In suburbia

St Richards Church of England Ham

St Richards Church of England Ham

Suburbia, for me a quasi-magical set of places. There are obviously many suburbias, I grew up in one of them, and I’ve lived in a few others, and I know there are many more out there somewhere. But I would never want to visit them on purpose. They are places you have to be, only if you have to be there – you would never just visit them on their own account, perhaps? Very often they are not even places you pass through, they’re spurs off the main roads, usually not shortcuts to anywhere else, they occupy tracts of land between the major areas, the areas with a meaning, filling in gaps. They are ringed by mini-roundabouts, protected by sleeping policemen, cul-de-sacs.

The cul-de-sac! Unless you lived in one they were off-limits. You wouldn’t enter a cul-de-sac without a definite intent, and destination (or were lost?). There was one just around the corner from the house where I grew up, I walked past it every day I went to primary and then junior school, but I have never been into it. I didn’t fantasize about it, but it remains to this day a blank place.

And what of wanderings about suburbia, the endless roads, the sameness punctuated by sudden change, the places where I was lost for a while, but then unexpectedly—and with so much relief—found the connecting path through to a known area. How terribly nostalgic it all is. It feels so dangerous, this reverie, so thoughtless. What does it mean to dwell on and in these places?

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