Doing some family history research has put me in contact with second or third cousins I never knew I had, people who talk with a strong Yorkshire accent, who tell me I've no accent at all to give away the fact I was born where they were. I've always considered myself a Yorkshirewoman through and through, but it's strange how I've been taken out of the county of my birth - at a very young age, too young to have a say in the matter anyway - and then spent most of my adult life moving about the place, so that now when I go back 'home' as I've always referred to Yorkshire, it no longer feels like 'home' in that sense.
I was born in Bradford, where the air was so mucky the ducks had to fly backwards, so old wags used to say. And it's true, that even now memories of Bradford gleaned from visits to family in my teens, evoke dark buildings, streets of tall, terraced houses begrimed with soot from the many mill chimneys. A rather cheerless place it seemed to me in those days, a complete contrast to the fishing town over the Pennines, where I then lived. There the air seemed fresh and salty, everywhere looked clean, as if scrubbed by the sand that blew off the Irish Sea. Bradford meant mills and factories, worn down people who worked in them, reminiscent of the paintings of L.S. Lowry.
But of course it wasn't all like that - if any of it at all perhaps? Inside my uncle's house all was light and laughter... his evening job was as a stand up comedian in the music hall so life was never dull with him around. His son, my cousin, was my hero.. he was allowed to eat baked beans, cold, out of the tin. Well so he told me anyway; it all added to the cause of hero worship to a ten year old girl, gawky with red plaits, a bit like Anne, of Green Gables fame.
We used to go up on the moors for picnics, which invariably included seed cake, something I couldn't stand then, or now. Luckily, the sheep that roamed the moors had no such pernicketiness about them and would greedily eat it when I threw it behind me. Possibly anything was a change from the weedy grass and heather they had to live on. The highlight would be later in the evening, going back home, going to the famous Harry Ramsdens for fish and chips. Nothing tasted better, nothing tastes like them now either. Or maybe they do, maybe the memory is wearing its rose tinted specs here?
Because going back, it's all different. Art galleries where there used to be millworkers toiling day after day, culture everywhere it seems, in Bradford. The UNESCO World Heritage Sight at Saltaire, a preserved, perfect example of a Victorian village built by Sir Titus Salt for the housing, education and leisure of his workers, just one of many fine examples of such villages around the country. The moors are still wild and beautiful, with a rugged splendour all their own. But somehow it doesn't feel much like 'home' any more. I still feel strongly enough to say I come from Yorkshire when asked, still feel proud to do so, but live there again? No, I couldn't.
Home now is Norfolk... wide open skies, no mill chimneys or grimy buildings in my part of the county. The sea, wild and wonderful beaches, bird reserves, tiny coastal villages and historic market towns. Yorkshire may be the county of my birth, but Norfolk is 'home' and home is where the heart is.