Oh dear, Grantham

Grantham feels like it’s all papered over, boarded up and to let.

There *is* life on the high street, but it’s much reduced. Shops everywhere are closed down, old fitments fading in the sunlight, paint peeling, decorators’ equipment lying around on the floor, collections of post piling up on mats and wedged into letterboxes. It’s not *all* like that, of course, but there are several high street names from my teens which have either been replaced by budget shops or simply left derelict. Even good old Marks & Spencer defected a year or so ago. Though I’m told the new development at the back of Westgate has at least a bit of life.

It’s the scene of my secondary school, and it becomes an increasing cause for sighs each time I visit it as an adult – which is about once per year, since I’ve never bothered changing my optician. It’s always been a tricky space – a linear high street and similar market street, no obvious square like there is in nearby Newark and vehicular traffic versus pedestrian issues because of it. No markets except on Saturdays because they have to close a road to hold it.

These days, it seems to this infrequent visitor to be spiralling further downward. It’s a small town, and the wealth is on the outskirts and in the villages, as it always was, and as they always do the people who have it seem likely to travel increasingly to Newark, whose centre and range of shops and facilities is expanding, or Lincoln which was always larger, and the more they take their wealth away the worse things get for poor old Grantham and the less reason they have to go there and the more likely they are to go elsewhere. Even in my day, we teens in the villages between the two tended to go to Newark for preference – more in it, more flexible bus service to reach it, just a plain nicer place to spend time.

All Grantham had, really, was its schools – themselves a relic of the days when selective education was the norm – and a tiny two-screen cinema (the one thing Newark didn’t really have until the last few years).

And the homes of schoolfriends, which is why when it came down to it, the Grantham pubs got the underage trade.

That for their friendship I may make amends

I’ve tilted a few times, on a few different blogs, over the years at the idea of finding your tribe. But it’s never yet been more descriptive of my life than it is now.

I’ve been delighted to meet folk I can talk geeky with without encountering the corresponding butyou’reagirl raised eyebrows or apparent inaudibleness that often came from the surroundings in which I worked at the time.

I’ve explained the bittersweet relief of finding a world of other women whose attractions and sexual preferences operated similarly to my own, in whom I took emotional refuge when a throwaway comment at my then workplace triggered twenty-year-old tears.

I’ve loved finding folk with specific hobbies in common that weren’t necessarily shared by friends IRL.

And all of that is still true. But since then, life has changed again.

I’ve come to know some of the online folks a little more in person (There will be more of that, right? You lot are fab.).

I’ve had the delight – most recently today, in fact – of having an animated and intelligent conversation about politics at work without feeling my opinion being actually shouted down or quipped away by those who prefer to seize a stage rather than participate in a discussion.

I’ve met some wonderful new friends around whom I can feel my brain happily unfurling.

It’s possible that Mr Blake was feeling rather more cynical than I ever do when he wrote the poem from which I stole this post title. Because actually, I am not. I use humour as weapon, armour, shield and healing potion, and I’m squishy-hearted and I don’t entrust that to many people (but it’s worth it when I do).

And that’s the wonder of finding Your People. The ones around whom you can comfortably unfold yourself, around whom you can stretch and who stretch you. The ones you can start to trust with your squishy bits.

You guys are awesome, and I am indescribably delighted to have found you and still just a little bit confused that you seem to like being found.

Here. Have a bit of squishy stuff.