Going back to a place you used to live is an experience that can be both pleasant and disturbing. The house might look very different, there might be new windows, or paintwork, and the garden certainly will have grown. Hopefully it will have matured, but it just as likely that the lawn will have become a drive, or a patio and the carefully tended shrubs up-rooted. The street won’t look the same either, different makes of car, different neighbours, the children grown up and moved away.
Going back and meeting people that you haven’t seen for over twenty years can be even more challenging. Will they recognise you? Will you recognise them? And if you do will you have anything in common?
These were some of the thoughts that had crossed my mind when I accepted an invitation to the fortieth birthday celebration of the Market Drayton National Women’s Register.
It was over twenty years since I’d been to a meeting. Since then I had lived in Jamaica, for a few years, before coming back to the UK and settling in Stoke. Not a million miles away, but too far to go back to the weekly NWR meetings, or to take up the reins of the book group I started and used to run.
Although my life is very busy, there are times when I miss the buzz of the conversation, the dissecting and analysing of ideas that go on at NWR meetings and of course the coffee and the cake.
The National Housewives’ Register, as it was then, was set up for that very reason to give women time and space to step out of their roles, in those days mostly as wives and mothers, and be themselves and although the name has changed, for obvious reasons, this is what it still does.
The talks on Saturday were stimulating and informative. Elizabeth Gowing talked about how she set up a school for Roma and Ashkall children in Kosovo, Sarah Gathercole uncovered twenty centuries of the female nude in art, while rubies were the topic covered by Martin Carruthers.
There was time for questions and for taking part in creative workshops and most importantly of all for re-connecting with women I hadn’t seen in decades. And yes we recognised each other and everyone was so welcoming and there was plenty to talk about and to learn from.
Which is where the going forward comes in. There was a little nostalgia about the past, but the feeling I came away with was of a group of women who are questioning, thinking and moving on in all sorts of directions and supporting each other as they do so. Just as Liz, Elsa and Bernie do in “Picking up the Pieces”