Every train journey home feels like time travel.
My sense of place is linked with my sense of home, and my sense of home moves around with me. I have a home in Wellesbourne, and as long as my parents are living there, I always will. But I ripped out my sense of home when I moved to Leicester, to university, and for five years it was left there – even when I had no home to live in.
Now, I have fled North, to Manchester, and my sense of home is left in a small room at the top of an older house, in a suburban enclave off a main road. From there, it has spread around the city, no further south than the park, no more West than the river, and no more East than Piccadilly, but as far north as the Odeon and the Quarter and that small church I visited in the MLF.
So now, as I head back on the train to Leamington Spa (an outpost of home until 2010) I feel the six years between myself now and myself then fade and contract, I feel myself becoming strange and alien in the landscape. The visit is a visitation. It is almost as if I am meeting the person I would have been had I stayed here. I’m becoming him, rejecting him, and obscured from him, all at once.
Even reports I get from Leicester make me feel as if I’m looking through a portal. The people now going out together – would any of them have ever been me? Would I want them to be? My Leicester friends are all into shows and live performance, few of which I see now, but all of which I could have seen, or been in, had I stuck around. Who would I have become, in just one more year, in just one more month?
I know it is healthier I am gone. I don’t have a wanderer’s disposition, and I’m unlikely to set off endlessly around the country, or the globe – there would be nowhere to keep all my books, even in a caravan. But since my sense of place is yoked to my sense of time, moving away is moving forward, and I’m not settled, and I’m not settling, but I’m not turning around to reinhabit the old spaces. So when I visit them, and I do visit and I will continue to visit them, it’s almost like a haunting. I am haunted by the landscape, the cityscape, the place it used to be, and it becomes haunted by me. I am substance, but not substantial. I am here, but I am not here, i am solid into spirit, and I am transmuted by the train, carrying me quietly between the dimensions of time and space.
I’m going to post this now, while I’m still moving, and still thinking about it. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.