Have just arrived home after a weekend back in my old ‘hood, visiting a marvellous shit-hot mother-of-four who was my childhood partner in boy-obsession and still lives there.

Yesterday we took our youngest kids to the village playground, my first return in more than twenty years. It was, as our eldest girls would say, emosh…

I have compiled a visual memoir for you, featuring the crucial scenes of my childhood mostly spent in this public park in a small village in Warwickshite…

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This is me in an area of the ‘rec’ that used to have a tarzan swing and concrete tunnels. It was the scene of much under-age smoking and heavy petting. Once, aged elevenish, I snogged a boy in one of the tunnels and afterwards wrote in my diary that he gave me a ‘frenchie’ and I wasn’t that keen so would ask him to give me an English next time please…

This is also where one day, at around the same time, whilst smoking and fornicating with other well-brought-up middle-class youngsters, we became aware of a car driving across the actual field, it’s horn beeping wildly, and as it came closer realised it was my MOTHER careering over the grass, fag in one hand, the other frantically waving out of the open window and her plumby-vowels hollering,”Darling! Darling girl! I’m off shopping darling, do you want to come?!”… I cannot tell you how many fags and snogs I had to give to regain my cool…

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This is where I first drank cider. It is round the back of the village hall. I loved cider immediately. It was my gateway drug. This hall is also the location of my first playgroup, my many appearances in local amateur dramatics productions, my disastrous twelfth birthday disco when nobody turned up and my best New Years Eves ever at the village fancy-dress parties.

Gawping through the windows yesterday, I was a 3yr old with a biscuit and a 9yr old in an elf costume and a 12 yr old with no friends and a 15 yr old dressed as a hot vampire. Memory pooled like spilled cider, the decades swishing together in the time it took for me to say “I’m sure the curtains are the same”…

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This is where I learned what a 69-er was, aged thirteenish. Not by DOING IT…I wasn’t THAT depraved…but by acting it out with an older boy on this bench/block thingy, fully-clothed and in front of a cider-addled crowd, and I still didn’t get it…that boy now reads this blog…oh how thrilled he will be to know how I always think of him…

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Seeing that this Morris-Dancey-Hobby-Horsey is still in situ was the nail in the coffin for me weepy-wise. As a small child this fella had a looming presence. He was alive. He watched you. You had to wait to be big enough to make him move and when you were finally big enough to make him move, you were already over it. I was still in awe as I sat on him:

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And immediately after taking that pic, I collapsed a bit onto the back of his cold hard head… Why am I so messed up about time? Yes alright, so I sat here when I was a kid and here I am again as a 42yr old mother…but why the excruciating sadness? As youngest got on the horse and struggled to make him move, I had to walk away for a minute and breathe. Your own memories are sometimes the loneliest place to be. Even if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t have spoken words about the massive sensory overload I was in the throws of, the screeching rush of the past all up in my face, invisible to all but me.

I suppose because my mum is there. Her grave is in that village, though I rarely go. Her life and her ending were so complicated. I moved fairly soon after she died and I think in some way, I believe she’s still there…that at any moment she could tear up that field in her old Fiesta, shrilling about shopping, or appear at the window of the village hall, beckoning me back inside to dance because even if I had no friends, there’s always Madonna…and if I walked the quiet streets back to my old house, I would find her there at the kitchen table, writing her diary and smoking fags and throwing a McCain burger&chip meal in the oven for me…

On our way back to my friend’s house, youngest climbed the hill that sat above the tarzan swing and the concrete tunnels. The stories that hill could tell…decades of childhoods played out under it’s watch, embedded in the earth, strong enough still to take on this new child, shrieking with joy, his mother quietly weeping behind shades while he climbs…

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