An Ode to Home (a small hill in Bolton)
It’s been said a million times before but sometimes it is the only phrase that truly does this feeling justice: There genuinely is no place like home.
I would never live here when I’m older and if I’m honest it’s just a grey northern town in the shadows of Manchester’s greatness. I don’t always love it but it’s always home. When I’m on my way back from University, having not felt the pulse of its industrial soul in what feels like a lifetime, I search for Winter Hill from the motorway to welcome me back. And all I feel in that moment is calmness a still, soothing calmness. As it grows closer, my life and decisions all fall out into my lap like a little tour tattooed on my skin. Everything is so simple, so clear, so small yet so big. I’ve never decided if feeling small or big makes you feel more or less important, but maybe that’s not the point. The point is that it matters to you, it means something to you. You can go to Florence or Bangkok or Madrid, but it’s got nothing on home if you don’t feel anything. To me this acts as reassurance: you can take the girl out of Bolton, but you can’t take Bolton out of the girl – no matter how great anywhere else.
Standing on top of the hill, the land is my hips and the slopes are my shoulders. The mud and the grass and the dew, they’re a piece of me. In some silly way, standing above my little town feels ridiculously like I’m on top of the world, stood on the summit of my past, present and future – which are all traced back to here. It’s obvious that the hills of home are my favourite place because there’s nowhere else that can make me feel so lucky. It just reminds me that I am here and alive and still trudging along.
And this hill is not mine, but I have claimed it. Because from here, I can mark out my life like a scavenger hunt. Up here, I can see everything. I can see where my old house was from when I was a little bossy girl at primary school (I haven’t changed!)…and I can see my favourite road where I learned to drive and cried on the pavement…and I can see where my college was when I made the big leap to go further…and my first job… and the football stadium… and where I used to catch the bus to high school every day in my small red coat. It’s all there, every moment of joy, pain and shivering from the grim northern weather is wrapped up in the contours of this land. My whole life could fit into a picture frame from the top of my hill.
This hill has been my refuge. I owe it more than these measly words! I ran up here in the midst of exams and struggles and felt like it was the only place I could breathe. I’ve cried up here. I’ve laughed up here, having picnics with friends. I’ve laid down with my sister and watched the sunset here. I’ve gone up here stressed and just looked around and thought – Yasmin this is it, this is all life is. (In the best way possible!)
I’ve been to more beautiful places and I’ve been to cooler places but they don’t make me feel like this, not yet at least! And anyway, it doesn’t really need to be beautiful or cool to be home. So, here’s to mediocre towns and irrelevant cities that mean something to you, and that, therefore, mean everything. When it boils down to it, there really is no place like home.