I grew up in a village in Yorkshire, back in England. English readers may have an idea about the sort of place it might be. A little bit rural, it’s nearest towns old industrial towns, with many deserted mills, remnants of the fallen industries like cloth and textile production. In fact the village I grew up in had many of these, and had a canal passing through it, the original way to move goods from one place to another before the roads took over. Many of these factories have now been converted to modern flats (apartments), so at least all the old buildings are not totally lost. These buildings were still empty when I lived there.
Growing up there, visiting a place like Hollywood seemed a million miles away. Even travelling to London in those days seemed far. There was much of a small town mentality there. As it turned out, once I hit 16 and finished my GCSEs, my parents and I moved south (of London), so going to London became less of a big deal, although still fun. I continued with my education, moved again for university, before settling back in the south east of England. Over the years it was easier to view that village mentality from the outside. Everything seems so far away. I had seen more of the world, met many people from around the world, and seen many different perspectives. These days, air travel is much more common, and the internet has brought things closer together so imagine it would be different growing up there now. Although I had a nice childhood growing up there, I’m thankful that I moved away when I did.
Preceded by a few lean years, in the past six years, I met my wife, proposed and got married, moved country, and had a son. I’m not sure how it all came about, and worked out this way, well I do know, so you’ll have to take my meaning, but either way, I’m certainly not complaining. I now live in Southern California, a long long way from where I grew up. Myself I’m not interested in celebrities and celebrity (I hesitate to call it) culture, I just respect or look up to an artists work. It’s kind of cool being able to drive into Hollywood, but not that special to me. To many where I grew up, living in California, close to this, not too far from beaches or mountains, the warm climate, is “living the dream”. It is nice, I like it a lot here, I like the people, don’t get me wrong, but balanced off against the dream is the reality. The somewhat barbaric medical system, education cuts, and a seemingly inability to tax the rich folks a bit more, when they certainly can afford to contribute a bit more. The UK sure isn’t perfect, but if nothing else, it has a medical system where you do not have to consider the cost and then debt. There is no cost. With any place there are upsides and downsides, thankfully more of the former.
A few months back when driving into Hollywood to visit Amoeba records, with my son sat in the back seat of the car, this all struck me. I was driving into Hollywood on a saturday morning. The young me would have thought this one of the best things ever (the young me knew nothing of LA traffic, but that is another story). I wondered how a lad from Yorkshire finds himself in this position. My son, assuming we continue to live in Orange County as he grows up, will have a completely different upbringing to me. Totally different environment. He will know next to nothing of Yorkshire, how those old communities worked. How people dressed (especially the older generations). What the history of the place was. Even something small like blackberry picking along the banks of the canal. He will live in an area where Disneyland is not a once in a couple of years trip, it is a short drive away. Where we can get to the beach easy, or drive out into the desert easy, and get stuck in traffic often. He will have all the technological advances we have now and more. Will this transform schools? Even if it doesn’t, the American schooling system is different to the English one, even down to how the students form cliques. He will (hopefully) learn much from me but in many ways, his upbringing will be thousands of miles from mine.
How did I get to a place that I never imagined I would growing up, yet it not be a big deal, and it be normal. I imagine the “not a big deal” is because it has become normal. When I first visited America, I had a week around Orange County / LA for various trips (beaches, Disneyland, Universal studios, a wedding), met my wife, travelled to Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Francisco a drove the pacific coast highway through Big Sur back down to Orange County. It was an amazing trip and in many ways led to where I am now. I visited several more times before ending up living here. And now I have had a child here. It isn’t a road I could have planned, but it is the road I travelled.
When I think about how much my life has travelled, moved and changed since that move at 16 years old, I realise that I have been on a journey, or many journeys, depending on how you want to break it up. This is that substance that writers and storytellers are after. I realise that however unlikely it might have seemed when I was younger, that I would end up here, at this point in my life (hopefully with still a lot of life to live), that it is what happened. I can join the dots and see how I got here. This is what to bring to characters, stories, or both. The journey might seem unbelievable, but if you provide the the dots and “true” ways to join them, then the journey will feel a real one. Now I come to think of it, that is how you would devise a plot in a crime drama or mystery. But if you get stuck, look back at your own life, look at how far you travelled, and transfer a little of that mystery, or at least the spirit of it, to this thing that you are creating.
Lexicon word of the day: pabulum.