A pin in the map
Holding hands we closed our eyes and stabbed the pin in the map: Hebden Bridge. “Where? I’ve never heard of it”.
Three days later we snaked our way through the valley to view houses. It was dark, wet and miserable and the dog shit on the pavements made me angry. Later, sat in “Hebden’s” pizza house, the red wine mellowed my mood.
By the weekend we’d made an offer; as it turns out, probably way too generous. Soon after, we had landed in Hebden, high up on a hill, overlooking the town. A new life was unfurling.
Thursdays: girls’ nights at the Shoulder of Mutton. Not the Shoulder of today, but raucous and smoky, full of the Hebden hippies the press always talk about, passing their joints around. Friday mornings: fuelling up on coffee, pulling myself together, grabbing my suit and jumping into the company car to start the long drive out of Hebden to a job now far behind me. Sundays: lunch at the Nutclough, followed by a game of pool.
Dancing at the Trades Club and afterwards, somewhere. Traipsing home, shoes in hand down Market Street, saying “good morning” to the church goers. Lying in bed listening to music on the air, night after night. The chatter and excitement of summer solstice and the cheer at dawn. Something magical was happening and I was starting to love this living, breathing town.
Then came the babies. I played, not so well, at Hebden mum. Coffees round at our place after the school runs, debating “motherhood”. Afternoons spent in the park while the children climbed trees and ran wild and free. Home baking, economising, adjusting.
Walks in the woods for every season, late nights around the kitchen table, festivals on the park. Naked swimming in reservoirs, parties up on the tops, digging the allotment over. Slowly Hebden reels me in.
And then the lid slamming shut on the valley: stifling, claustrophobic, unpleasant. Harmony shattered, the town turns in on itself with gossip and rumour.
Discordant town, unbalanced. The spell broken only by the most spectacular thunder storm and floods to wash us all clean and persuade us to stay.
Hometown: Sticky Valley.
But some friends managed to leave. Fell out of love with the place. Broke free, taking their kids somewhere fresh and new. Set off on big adventures whilst some of the best took a route straight through to Elland Crematorium.
More parties. Followed by bracing hill walks in snowstorms with babes in arms, a line of gossiping teenagers, lively 10 year olds, cheeky toddlers and dogs in tow. Warm fires, good food, and great company. Family.
And the others too. The people who dip in and out. Those who were born here. The ones who, like us, have been here a while, but who we’ve never got to know. They all smile on the street, share good wishes and hugs at New Year, and keep an eye out for our children.