The Americans would laugh, but sometimes the distance between north and south in this country feels like a continent.
We made an unscheduled trip to West Yorkshire this weekend, to visit my dear, lovely, seriously ill grandma. We hadn’t been up there for well over a year, and I hadn’t seen Grandma for longer than that. It was an unsettling return, at first. The roads were familiar but not: I knew them, but couldn’t visualise where they led to. Even the buildings looked different: the older churches and factories are made from a blackened, ancient-looking stone that I’d forgotten about until I saw it again. I kept wanting to go somewhere that was home, then remembering that it didn’t exist anymore. We drove to the hospital, and I was pelted with fragments of childhood memory that were welcome and disturbing in equal measure.
And then – family. A precious afternoon with my grandma, then an evening with cousins and their little families, who’ve known me longer than just about anyone. What a release it was, not to have to be impressive or charming or competent. They all, without exception, call me ‘Rach’, something I haven’t managed to get anyone down here to do, even after seven years of trying. I could’ve cried with relief, though I didn’t, as I was too busy eating sausage, mash and Yorkshire puddings (of course).
The next afternoon we took my sister to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Acres of land dotted with hundreds of works of art, and a brilliant place to while away a Sunday afternoon. Which we know perfectly well, because we spent half our Sunday afternoons here as children. We ate a picnic under our favourite gigantic metal statue of three duelling, holey giants, then took the old trail we remembered. It was an utter, joyous delight, an oasis of childhood in the middle of an often humdrum adult existence.
We belong wherever we are loved.
And now – back to normality. When I think about the number of things I’ve got to do this month, all the air gets squashed out of my lungs. So I don’t think about it. It’s bad for the running.