honesty box and take a snack here from the cute table
Two, scooch over the A19 to the the Joiners Shop (See a previous blog), a gorgeous, award winning coffee shop in Ingleby Cross. It sells some tea leaves, free range and loose, as opposed to restrained in bags – when a place does that, you know you’ve come across quality. You’ll find it easyily enough, with its wide wooden doors, doors that I remember were always flung open as I’d cycle past, often a man working with wood, presumably a joiner… The doors were green then. Or you could go for lunch at The Blue Bell pub in Ingleby Cross, slap bang next to Ingleby Arncliffe. Good Sunday lunch and humongous parmos. You could ask if they still have the nuclear warning button. Worth an ask. Another option is the Cleveland Tontine – I haven’t been since I moved back but you used to be able to see famous people there. I mean Diana Ross – that’s like proper famous. Not someone that you have to tap the side of your head to remember who they are.
Or you could just go home. I hope you’ve worked out where it is.