I sometimes forget that in a pre-smartphone age most people didn’t take a lot of photos of their everyday life. My family did, and I am thankful for that, especially as I get further into the researching and writing of my new novel, which is set in the early 1980s in the mining country of north west Nottinghamshire, where I grew up. As I go through my mum and dad’s old albums, I fall down holes in time and little cupboard doors that have been closed for years creak open, revealing more about the way my life once was: innate events that are part of me but nonetheless seem revelatory as they return. The photo above might not seem like anything very special, but it’s one I keep coming back to. I am conscious of a lot of the reasons I like it but not all of them, and I think that makes me like it even more. It was taken by my mum in early February 1983 and I doubt she would have imagined anyone looking at it 40 years later and pondering its meaning or significance. My dad was driving, my mum was in the passenger seat, and I was in the back. The car in front of us is a mid 70s Opel Kadett C estate which contains my mum and dad’s friends Malcolm and Cheryl and their very young daughter, Rachel. It was early in the morning and – at Malcolm’s insistence – we were on the way to the cave near Knaresborough where Ursula Southeil, more commonly known as Mother Shipton, the most famous prophetess of the Tudor period, was born during a violent thunderstorm in 1488. You can see from the snowdrifts at the side of the road just how cold it is. At the time we staying in a white cottage high on a hill in Dentdale, just over the border from Yorkshire into Cumbria. The cottage had cold York flagstone floors and Breakfast TV and TV-am had just started broadcasting. One day we drove north and walked over the border, just so I could touch Scotland for the first time, but most of the time we did very little, because my dad had flu. He sweated copiously, as a result of the illness, and his sweat froze, leaving the bedsheets covered in icicles.
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