Buxton in Derbyshire- ever heard of it? It’s a spa town one thousand feet above sea level, built among the rolling, pitching hills and moorland of the Peak District.
Being so high, it has its own micro climate. There’s many a time I’ve caught the train from Stockport on the way to visit my mum, and as the engine pauses at each little station- Davenport, Woodsmoor, Hazel Grove– the grass beyond the window becomes low and scrubby –Middlewood, Disley, New Mills– the incline of the track grows steeper- Furness Vale, Whaley Bridge– and there might even be a smattering of snow on the limestone peaks. By Chapel-en-le-Frith the temperature in the carriage begins to dip and once the Dove Holes scrap yard has flown past the window, you know you only have five minutes to grab your bag from the rack and wrap up warm.
Brace yourself is my advice. It’s usually windy, always a few degrees colder than even Dove Holes (pronounced Duvuls by some locals) and most streets rise up or round a hill, meaning that in the winter you struggle up or slide down to the shops. Every road out of town snakes through open moorland, so most years it’s cut off from the outside world as the snow descends, and when it does, it feels as though the town itself hunkers down to wait for the thaw.
When I was twelve, we moved into a house similar to the ones in the picture above. See the funny dormer window, jutting out of the roof? That would’ve been my bedroom, the one I shared with my fifteen year old brother. Even the sandstone’s similar, except ours was sooty and blackened from a century of coal burning.
I remember ice on the inside of that little window: hunched by a one bar electric heater, colouring in my Doodle Art posters: listening to Wild is the Wind by Bowie, the scratch as the arm lifted from the record, the click as it settled into the opening grove- that song always on repeat.
I tried to paint a mural on that sloping roof-wall. It was intended to be a castle-topped crag, fire-breathing dragons swooping majestically around the turrets. But the paper was wood-chip so impossible to paint on and anyway my artistic skills let me down. Dissatisfied by my ow inadequacy, I went off the whole idea. I still remember being offended when my mum painted over my grey and black splodges.
I don’t have many shining memories of that house. We’d left behind a semi on the outskirts of town, a vegetable garden and the wilderness of the hills, for a terrace near the town centre, where there was nothing but a mossy-flagged back yard and the serenade of drunks singing and laughing their way home from the pub.
I passed through the years of mental illness people call their teens in that house. I skipped school from there, scraped a few ‘O’ Levels and dropped out of ‘A’ Levels, all whilst sleeping under that roof, staring through that dormer window.
And now I live in another terrace house. It’s in the South-West of England, where the weather is many degrees warmer and the spring flowers come up a good four weeks before they do in Buxton. I still live on a hill, but because the winters are kinder, the Gulf Stream closer, we don’t hunker under the same snow-laden skies.
And anyway, I look on that old house more kindly now. I’ve walked past it several times since we all moved out and it’s bright and cheery, a pleasant family home.
It seems the blackness left the place when I did. Funny that.
Writing 101- Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old?Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?
PS Can’t believe I forgot Wild is the Wind when I talked about my favourite songs the other week…