Saturday 14th January 2012

UP TO the age of eleven, my home address was 57, Track Road, Batley. It took the testimony of both parents to convince me Mr Heinz was not, after all, dispatching tins and bottles from his factory specifically labelled for our family.

I’ve been back recently, but only on Google Earth.

Childhood memories comprise specific images and impressionistic blurs: the red tricycle and coal bunker hatch, that hockey-balled hole in the larder window; a defiance at bed-time, the irritation of sisters, dim evening light in the hallway. The pictures don’t keep still for long enough.

It was a grand, semi-detached dwelling, with four bedrooms. Being the only boy, I had my own: a play place and dream space. Even in sickness, comfort nestled therein. The several weeks spent convalescing – after contracting pneumonia and measles simultaneously – I remember more as a time of tedium than torment.

I will still wince, mind you, at the thought of those injections in my backside. Doctor Walker had never known anyone count so quickly up to ten.

The back garden was cricket-pitch long, forgiving and friendly, with sand-pit, swing, rockery and climbable tree. Kindly grass grew back each spring, in readiness for the days of straw-sucked ginger beer and lazy apples.

There’s a whole extra house there now, where we once blew dandelion clocks and threaded chains of daisies.

Pesky is that little yellow Google fellow. He wants to show off the new buildings opposite, to point out the modern road markings and highlight home improvements. The stone lions are gone, along with the shrubbery. Harsh can be the snapshots of a later age.

The walk too, up to Staincliffe primary school: higher walls, traffic everywhere, much more concrete. I doubt that children can saunter jauntily along the Halifax Road nowadays. And there’ll be no four-a-penny chews in the corner shop.

I won’t be making any other nostalgic trips down Track Road. Yesterdays belong in the past. I’m more excited by what might happen tomorrow.







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