By the age of 11 I’d moved eight times. My sense of place is dislocated because I was. And I am often lost.
By 1976 I had three coping strategies for new towns: I always tied one end of an imaginary string to my house and the other to my wrist, I found one dog-walking route and stuck to it, and I smoked. Together they gave me enough confidence to venture out each evening after school and before tea.
The dog and I would leave the place where my parents were silently splitting up, walk past the smug new bungalows of The Broadway and fish out my fags from behind the bus stop. By the time we’d crossed the Big Road and pushed through the Field Gate all I could see was wheat and the sky. My chest was dry and open with the burn of smoke and the future.
I hadn’t thought much about Bracebridge Heath in 40 years. Drawing the map made me realise how I only really remembered this one journey, from my house to the barn at the top of the ridge, which we always called The Hovis, because it looked like a loaf. My whole experience of the place was more of a feeling than any geographical memory, and a pretty bleak feeling at that. The last sentence feels particularly pretentious, but I let it stand, partly because it feels of a piece with my 13-year-old self and partly to make the word count work.