Since my brother moved into the city nearest to our Forest of Dean home, I have a nice place to stay every time I visit, from which I can catch a bus to wherever (and whomever) I want, making it a hell of a lot easier to actually see the various people I would like to.
When I was growing up in the Forest, it was nigh on impossible to go anywhere or see anyone without a car. For years after we moved from Tottenham, I cursed my parents for choosing somewhere to live that was so countrysesque that I was completely dependent on them to get my social fix (not withthem, you understand, just relying upon them for lifts. Because no one socialises with their parents.) It had never been so hard to be with my friends. My best friend in Tottenham had lived two streets parallel, and everyone else was also within walking distance. (Even the swimming pool, which my best friend and I once convinced ourselves was at the opposite end of the Gobi – perhaps it was that Summer of 28°C, but I remember her telling me to swallow my saliva to quench my thirst, and me thinking I couldn’t get the hang of it because I couldn’t produce enough. I admired her in that moment for how much spit she must be able to conjure, and how she could probably survive quite comfortably in the wilderness with so much wisdom.
Anyway – in the Forest, things and people were suddenly out of reach. The ones I wanted to see, anyway. I did have a good time in primary school, or what was left of it, (we moved when I was in year 4 or 5) but thanks to choosing a secondary school in another village, (perhaps this was all my own fault, after all?) I became part of a wider, more travelled (albeit by a mile or two) community of kids. I was no longer the cleverest, or the pretty new girl. Other people had diverse backgrounds too. Not quite so much as in London, but I had a new playground full of interest and culture and learning. And all this demanded more effort on my part. All my new best friends lived at least a fifteen-minute drive away.
I do appreciate the countryside. I love it. I prefer it to the city. Without it I never would have gotten my two-hour-long walks home with Erin, chatting about relatable London experiences and learning about Greek mythology (I always called Erin a ‘walking encyclopedia’.) I never would have experienced my first (and last) ‘free party’ in the innermost depths of the woods, and had to spend all night walking home, forming unusual bonds with college friends and developing a phobia of limousines.
But it was difficult to maintain, especially when I moved to York for university. Aside from the distance, the biggest obstacle between me and my friends now was the simple fact that I was university – something they didn’t do, or they did in London. The distance itself is impossible to ignore. Once I gave up my aged, dead car, I started spending my loan on expensive train tickets. I got in debt for a while, though I have now managed to bail myself out again.
Now, I come back to Gloucester via train (that I can afford) and do not need to arrange a parent chauffeur or catch a bus to finish the journey. I hop along through the town centre (which has vastly improved since I left, and seems only to be moving up) and into the Quays, where my steady younger brother has just moved across a hall from one shop to another for a well-earned promotion.
And one of my best friends just got married, and had a brilliant time. And another one just had twins. And I can see it all. Going home just got a whole lot better.
P.S. This is my 200th post! (I have written more, and posted more, but have been going through my past entires and editing, so some came down.) Hoorah for re-reaching this milestone!
- A weekend in the Forest of Dean (thelittlebackpacker.wordpress.com) – a nice little ode to the Forest as a getaway resort. I would definitely recommend it myself; if you’re interested, give me a shout!