A photo for July 2014

I was a boy, my bedroom faced west. I loved watching the sun set. The backdrop wasn’t the prettiest, gasometers, tower blocks, and the like.

I take a lot of sunset photos. I’d never really wondered (until now) if that was some sort of throwback to a childhood fascination. But it has to be reasonable to assume that a great many of us, even if we are unaware or in denial, are stuck in patterns of behaviour that became established when we were young.

Sunset, 15 July 2013
Sunset, 15 July 2013

No place like home

The view from my childhood bedroom window is still there. A tower block, an open green space, gasometers in the middle distance.
The bedroom window itself, much like my childhood, is no longer there; the street I grew up on was demolished in the 1980s. The rows of low-rise blocks of flats, packed in densely so they resembled something like the layout of a series of prison blocks, has been replaced by a smaller number of smaller dwellings. They look like houses, but in reality they are two-up-one-down maisonettes.
Me and my dad, when I was just a few months old

 

I haven’t set foot on that street for almost 30 years, although I drove along it once about 15 years ago. But thanks to the wonders of Google Streetview, last night I went for a stroll through my old neighbourhood. It’s a lot greener now than it used to be, and there are many more cars, despite there being fewer people.
I stared at the space where my bedroom window once was – easy enough to find as there was a lamppost outside it. That’s the kind of thing that tends to remain in situ, so finding the last lamppost was all it took.
After that, I crossed the road to the tower block where my cousins lived, then walked down the street to the library, built in the early 1900s. I visited my schools, and walked past the renamed pub, outside which there was almost always a trail of blood after closing time. The row of shops at the end of the street is still there. There’s a chicken/pizza/kebab place where the haberdashery used to be, but William Hill is still there. 
I know I’m far from unique in this regard, but it felt odd looking at the places I knew as a boy, knowing that the one place I knew as ‘home’ no longer existed.
I left the city I grew up in, Birmingham, when the first opportunity presented itself and I’ve rarely gone back in the years that followed my mother’s death.  This week I am set to return, for the inquest into my father’s death, which will be heard at Birmingham Coroner’s Court.
It’s something that has led to a little more reflection than usual, of late.  On the role of fathers, on childhood memories, on family and on what it means to have roots.