In 1996 I did something I had never thought I would do at any point before. I moved to live south of the river. I grew up in Essex and went I went to university I lived in Knightsbridge, Fulham, Earl’s Court and Ealing. None of those places were south of the river Thames and I rarely went there. I always considered the south to be full of poorly maintained roads and areas less nice than I was used to. When I eventually got a teaching job I was happy but also somewhat full of trepidation as I had a job in Kent and I was not going to travel across the Dartford Crossing every day. So, I moved to live in Gillingham. A Medway town. A working class town full of history and pride. I’m trying to think of a nice building in Gillingham and to be honest I’m struggling. The whole area of Medway had really struggled since the closing of the dockyard in the 80s.
I lived in Gillingham for three years before a short dalliance back in Essex when I taught at a school in Brentwood which has since closed. Then I came back to Kent. I’ve been here since living in Rainham, Maidstone and now the village of Eccles. I quite like it down here. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that “home area” feeling you get when you are a kid and I also know that I don’t have that feeling when I return to the village in Essex where I grew up. I wonder if that ever returns. I think I still feel a little like an imposter. But then I’m not sure what feelings I am seeking.
How long do you have to be somewhere before you feel “at home”. I do love my little house and I really enjoy the scenery around my house but I don’t often feel “at home”. Maybe adult life is always about feeling transitory. I’ve been involved with the community so I don’t think it’s that. In the past I’ve been a trustee of a local charity and I’m currently involved with the cadets. Maybe we all feel a little lost sometimes?
The photograph I above is from Queenborough on the Isle Of Sheppey. There’s a small lump in the middle distance and that is Grain Tower Battery – a war defence platform. Then, behind that you can see the skyline of Southend. A famous coastal town in Essex. I’ve been there and I can sometimes see Southend when I go for a run. I look at it almost wistfully but also in the knowledge that I’ve only been there a few times as a person older than ten years old and have no anchorage there.