Old haunts

When travelling from one country to another I much prefer taking the train to flying.  The plane has its own pleasures, but travelling by rail, apart from offering (slightly) more legroom, also gives me the time to acclimatise to my destination. Passing through a country, rather than over it, you see the gradual changes in landscape, architecture, and signage that let you know you’re entering a different space, inhabited by a different culture. On the way down I passed through fields blanketed with snow, where the sheep, normally the cleanest, brightest objects in the countryside, seemed suddenly dark and dirty against their pristine white background. On the downside, the return journey was delayed by localised flooding which turned those same fields (and occasionally the train track itself) into lakes.

But enough of the how; why was I going back to the UK for four days? Long-time readers may remember this little post, concerning children taking photographs of places which were meaningful or memorable to them. More recently I wrote about my home town and my changing relationship to it. These two ideas finally coalesced into a photo project. I took a couple of days off work and went back to the town where I was born and raised to take some photos of places I used to hang out in, or play in, or visit regularly. Little corners, bits of wall or pavement, parks, shops, views. It was the first time I’d gone back there alone since before I was married and I took my time wandering and remembering.

The criterion for the photos was a simple one – places I fondly remember and which have not substantially changed over the intervening years. Every time I go back something has been re-landscaped or demolished or “developed”, so I wanted to make some effort to preserve, if only photographically, the places where my childhood played out. One of the things that surprised me most as I started snapping was that a lot of the places I remember are alleyways and walls – borders and transitional spaces. I also kept thinking about the places I’d love to have photographed but which I couldn’t because I knew they didn’t exist any more – this set is as much defined by what isn’t there as by what is…

The photos aren’t especially beautiful in any objective or formal way, and I don’t expect them to be of any real interest to anyone other than myself, but if you want to take a look, the full set, including more detailed notes and relevant anecdotes, can be seen here.