As I wrote this piece, we were about to head off on a road trip to catch up with all the relatives who, since we moved up north four and a half years ago, we don’t see often enough. For me this involved ‘going home’ to visit my nearest and dearest – although I’ve not lived in Suffolk for some 30 years. The concept of home is a funny old thing. Youngsters ‘fly the nest’ but are still expected to return on high days and holidays – with bonus visits when their smalls need washing. Elderly folk are often ‘put in a home’ – as if by giving the name we can conjure up the concrete reality of something that is in a sense a concept. But home is more than a name or a concept. And, for many of us we have several places that call out to us and, when we visit, feel like a sort of homecoming. Home is bricks and mortar, people, a particular place, or a particular way of doing things. And perhaps ‘doing’ is, rather surprisingly, the keyword. Home tends to be where we do life – or have done life at any given time – with all that entails.
We feel lucky to call Berwick home. But, in some ways, our fourth year here was the toughest. I guess there’s a transition that takes place when you uproot to somewhere new. And part of that is accepting normality over novelty. Which includes the realisation that it is us who must visit elderly (and not so elderly) relatives and friends rather than awaiting the influx of delighted and delightful visitors who, after that first year, tend to get on with their lives where they are (of course!). Which is exactly what we are doing here – and that is not always easy.
So. 2014. The Husband – despite my better judgement – became a town councillor. He had a desire to work with the many groups doing exciting things around Berwick. However, in amongst crusades for transparency (of course everyone wants it) and endless (and what seems to me pointless) mudslinging this has been nigh-on impossible. There is something deeply depressing about on-going disputes. You just have to cast your eye around the world to catch sight of what happens when people become ever more entrenched in their positions and views – often the original dispute or idea is lost in the mists of time. The most important thing becomes that their ‘right’ (whatever it happens to be at the time) is acknowledged and adopted as the correct right, whatever that takes and whatever the collateral damage. “Ah!” you may say, “that’s politics. Your husband was naïve”. Fair point. But Berwick Guildhall is not the House of Commons – it is a local council peopled by local volunteers who thought they might be able to contribute something locally. So, yes, it has been grim to experience the blast of politics at its worst and extremely sad to see the personal impact it’s had on many councillors. I can only imagine how it must feel to be a member of staff. I urge those who have an axe to grind, or feel that they have been let down by the town council, to stand for the council and make a difference when the opportunity arises.
There were, of course, many jolly and uplifting happenings in 2014. One was my first and last foray into musical theatre. I thought: how hard can it be to sing a solo on stage? Turns out, very. The great thing is that, in a town like Berwick, there are loads of people who are happy to help you out. I am extremely grateful to them and look forward to Berwick Operatic’s 2015 show in March: Wizard of Oz. After all, and despite it all, there really is no place like home. Happy New Year.
(A version of this article was first published in The Berwick Advertiser)