I’ve been pretty churned up about this visit to my old stomping ground for a number of reasons. Not least because it’s where a lot of my family live; family I haven’t seen or kept in touch with since 1978. Okay, I found myself in touch with two cousins a couple of years back and there have been a few emails/facebook chats, etc., but today, for the first time in 34 years, I’ll be with family other than my parents.
I’m sure this happens with a lot of families; internal politics becomes so fraught that people just disappear off the radar. I was fed up with trying to keep up with who was and wasn’t talking to each other and why. That and what I suffered at the hands of my brother just made me think that family wasn’t worth bothering with and I retreated as soon as retreating was an option.
The thing is, I actually liked Tunbridge Wells. I had good friends there new my way around and was beginning to get excited about the possibilities that post-puberty would bring within – and outside of - my social group.
Just as things were getting intense, that is having exploratory fumbles with willing classmates, we moved back to Yorkshire.
Initially, this was a blessing as we’d all longed to get back there, instead I ended up at a school in Humberside which, wouldn’t you believe it, was genetically pre-disposed to despise anyone and anything from Yorkshire. The bullying I suffered was horrific. The depression compounded.
I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere and I knew no-one. I wanted to move back to Kent. Bearing in mind the family hassles that were happening when we left, this surprised me and quite rightly mystified my parents.
The practical upshot of this is that I retreated into myself, and became increasingly insular. I lived with my head in a book, or a comic. It was that that gave me my education, rather than the hate filled schooling I received. I spent so much time hiding in the cloakrooms, round the back of the cricket stand or squashed between the portakabins, hiding from my oppressors that I didn’t have time to do school work.
But I'm digressing spectacularly.
I had wondered whether I should just slip into Tunbridge Wells and slip out again without family even knowing I was going. I decided not to do that. I got in touch with my cousin and suggested lunch. She said fine. And then 5 minutes later said “Is it okay if my Mum comes, to. She’d really like to see you”.
I had mixed feeling about this but went with it.
The journey to Tunbridge Wells was conducted in almost total silence.
We arrived at the meeting place and I felt sick.
The phone went:
“Are you here yet?”
I said yes and waved them over having seen them come in. My cousin Donna and Aunty Brenda who, terribly indiscreetly, was always my favourite Aunt, were standing in front of me for the first time in 34 years.
We hugged, laughed, lunched and chatted away as if we’d been doing this regularly for decades.
And to think I was nervous.