I’m awakening to a deeper realisation of mortality lately. Being 50 is fine! I do think – and sincerely hope – that I’m as healthy as I look: which is both fatter and more animatedly aglow with the pleasure of living than in my moody, cynical, nubile days.
Do you remember – when you’re blessed with being away for a holiday week of sun and showers in North Wales, you look back remorsefully from Thursday afternoon to the sqandering of Monday and Tuesday – when you tiptoed round the rock-pools failing to savour the sight of each crustacean, sound of each roaring wave? On Friday, the ice-cream is creamier and the sandy sandwiches are truly delicious.
I’m not even sure that the journey back home will be anything like an ordeal. My dad will be driving our old van, and he’ll make sure we’re safe, and devise some interesting diversion on the way to the Midlands.
There, I’ve contorted this metaphor to its breaking point, but in allowing my mind to wander, it has alighted on the salient point: What makes it clear that time is shorter and the present is uncomfortably different from the past is the repeated loss of interesting and skillful uncles, kind and erudite aunties, crowned by an unfillable gap in my life remaining after my father’s death. My husband berates me for “living in the past”. But anyone who knows me is aware that I have always, always, preferred to live surrounded by objects rich with the patina of age – and that includes him!
My home is physically back in Staffordshire after some earlier promiscuous wanderings in other counties – but only until my husband’s boundless wanderlust settles on a single desirable location for us to live in.
But it is also spiritually here, inviolable. My parents and my grandparents were born in this varied, fascinating, paradoxical county. As I have started writing about their lives in the Staffordshire of the past, some of what I have said seems to have been of wider interest. Illustrated with the precious archive of my dad’s photographs and my mom’s memories, I am very happy to share my reflections.