Never Go Back (Cecilia Peartree)

My mother had lots of favourite sayings. She inherited some from my grandmother, acquired some along the way and appropriated one from my father, whose motto was 'Never apologise'. As I've got older I can see the point of that last one. If you get to the stage of having to apologise, it's really too late for that to help. I tried to convince my sons of that when they were much younger, but I doubt if it sunk in then. Because my grandmother mostly spoke in Scots, one of her sayings was 'A bonny face sets a dish-clout'*, something of which I have yet to be convinced although my mother used to drag it out whenever I complained about having nothing to wear.

One of my mother's sayings was 'Never go back'. I suppose I can see the point of that too, as I get older. Unfortunately she tended not to want to look back either, and was completely baffled when I decided to study history at university. She was also oddly resistant to any of us looking into the family history, although even after years of research we have not found anything particularly awful in it.

The house from the front
I thought of that saying of hers just recently. I loved the house I grew up in much more than anywhere I've lived since then, although now that I have my own conservatory I do like this current one a lot better than before. Every so often I would search for the old house online to see if it was for sale again, and if so, whether I had any chance of buying it and moving back in. I always knew this was a silly idea for all sorts of reasons, but my latest web search produced the information that the house was indeed up for sale, and not only that, but I could view pictures of the interior and a floor-plan online. I spent quite a while brooding over the changes that had been made to it over the years - it is now almost 50 years since my mother sold it - and trying to ignore the price, which was quite some way out of my reach!

Our very own stained glass window

At first glance I hardly recognised the interior, but gradually it all became clear. I was happy to see that my childhood bedroom, where I had first written, or at least started writing, stories, was still in use as a bedroom, despite my mother having told me it would be turned into a shower-room after she left, and that the deck, which my father had constructed on the foundations of an old greenhouse, was still there, although now featuring a somewhat incongruous hot tub. My daughter-in-law and I agreed we didn't think much of the kitchen, but the garden had been tidied up nicely and the view from the front windows across the Firth of Tay towards Dundee was still splendid.

For a while I felt uncharacteristically depressed by having looked at the listing for the house. I suppose it was partly because I realised how long ago it was that we had lived there and therefore how much older I am now, and partly because everyone else in my immediate birth family has died in the mean-time. There were also external factors such as the political situation and some imminent reorganisation at work. Not to mention the headlong rush towards Christmas, which I have almost always found difficult.

Bizarrely,  I was somewhat cheered a few weeks later by coming across a photograph at my day job that showed the view from our old front windows and brought back different memories, this time of a train crash that happened at the station just across the road from our house. Did this remind me that not all the memories of the time were good ones, or do I just revel in disaster and mayhem?

The view across the river, with the Tay Bridge (watercolour by T.J. Morrison)



Griselda Heppel said…
That is a breathtaking view, and what a gorgeous (late Victorian?) house. No wonder you were so happy there and that looking at it now feels painful as well as like greeting an old friend. I think I'd find it difficult to see my childhood home again, with all the changes that must have been made since. It's even weird to go back to an old school, when vividly remembered nooks and crannies have vanished under smart new buildings.
Never go back is one thing, but - never apologise? Hmm. I've heard that mantra used too often by people who just see it as permission to be unpleasant without needing to say sorry.

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