Nine months ago, I moved back to Leeds. Not just to the city where I’d been born and raised, but to the area where I spent most of my teens.
Back in those days, I couldn’t wait to leave. The city seemed small and stultifying. It seemed horribly provincial, and there’s probably nothing more deadly to a teenager. So I left, only to return, then leave again for 30 years in America.
But I never felt American. I thought England had shaped me, but that wasn’t true. Leeds had, although I didn’t realise it. I loved Seattle, and for a long time I was settled there. But circumstances change…
Returning to England, I didn’t want to be in Leeds. Going back there would seem like defeat. It took a while, and several novels set in Leeds, which meant plenty of visits to the city, to understand that I felt more comfortable, more at home here than I’d felt anywhere else.
Funny thing, though. I’d anticipated this move, but once here, I felt like I was walking with ghosts – mostly my own young ghost. But we’ve made peace on those streets and in the park. My work might take place in the past, but my life is very much in the present, and whether it’s walking around my neighbourhood or in the city centre, or even something as mundane as taking the bus into town, I realise I’m happy here. Happier than I’ve felt anywhere else. It’s finally sunk in.
I did the right thing to leave all those years ago. But I definitely did the right thing in coming back.