…or call it just wandering until you end up where you began.
I’ve harped on before about the way I love Leeds, but it wasn’t always that way. At 17 I couldn’t wait to be out of the place. It seemed so small and parochial and I was ready for somewhere – anywhere – different. The fact that I hadn’t explored most of my own city didn’t even occur to me. Like any teenage boy, I was certain, and I knew that my destiny was somewhere greater than Leeds.
In the end I went overseas, 30 years in the US. Life seemed much brighter over there, in brilliant colours until the muted tones of England. It was open and brimming with possibilities. I enjoyed it. I loved much of it. But life is life, with that annoying habit of only being as good as you make it, no matter where you are.
I’m not even sure exactly how or when my real love affair with Leeds began. Not on the first few visits home to see my parents, that’s for sure. It was, maybe, my curiosity about history that had grown, or some stray fact about the place that someone mentioned. Enough for me to pick up a recently-published history of Leeds and take it back to Seattle. That was the kindling that started the blaze, I do know that.
It wasn’t enough for me to move back to Leeds, of course. I had no intention of doing that. I was in Seattle, 5500 miles away, enjoying being near mountains and water, the glorious views and air.
And then I wasn’t any more.
I was back in England to stay. A number of factors that don’t quite matter here, but I was living on the edge of the Peak District and loving the area. By then I was already writing about Leeds, a novel that was rejected, but with some positive thoughts, enough to get me started on The Broken Token – although the journey that had to publication was long and tortuous. I was back in Leeds very regularly to visit my mother. But no thoughts of returning permanently, especially after she died. At that point I felt I had no tie with the place beyond my writing.
I’d never imagined the past could exert such a big pull. turns out I was wrong. I published more books set in Leeds, kept returning for events and suddenly I understood how good it would be to be in Leeds all the time. I felt like a politician doing a U-turn. But if it works for them…
Now it’s been almost two years since the return and it was right. My partner loves it here as much as I do, maybe even more, as so many of the things in Leeds are still discoveries to her. My joy isn’t in the comfort of the place, or the arms of my own past around me. It’s being able to touch history. My family’s history, the city’s history. To feel, maybe for the first time, completely grounded.