For many people, in order to comprehend the world, they need to travel through it, whilst others seem to have the ability to understand from the viewpoint of the place grew up in. Whether we like it or not, we all have a relationship with our hometown. We can be on the other side of the planet, or standing in front of our old home, yet still feel the pull of that elastic which reminds us where we are from.
Happily, the house I grew up in has long been demolished. I didn’t know better, as a kid, but it was a shitty little house. Built in 1970, the council estate I grew up in actually won its architects awards at the time. Hastily built boxes of breeze-block, with flat roofs, no insulation, and terrible damp after a decade, they were seen as utopian dwellings in the early 70’s. To coin a phrase, “We weren’t dirt poor, but it was pretty dusty”. There were four such estates on the south east corner of Airdrie, named after the Western Isles of Mull, Iona, Islay and Luing. This made some 1,200 homes, throughout which my paper run was dispersed.
My strongest memory is of time spent down “The Glen”. The Glen consisted of deep woods right behind my house, surrounding a steep valley containing the West Calder river. As kids, we would spend every waking hour there; playing, building tree houses, climbing trees, and tying rope swings across the river.
Airdrie is possibly the most central town in Scotland, located on the motorway, slap between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Two weeks ago, I helped with election day canvassing for my good friend, David Fagan, who has been a Local Councillor for the past decade. Walking the streets in his ward, on a gloriously sunny day, took me back to my childhood in the 1970’s. I used to believe that people only ever moved away from Airdrie, but I met quite a few residents who had distinctly English accents. That said, the town doesn’t seem any more multicultural than 40 years ago. Other than the occasional shop owner, I did not see anyone who wasn’t as pale as me. (Spray tans notwithstanding)
Some people would never consider moving back to their hometown. It is common to either demonise the place where you spent your angst ridden teenage years, or to romanticise the town, in a way that can’t measure up to reality. Some may see moving home as a sign of failure; that having gone out into the world, the world sent you back. I now don’t agree with that, and whilst I don’t think I ever will, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen.
So what’s your relationship with your hometown? Love or loathe?
PS. I took the ice cream picture on that sweltering election day in Airdrie, in May 2012.