When I was six and a half, my parents sold our house in an Oxfordshire village and moved us to the spa town of Malvern in Worcestershire. We went from living in a modern stylish light and airy house in a sleepy hamlet that could barely sustain a shop and pub even in the 1960s, to a massive Edwardian chunk that sat on the main road to Worcester, in a place made of hills, redolent with the twang of banjo.
Everything is massive when you are 6. Even babies are big and bulky. I had been used to a manageable sized house with two normal storeys, a back garden, a rock chip driveway only really big enough for one car. This was replaced by four storeys of stairs and landings. Rooms a strange angles, three distinct gardens and the constant wooosh if traffic on the main road.
I hated it.
I missed the community. There were lots of children in the village. Lots of places to play in. It was permitted to wander off and explore. Some people had horses, a man had a farm where he grew the eggs my mother sent me to buy. The shop sold sweets that were wonkerish in their ambition: pink panther bars that tasted of strawberry, an ice cream on a stick with a face made of strawberry chocolate and banana flavours. In my Oxfordshire idyl, it was summer 11 months out of 12.
My memories are not a documentary.
The search for a new home was not quick. I remember us looking at houses and visiting places. One that really stood out was a disused school in Malvern Wells, a part of town so remote it was technically in another county. But finally my parents settled on Holmside where I lived, on and off, for the next 17 years.
My first unsettling and dizzying experience of knowing just how impotent I was came standing in the doorway from the hall to the lounge in the new as yet unfurnished house. My eyes were dragged along the tramlines of the floorboards that my father strode along seeming to shrink into the distance. On the far, and I mean far, wall, two windows stared inwards. I can still feel the confusion, I can still see it really clearly. I’m guessing the whole floorboard thing is somewhere in my current fetish for flooring in general, and turning it into something that doesn’t make me feel weird.