Monday, April 15, 2013

A still point in time

"Why Lake Scilencio? Why Utah?"
"It's a still point in time, it makes it easier to make a fixed point..."
       - "Doctor Who" Series 6 "The Wedding of River Song"

"Why Swadlincote?", my new acquaintance asked with confused curiosity.  We were sat in a chain restaurant and I had my first 'Mummy Night Out' and my maiden voyage into trying to break into the 'Stay At Home Mommy-Dom'.  Why would someone who has lived in big cities across the world want to live here?

Reasons and aims aside, I have to admit I was wondering the same thing. I tried to be diplomatic and described my new neighbourhood as "provincial", and as I wondered around my recently adopted hometown, I was constantly reminded of the fact. After everywhere I have lived, I am more shocked about my reaction of the UK than I realised. Americans would call the UK 'quaint', and seeing the country in the eyes of a ex-pat, I can see how they feel that.

Swadlincote is the largest town in South-Derbyshire. It's the civic hub of this little enclave in the Midlands. It's about ten miles from Derby, which is the main centre of life - shopping malls, bars and some would say civilisation. As such it is too close to qualify for anything main-stream and as such we are left with a sizeable town which sees the new cinema and associated shopping area as modern. We don't have a Starbucks -okay, we have a Costa's, but just one- or any clothes shops of any note. The town is a mixture of charity-thrift stores, banks, dollar stores and betting offices.  It's a town where the Main Street is battling to stay alive with multiple store fronts boarded up with 'To Let' signs.

However, there is a feeling that this little town has had a hard history that has shaped the people and community. Swadlincote, is a town that developed in the midst of the industrial revolution. (Every time you go to relive your body of its waste, you are sitting on a piece of Swadlincote -- the home of the flushing toilet). Everywhere you go the are signs for old colliery sites. There are brick, pottery and steel works - all renovated and reused. The Victorian factory buildings are built into new offices and shops; a sense that the modern is still battling with the past. As you are walking down the narrow streets with the heavy lorries thundering past and the litter on the pavement, you do get a sense that the noise and dirt is not much different from what you would have experienced 150 years ago. I get the feeling I am stuck in an Elizabeth Gaskell Novel, but instead of a shawl, I am wearing a hoodie and a parka jacket to protect me from the bitter wind.

The hard life that has brought up this community is reflected in the inhabitants. They are social able, caring and have a strong sense of pride. When you walk down the street past the boarded shops, on certain days you have to battle through the market stalls. There are cheery calls from the market traders and people stop to talk to each other and catch up with their lives. This isn't a town that has been trampled: No matter what, there is a heart beating at the centre of it.  It's not a fancy place to live, but no-one is trying to give that impression. It is however a Honest place. Okay, not morally -as I found out when my credit card details were stolen- but there is no pretence that people aren't who they claim to be.

Everyone is called 'Duck' and its enunciated in this special brawl which is called 'Swad' and it isn't found anywhere else. My bizarre accent of previous lives mark me out as strange, but after curious glances, it is forgotten as they smile and make jokes. You get the impression that everyone has lived here all their lives and that change is slow to take root, but that that's okay, because in the world of turmoil you need a still point to reflect.

That's what made me think of Doctor Who --let's add the fact that its my sons new Raison D'Etre at the moment. I feel like a traveller who has experienced many things, but I have landed in a place in the past. I am seeing a unique society developing and growing into something more -- albeit at a slow, meandering pace. I am experiencing a different kind of community, and as such I should ensure I fully appreciate that -- no matter how grey it appears on the outside. Appearances -as I should know- can be deceptive.That after all of the change I have had in the last eight years, this is perhaps the right time to make a fixed point in my timeline. To do that I need a still point and I think I have stumbled on the right place to do that.

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