Its never really wise to go back to your 'hometown' if you've lost almost 100 per cent of connection with the place is it? However there is always that curious-horrific temptation that you get - like eyeing a serious crash scene in case you can see bits of dead people or trying to keep a straight face when talking to someone with a severe handicap because youre somehow conditioned to laugh on reflex even though it would be really wrong. That's what visiting your hometown is like.
I did such a thing at the weekend - Wells in Somerset, now happily on the map thanks to that tit from the BT adverts, Dominic Masters and Hot Fuzz. Everywhere I went I felt a pain behind my eyes and I looked at familiar/unfamiliar shops and buildings and places which were scenes of supra-important/indulgent teenage gatherings, events of such seismic importance at the time now sentenced to irrelevance that felt, on reflection like feverish dreams and not part of life that I'd taken part in and had moved on. I only saw 3 people I recognised among the morass of tourists, pasty shops and signed pictures of Simon Pegg - two were serial drinkers in the marketplace who now had faces like slow melting pallid easter eggs and some innocuous newsagent who looked younger but somehow shivelled, like he'd actually never left the inside of his shop since I was last in there.
I wanted to tell someone that I used to drink here or buy records there or daydream listening to music everywhere, but it seemed somehow vulgar and I thought of myself as a self obsessed teenager being accosted by someone wishing to say the same things to me and how I would have just brushed them aside the same way you do when you walk under a tree whose branches have grown too low.
Once you leave these places you become the past, you own and nobody else's past - a ghost, a mere cipher and not even a curio akin to finding an old newspaper masquarading as underlay under a carpet. At least you can then wonder at the date before scrunching it up and consigning it to history.
With apologies and thanks to the fictional character of George Bowling.