A quick visit, kids in tow, to my home city of Leeds. I haven't lived there since Ted Heath was PM - yet I am still shocked by how much has changed. It's difficult to find reference points as you walk around the centre. The majestic Town Hall is still there, a monument to late nineteenth century municipalism. And Albion Street. And the market. And the arcades. But where's Barron's mill? All the department stores of my Saturday afternoon shopping-with-parents childhood - Schofields, Lewis's, Matthias Robinson, Marshall and Snelgrove - long gone. I can't find a single shop in the same place as it was. Some of the pubs have survived, but that's it.
I suggested to the kids that I take them to see my old school. I thought they would resist. Sternly. But they didn't. The Grammar School has moved - the site is now part of the University - and what we used to call the 'new building' has been demolished, but the chapel and the old main building survive in their gothic mock grandeur. And indeed they look quite impressive.
I drive round Hyde Park Corner and Woodhouse beyond. Bolshie Books went decades ago, the record shop where I used to spend school lunchtimes also a faint memory - but some of the streets of back-to-backs survive. I pop in to Ridge Mount where a friend used to live - I remember it as an overgrown slightly mystical row of imposing houses, hidden away and distinctly bohemian. The houses are still there, even more imposing, though a little bare stripped of the bushes and undergrowth.
At least it's a tangible link to an earlier existence. And with curiosity at least partly satisfied, and sentiment lightly aired, we head back down the M1 munching Easter eggs and playing new CDs.
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