Where are you from? A simple question but one I’ve always struggled to answer. I’ve lived in a bunch of places and they have all left a mark on my life in some way.
Depending on who is asking, sometimes the UK is enough of an answer, other times I may say London, or Manchester. But in terms of where I consider home, I guess apart from Madrid where I now live, I’d have to say Bath.
Bath is not the place I was born, or even the place I’ve lived the longest. But it’s where I spent my formative years and the place of my last family home.
There is too much to write about Bath in a single post, so much of my life that happened here. Bath is where me and all my siblings grew up, where I went to school, where I watched my kid brother be born, where I got my first job, had my first heartbreak, where I first got drunk in parks, where I met my husband (those last two aren’t connected).
It’s where I used to come home to every Easter, Christmas and family gathering in between. It’s where my mum died.
My old family home was one of those places people were drawn to and where everyone was welcome. There was always an extra person staying for tea or often sleeping the night. I remember fondly my Grandad Andy coming back on the last bus from London every Christmas Eve and drinking whiskey while my mum wrapped presents.
I’d weird and nice being back in equal measure. My sis now lives on the same estate as that beautiful house where we all grew up. Without walking too far from their front door there are memories on every corner.
On Friday, I took my niece and her dog for a run on the Rec and a walk up Camel’s Hump that is just minutes from her door.
When it used to snow, our schools would be shut and snow days were a thing. We didn’t have a fancy sledge but figured out a roasting tin makes a pretty decent sleigh and would spend the day walking up Camel’s Hump and sledging down again in a beat up baking tray.
Walk a little further and I find the spot I used to sit and write when I was 16 or so. At the foot of the Cotswolds with views of the entire city. I spent a lot of time up here writing when I was younger, although I can’t quite remember now what I was writing.
There’s the little lane near our house where I got busted changing into clothes I was not permitted to wear (a crop top – my mum had deemed not appropriate for school). Apparently, while I thought I was pretty well hidden, there was a house overlooking and I gave the young boys there a thrill, who also got busted and their mum told mine.
There’s the alleyway I used to hide my cigarettes and have a cheeky smoke with my best friend before and after school.
The spot I got run over when I was 17, the day after the College Dance and was thankfully so hungover/still tipsy I bounced and didn’t break anything.
There’s the bus stop at the bottom of Lansdown Lane where I used to wait in the freezing cold for the school bus in all weather.
There’s the tree that was planted in my mum’s memory in the church garden of the playgroup she used to run.
I was born in Manchester and lived there until I was 11. I still feel more of a Northerner in my mentality than anything else and I’m United through and through. Man Utd trained my school footy team and bought my allegiance from an early age giving our school tickets to games.
I was reluctantly moved to Bath for my final few months of primary school. I still remember when mum broke it to us that we were moving to Bath.
We’d spent Christmas in a beautiful cottage in Southstoke Village in Bath and us city kids had loved going for long walks in the surrounding fields, in our wellies dodging cowpats. But when we were told we were moving there I thought we were quite literally moving in with the cows, it felt like the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t totally wrong while I took a break from writing this to stare at the stars I just heard the mooing of cows!
I arrived in Bath with a proper Manc accent speaking ten to the dozen and no one could really understand what I said.
I don’t regret much in life but I do regret purposely losing my accent for a boy called Luke. Whenever I hear a Northern accent my heart aches and it stirs something in my soul. I love accents they give someone a sense of place. I feel a little nomadic at times, particularly with a mixed up middle-of-the-road nothing accent – that doesn’t tell any kind of story as to where I’m from.
That was the last time I ever changed anything about myself for a boy, so not a bad lesson to learn at 11 I guess.
I protested as soon as I was old enough I’d move back up North. By the time I turned 16, I realised it is a good few degrees colder in Manchester and a lot greyer. I ended up dreaming of the bright lights and big city of London instead and within two years I’d made it there.
While looking back Bath was a wonderful place to grow up, quite honestly I spent the last few years there looking to escape.
Many of the reasons which made it so safe to roam free were the same reasons I wanted to leave.
I always felt like a bit of an outsider in Bath, I’d kid myself it was because I didn’t have three generations buried in the local graveyard. But the truth was I didn’t fit in for other reasons.
My family fitted in just fine, Mum was such a big part of the local community here, I remember how many people lined the streets for her funeral carriage and how full the church was.
Growing up in Bath, it felt like nothing was private. It took until I was 25 before I could go out on Christmas Eve and didn’t hear the whispers of ‘shhh I won’t tell your brother’ if I was at the bar. ‘I’m not 15 any more’ I’d want to scream.
I found Bath small and stiffling. Everyone knew everything. I longed for the anonymity of a big city. A place where I wasn’t Karl’s little sister, or later Katie, Lewis or Sam’s big sister. Where I could just be me. And no one really cared who I was or what I did.
I knew the moment I left Bath, I would never return to live here.
But today, I was struck with just how beautiful Bath is with that gorgeous Bath stone of the buildings, how lush and green it is with the fields and hills all around – and how lucky I was to grow up here and call it home. And how much I still miss that family home on Southlands, Weston Village, Bath.
Where are you from? And where do you call home?