Monday, 3 December 2012

A Sense of Place

I decided to watch the new television series 'Last Tango in Halifax' and was treated, in the first episode, to some interesting drama set against the backdrop of Skipton. I had a number of mixed feelings watching it. Until last December I saw Skipton, a busy Yorkshire market town in the North Riding, on a regular basis. Most often, to be honest, I travelled by it. It was like a hub or a large planet, the orbit of which I was drawn into but then spun off again either towards Ilkley, Keighley or Gargrave. It's a lovely place and looked even lovelier through the magic of television. 
The last time I saw  Skipton was almost a year ago. It didn't look lovely then. It was between Christmas and New Year, a time to be jolly, to celebrate but I had travelled the four hour drive with my family for my mother's funeral. The weather was atrocious, icy rain turning to hail and the ground sodden. I was there to see my mother's coffin lowered into a grave at a green burial site just north of the town. The views on a good day are, I'm sure, magnificent but it was impossible to see much beyond the mud and the gaping hole. The hail rattled off the top of the coffin as the minister almost shouted the last words into the wind that blew umbrellas inside out, hats from heads.  I was rattled, my heart wrenched inside out. 
I haven't been back. For the first time in my half century of life I haven't stepped in Yorkshire for almost twelve months. It's an odd feeling. For the first twenty one years I lived in the county, first in the west and then in the east. It was home. I had a very strong sense of being a Yorkshire woman in that very innate pompous way that seems to run through people from the county like words through Scarborough rock. I still have deep affection for it but have lost my roots. My accent is scrambled from living almost half my life in Scotland. 
When I first met my husband I was fascinated by the fact that if asked where he was from, he would answer where he was living then. As we met in Nottingham and he answered in a strong Scots accent that he was from Peterborough this came as a surprise. My answer to the same question would always be the town I grew up in, not where I was then living. I felt my husband's answer was misleading to people but he had lived in so many places during his childhood that he felt no affinity to any. Having moved several times to follow his work, I now do the same, answering that I am from Galloway, though I still have strong Yorkshire vowel sounds in my voice. 
A sense of place is obviously something we can lose, discard or change throughout our lives. I always thought I would think of Yorkshire as 'home' but that's gone. Do we lose our sense of place, of home when we lose our parents? 
I have a friend who grew up north of London and only moved to Galloway in his fifties yet he has never been back, has no wish to return and feels no connection now to the place that he lived in for most of his life. His greatest connection is to this small Galloway village. My daughter, who has lived in this village for most of her life, feels no connection at all and regularly tells people she's from Harrogate in Yorkshire. 
I do not have any answers and would be interested to hear from anyone who has a strong sense of place or affinity to somewhere. Or any advice on how to get mine back!

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