This is a weird thought I had last week while driving from Wellesbourne in Warwickshire to Cheltenham. On this drive, I passed the exit to Worcester. I wanted to stop. But I couldn’t. I had to carry on. I always feel a pang of nostalgia when I pass Worcester as it was the home of all of my grandparents and for many years a place I used to visit either for the day on a Sunday about once a fortnight or sometimes for a week during the school holiday. As a child, it felt like my second home. As a family, we were often whizzing down the motorway between Stafford and Worcester and back again.
Then, things changed, as they do. Times passed. And it got to the point when I had no reason to visit Worcester again. I think I have been there twice since it used to be a second home to me. Last week I passed it by with no reason to stop.
My weird thought came shortly after passing the junction for Worcester: how unfair it is that I can’t just drive into Worcester and visit the houses that my grandparents’ lived in (either side) and ask to look around. All I have is my memories of those two houses. I can’t go back. We can’t revisit houses we once lived in or spent time in as a relative. At least, not easily and without suspicion from the current owners. To me, that is so unfair. We are free to go almost anywhere in the country, but not into other people’s houses.
I often dream about my grandparents’ houses. My mum’s parents lived in a lovely 1920s bungalow which was elevated up from the road on a road of similar houses. My memories of that house are very vivid. I remember the smell, the furniture, the colours of the walls, the carpets. I remember the games I used to play in my head whilst there. I remember reading the Reader’s Digest, playing in the garden, stroking the random cat that used to visit (the cat that didn’t have a tail), playing in the bath with the bits of soup they refused to throw away and washing conkers in the bath. But I can’t go back and revisit those rooms and relive those memories and remember more.
My memories of the house of my dad’s parents are also very vivid: again, the smell, the colours, the furnishings. I remember the donkey at the bottom of the garden, the cold meats and fruit cake for Sunday tea, the boxes of smarties Uncle David used to give us, the apples stored the front room, the old cars in the garage and the snapping of the coal fire. But I can’t revisit the house and remember those things afresh.
Equally, I can’t revisit the houses I have lived with as a child or an adult: in Stafford, Exeter, Japan, Oxford and Charlbury. I wish I could. I dream of those houses too. They now belong to other people.
If I were the Prime Minister, I’d make it law that you have to let previous occupants (or their relatives) visit your house on request (perhaps at a time mutually convenient to both parties). Would you vote for me?