Not-Quite Suburbia: Home County Blues

Originally published on Pages Of, January 2014.

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On Christmas Eve I set off for an afternoon walk with my wife. The apparently straightforward aim was to walk from my parents’ house in Chesham Bois, in which they have lived since before I was born, to the nearby village of Great Missenden and back. It’s a walk my father has done every Saturday for as long as I can remember, and one I must have done a hundred times. And yet… Within minutes of leaving the house I’d missed the turning for the right footpath. It was not a good omen.

Discussing a host of future plans as the crisp wintry sunlight glinted through the trees, I rather forgot that I was supposed to be leading the way. Soon we came to a road: the wrong road. We decided on a change of tack, walking along the pavement, across the common at Hyde Heath where I play cricket each summer Sunday, through the woods and across the extensive lands of Hawthorn Farm.

As we walk, dozens of recently reintroduced red kites wheel and swoop overhead. And then it occurs to me: whilst I have a vague sense of the direction home, I haven’t a clue how to actually get there. We hit a road and I have no idea where it will take us. Eventually we arrive in the town of Chesham – I recognise the allotments and the parish church. We end up, hours later, walking along a narrow road in the pitch black, cars glaring by only inches away from us.

Until moving to London eight years ago, I’d lived here my entire life. This is home. And I hardly know it at all.

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