Do you? Ever miss your old life?
It is half term break and my children, as is usual, have spent the first half of it with their fathers. They left Sunday night and so Monday morning - feeling ever so slightly drunk with freedom - I took off down a hot dusty motorway in my little car, turned the radio up loud, and drove for what seemed like forever to see some old friends in another part of the country.
After a couple of hours I turned off the motorway and drove through a major city, coming out the other side into a gradually more genteel and rural setting. I ploughed on through small towns and villages untill I finally came to the small right hand turn off the main road that leads onto some tree lined country lanes, which themselves eventually dwindle after a few twists and turns into little more than a dusty track full of pot holes, the thick mud that for most of the year splatters the bottom of your car, baked pale dry and hard by the early summer sun.
I parked in a shady spot under some trees and got out of my car, opening my boot and heaving my rucksack onto my back. The first familiar sound to greet me was the barking of dogs who came seemingly from all directions to investigate this strange person on their patch. The second was the sound of humans somewhere shouting at the dogs, "Dogs! Be quiet!" I smiled inwardly - for this was a scene that I had heard play out a thousand times in a thousand different places. I looked around at the vehicles and caravans - everything seemed to be in much the same spot as last time - so no-one new had moved on then. Walking up towards my old friends home, a huge converted horse box painted a dark red, I could see that she was sitting outside at a table in the sun making some shutters for the windows of her trailer. She looked up and grinned. It was so lovely to see her, happy and nesting, finally healthily pregnant with her second child after suffering the heartbreak that is recurrent miscarriage for so long.
I spent a lovely couple of days not doing very much really. We had a barbecue and I saw some other friends who were parked up on the same site - one has midwifery exams coming up and so is hard at work on various placements, another is studying for an imminent book-keeping exam. My pregnant friend is actually an author and cartoonist who is - understandably enough - finding it hard to concentrate on anything except her longed for baby. Everyone seemed to be busy with various projects and looking forward to the summer.
I am home now and it is of course wonderful to have my kids back again, but in the same way as always happens when I get back from visiting old friends on traveller sites, I feel a bit of a pang for my old way of life. I miss the sense of community, I miss the camaraderie, I miss the freedom. I miss having close male friends that I don't just socialise with because they are somebodies husband or partner. I miss the festivals in the summer, and the hunkering down next to the wood-burner in the winter. Not that I would go back now - it wouldn't be fair on the children - they are settled in our house and settled at school and we are all now used to hot running water and central heating. Besides there are many many things I don't miss about living on site. It could be hard sometimes, especially in the colder, wetter months. Conflict was always a nightmare to deal with because everyone was living in each others pockets, and then there's the cold hard fact of having to live under the almost constant threat or possibility of eviction. I know that it's easy for me to get all romantic about it when I'm only visiting for two days at the beginning of summer. I know that really I've changed a lot and I've moved on... but... I don't know, just but.
Do you ever miss anything about your old life?