I had a book stall at an Easter Fair today. Nothing overly spectacular about that, sold some books, met some lovely people, ate some very lovely cake.
But it was on the way home afterwards, that it occurred to me that for the first time in a long time (10 months to be precise), it actually felt like I was going home. Not back to the “new house” or “the comedy house” as it has become known, but home.
It’s been a bit of an up and down 10 months. Without giving too much away, I can say that Wisbech is our nearest town. Quite near, about 5 miles near in truth. We moved here shortly after the 2013 elections, at the same time Wisbech was on the local news almost all of the time for being a hotbed of racist sentiment, over run by Eastern European criminal job stealing gangs, the murder capital of the fens and a “really dangerous place to live” according to Inside Out. To say I was horrified at the thought of bringing my family to live anywhere near here, would be somewhat of an understatement. We were coming from a beautiful Suffolk village, when we told people where we were moving to, it was normally followed by “You’re moving where?” and then “you are joking right?”
So we moved and I hated it. I hated the house, I hated the street and I hated the whole area. The problems we had getting the Baby Boudica’s in local schools only compounded the problem. The situation worsened when I tried to take the Baby Boudica’s into Wisbech to get their feet measured and to buy them some new shoes. Yes, well that went well. Not at all well. The next day I drove back to Suffolk (civilisation) and did some “proper” shopping making a mental note to never set foot in Wisbech again.
It later turned out that Downham Market is the place to go for that. Downham Market did however meet with approval on that front.
Now we’ve been here nearly a year, my feelings are slightly different: The fens may be flat but they have a stark beauty in places that has grown on me. I’ve met some lovely people, from all communities, who I now call friends. People who have opened their hearts and homes and made us feel welcome. Through doing book stalls I’ve met some amazing people who are really keen to stand up, welcome everyone no matter where they come from and to improve their local communities. I’ve met local business people and producers doing a sterling job trying to create jobs, make a living and produce great products. Wisbech has the most fantastic little independent cinema as well. It’s not quite the picture the media would like to give us of Wisbech and it’s surrounds.
Yes, our neighbours have been burgled and had their car stolen, ours was attempted but The Boudica Mutt took loud exception to that. But things like that happen everywhere.
Yes Wisbech has it’s problems, doesn’t everywhere? I also don’t think Immigration is it’s biggest problem. Let me tell you, when I had a book stall in Wisbech, it wasn’t the Eastern Europeans that were rude and tried to steal my books. I think in all truth, the biggest problem is PR.
One of the first things I noticed about Wisbech was it’s magnificent Georgian architecture. There are some seriously beautiful buildings about. Wisbech had a castle! What an amazing place it must have been before it’s fortunes changed. There’s a lot of building going on just outside town, trying to turn the area into just any other superstore clone town, but the town centre area still has the sad feeling of a town in the care home equivalent for Georgian towns. With more committed people, a proactive community and council, better appreciation and better PR, maybe things can turn around?
For better or worse, this is home now. Not just where we happen to live at this particular time, home. Maybe I’ll bother to plant the hanging baskets this year?!