Never go back
I went back to Twyford. The village I grew up in. The village I hadn’t set foot in for the best part of twenty years. The village where, more importantly, I’d set fire to things, blown stuff up, discovered porn stashes before running away, laughing and screaming from the village plod as yet another prank backfired.
Even taking off the rose-tints, I loved that place and still do, as the memories blur.
And so, I went back to take some photos that might end up in this book of mine, and to drop in on an old friend to find out if he wouldn’t mind appearing in certain tales of mirth and woe, or would he rather I disguised him a bit.
I never expected the place to be the same as I left it. After all, every commuter belt town and village around the M25 has been virtually concreted over in the last couple of decades, and I knew, with my roots long removed, that it was never going to live up to expectations.
Twyford’s heart is gone.
The residents will deny it, of course, but it simply vanished the day they built a monster supermarket at the crossroads and tarmacked everything else for its car park. With everything from TV dinners to ready cash to newspapers all from one place, the other shops in the village simply gave up and boarded up, leaving only struggling novelty stores and endless, endless estate agents. “Fabulous Bathrooms” clearly isn’t. The Berkshire Dolls-House Centre acts as a crutch for the chemist.
Even the High Street banks, defeated by the cash machine up sticks and left as did the pubs, leaving only JW Greenes, the lowest common denominator of fun-pub convenience. I hated it back then, and I still hate the flock wallpapered monstrosity. Even the King’s Ar_s – they went years without replacing the stolen “M”, and now it’s an ugly, ugly restaurant to go with all the other ugly restaurants that were once shops.
Only the Gaylord Tandoori survives, bless ‘em, this once-thriving village now nothing but another London suburb, an anonymous dormitory town for those who can afford to pay for the so-called village life that is just another small town by a motorway.
Away from the centre, the looming great hill I biked and skateboarded down to my doom was nothing but a slight incline, the gardens smaller and the roads narrower. Or perhaps I’m just two decades bigger. Where we played in the street, parked cars block any route to childish fun. It’s no good, it’s gone now.
And Matty was out. In fact he was a long, long way out. Sydney, New South Wales.
It was the most depressing experience of my life.
I may have to go back and set fire to a hedge, just for old time’s sake.