Lovely Michelle at The American Resident has just started a new linky called Where You Live, and this week’s prompt was ‘If I visited you for a day, where would you take me? One place. And why.’
How could I not take part in that?
In most of the places I’ve lived before, I would have been spoiled for choice with this question.
In Harris I would have wondered whether we should go to the beach, roll our trousers up and shriek as we splashed in the clear, cold waters of the North Atlantic. Or whether we should get fish and chips in the village, which we’d eat sitting on the wall that overlooks the pier – the best spot to watch the ferry come in.
Eventually I would have settled on showing you the big boulder on the hill behind my Dad’s house, right beside the lower loch. With a large flat top like a table, and ledges that stick out like shelves below, that rock was my imaginary childhood teashop. I would put my pretend cakes in to bake in the pretend oven, before serving them up with pretend cups of tea and coffee. There was an indentation in another nearby rock, which would fill with water on rainy days, and that is where I would do my dishes. It made my heart sing when we went to Harris last year and DorkySon ran up the back hill, headed right for the same spot.
A touchstone, both literally and metaphorically.
In Edinburgh I would have been torn too. Should I show you the view from the top of Blackford Hill – the castle, Arthur’s Seat, the Firth of Forth, The Pentlands, and all those lovely neighbourhoods on the south side of the city stretching out below? Should I show you one of the quieter corners of the wonderful National Museum on Chambers Street, where you can curl up for hours and lose yourself in a book, before wandering off to learn about Scotland’s history and enjoying a wee scone in the cafe?
Eventually, we would have headed for the Meadows, the living, breathing heart of the city. It’s where cherry blossom rains down on your head in a spring breeze; where students lie in the sun to revise in June, then celebrate with barbecues and beers in July. It’s where you can stand in Autumn and watch a haar roll in off the sea and where, in winter, ruddy-cheeked children build whole armies of snowmen. It is where we gathered in our thousands for the Make Poverty History march; where fire jugglers practice for Beltane; where I would walk, and walk for hours, pushing DorkySon in his pram until he slept.
When my heart aches for Edinburgh, it is warm, sunny days on the Meadows that I miss the most.
Harpenden didn’t pose such a difficult choice.
It is a small and quiet town. The shops selling expensive women’s clothes and the perfectly pruned hanging baskets of the high street hold little appeal for me.
But it has two parks, where we spend as much of our time as possible.
Rothamsted is where the action is; the skate park, the zip slide, the playground and the pool. It is where anti-GM protestors gather to wave their placards and shout, hoping that the researchers at the nearby Rothamsted Research will hear them. It is always full of dog walkers, and kids playing football, and runners in lycra. There are plans to build a cafe and toilets for the yummy mummies and the tinkling toddlers.
It is fine. But it is not what I would show you.
Our park is Lydekker. Less than five minutes from home, it is the closest thing we have to a garden right now. There is no playpark, no amenities. It’s just grass and trees, a few benches and a little pond with a bridge across it. When we had family photographs taken last year, it is where we chose to do them.
We walk through Lydekker Park every day – DorkyDad on his way to and from work, DorkySon and I on our way to nursery or to the store – and it is where we see the first signs of each changing season. It has prompted discussions with DorkySon about weather, climate, the sun and the moon, months of the year, nature and life, and all of those eternal cycles. We have seen ducks and dragonflies, squirrels and sparrows. We have marvelled at the tiny tadpoles in the pond, and always stopped to listen when we’ve heard the woodpecker in a tree.
It is also where we have watched DorkySon grow. When we first moved here he couldn’t walk as far as the park without a pram. Eighteen months on it is where he has learned how to scoot, and cycle and run. It is where he kicks a ball and hides in the bushes, where he brandishes a stick and imagines he is a knight. It is where we have picnic dinners on warm days; loading our bag with Tupperware containers of strawberries, sandwiches and cherry tomatoes, before heading out to catch the last hour of sun.
So if I had to show you just one place where I live now, Lydekker Park would be it.
We would spread out our tartan blanket on the daisy-covered grass. I’d run across the road to the BP garage to pick up a couple of gin-in-a-tins, maybe a big bag of crisps or some crackers and cheese. DorkySon would squeal about the bees, and we would reassure him. Some passing dog would probably come over for a sniff and a snuffle and a friendly hello.
It is my favourite part of this odd little town. I would love to show you sometime.
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