A drive from the recent to the past. The change in texture as seen from the road is subtle, the eye is tricked by trees and a roll across the drift of slow river valleys into believing we are still in Somerset. Time passing and the changing build of houses shouts of the new space we occupy, from stone to brick, steep thatch to red tile roofs, all as varied as the stars at night.
We stop in half remembered garages, reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishops poem, The Filling Station, empty of the usual tourist motorway fare there are local foods and friendly questions of where we are travelling, why and the weather, from smiling, interested cashiers. We travel at the speed of locals in the places we pass, they are oblivious to the miles we have ahead, intent on their own journeys.
Even as we pass half remembered names, they trigger memories. Lakenheath, Mildenhall, Swaffham, Thetford, Fakenham; they are old directions to be taken, places not seen since the 80’s and 90’s. I was in the RAF back then, starting out on the old Bloodhound missiles, learning how to fix and keep fixed the tools of cold war defense. When Russian planes still crept down the North Sea, testing the resolve of nations.
But now I head to somewhere new just outside Norwich, old friends we haven’t seen for a while, miles and life conspiring to keep separation a physical thing. All the time in East Anglia and this is white space on the map, like the white space around edge of the page, I do not know what is hidden here. Despite this there is no mistaking the big skies of Norfolk, tree-lined roads and fields plowed for winter. Coltishall and Neatishead, RAF bases now consigned to history, are nearby, so I must have been close at some point.
We are in this part of the world drifting with the North Sea breezes, looking around and revisiting places. The weather has been fair so far but Autumn has arrived harshly, the trees are turning and the temperature is lowering each day despite the sun in the sky.