I apologise for not blogging last week. Recently, I’ve been distracted by moving house. I have moved from ‘E.’, a city, to ‘H.’, a nearby town. H., a market town with a long and sometimes notable history, seems like a nice place, although a lot smaller and quieter than E. The past of H. is visible in its buildings, many of which date from the eighteenth century A.D.
What can the past of a community contribute to its present sense of itself? What effect does an event of 100 years ago have on that place today?
If the event was something big and famous, it can form a cornerstone of that place’s identity, it’s narrative. A peg on which to hang a thousand stories. For example, the Great Fire of London, which both physically and psychologically wiped the slate of medieval London clean(-ish).
However, even if the event was small and unnoticed, it is still a part of a universal web of connected events, of cause and effect. And part of smaller scale webs. The life of Mr X, the baker, 100 years ago, or the businesses housed in Y Street, 200 years ago, still contribute to the present. They form part of the atmosphere of a place, of something we can sense deep down even if it is difficult to pin down with words.
And if we live somewhere long enough for it to connect with us on a deeper level, it becomes a part of us and we a part of it. Which I suppose means that moving house, from one area to another, can bring a sense of loss, not just in the immediate sense of sights and sounds but in terms of something deeper.
My own move, from E. to H., has been softened by the fact that H. is part of E.’s area of cultural and social influence, and also a place where I spent a lot of my time as a teenager.
Nevertheless, the fact is that a couple of weeks ago, I was living there, and now I’m living here. And as far as my experiences of H. in my younger years go, I, like all of us, am on a journey through time as well as space. H. is the same as it was then, but it’s also different.