I used to drive around a lot, just for fun. There wasn’t much else to do where I grew up; everywhere was somewhere else. As I got older I kept on driving for fun, or if not fun then more often to be somewhere I wasn’t.
I bought a house in the Cotswolds one winter, a place I’d driven through when I was eighteen and not that far from where I was born, but we left there when I was two. The real town I bought the old posting barn, four hundred years old, where footsteps often carried on from the old pub next door straight through where the wall was, six feet thick, and walked through the barn, and still the house I was happy walking around at three in the morning, can’t sleep, leaving the lights off to see the sleeping town was in Not Your Heart Away, the place where Ben and Claire, Peter and Liz stopped after the car crash they’d just escaped having.
But none of that ever happened. Things like it did, but that didn’t, because they were imaginary people. Almost. Just like that place.
That place we saw once
Driving that bright January day;
I can’t remember the name of the town
Just bigger than a village
I don’t often drive that way now.
But somewhere on a hill,
Stark trees against the sharp blue sky
Up on the ridge, a red phone box
Against the snowy hedge,
The morning almost silent
Now the car’s calmed down.
Our eyes nearly back to normal
Once the motorway’s long behind us.
Cold with the window open.
Definitely not a day you want
To come out without a coat.
That feeling in your throat this time of year
Making you wonder if it’s the weather
Or whether you’re getting a cold
And how long it’s been since you were here before.
The shop’s become someone’s house now
And other new houses built on fields
To let you know you’re getting older,
But still alive. Still alive
As a cat walks across the frosty road
This crisp morning and you’d swear
You caught the Boxing Day fox-hunting
Smell of cigars as you turned the corner
That wasn’t quite where you remembered it was.
Wrong turn; And you drive the length
Of this Cotswold street.
A man on his phone, smiling, carrying the newspaper
Back towards his home or someone else’s.
Safe and warm for now.
If you’d lived here it would have been different.
All of it. And you know that’s true.
How different it would all have been
If I’d never known you.