I’m on a stealth visit to Derbyshire and the family bosom. Yes, I caved in. The pond, the elusive boar, the burnt out autumn landscape, the shrieking owls, the sentinel like beech trees, all finally got too much.
I needed to reconnect. Walk the grey rainy streets of Chesterfield. Go to The Tramway halfway down Chatsworth Road where the beer is delivered fresh from the brewery two hundred metres away. No French fops or demi-pression Kronenbourg here. Reality sparkling in front of me as I melt gently into the wooden pews that line the carpet-thick wallpapered walls of this old pub. I think of the tales, the people, the dreams, the happiness that has passed between these four tiny walls as I take a long slug of thick Derbyshire ale. The malty aroma funnelling up my nose and into my brain to trigger that warming emotion we call, ‘It’s good to be back.’
I suppose I reached my limit. 121 days. The time it took me to favour looking at the rain lashed brick lanes of Chesterfield to the silent landscape portrait world of Queaux with all its pristine deer filled fields, miniature rivers and lanes. I shouldn’t be so capricious, I know. I have a beautiful life, but like all things, there are perimeters I need to respect.
I’ve worked hard. Produced the first draft of my novel, sawed and burnt more wood than a forest tribe, discovered the wildlife heritage of the Vienne, ran through the gold oak lanes of Preau, fed myself fat and round, if not in body then certainly in mind.
So here I am. New Year’s Eve 2013. Derbyshire. Looking at the rain wash over the old willow in my parents’ garden that looks as sad as only a weeping willow can. Yet strangely, and despite living here on and off for the past twenty three years, I don’t ever remember seeing it. Twenty feet high and smack bang in the middle of the garden. Twenty three years and I’ve never noticed it. And on my last visit here as well. What on earth is going on?
Anyway, for the record, half of tonight will be spent at the Tramway. The other half spent here at the top of Chatsworth Road. And as I’ve mentioned, it’ll be for the last time. In the new year this old house will be flogged off and converted no doubt into a residential nightmare for the criminally old or wickedly insane. My old bedroom will become a graveyard for the ageing baby boomer generation of Chesterfield. Lined up in their coffin shaped beds in the space where I listened to Ziggy Stardust for the first time and thought Bowie was God. I hope they appreciate it as much as I did.
I have no idea how to buy or sell a house or what you can or cannot take with you when you leave. But I suspect the willow in the garden will stay until that too is one day chopped down for firewood, or a cricket bat. Unnoticed or not. Everything else will go. Pots, pans, cupboards, skeletons, dreams, hopes, memories. All cleared out and moved on to another time. Another place. And so I bid you farewell Chatsworth Road. Happy New Year one last time. And goodbye.