And so, it arrives at last. The first day of the 30 Day Writing Challenge...
Frankly, back at the start of February when I decided to create this the first of March seemed a long way away but it has arrived with such alacrity I've had absolutely no time to think about what I was going to write. Thus, last night, I spent some time umming and ahhing over what would be the right choice for the challenge of Day 1.
A place that you love.
There were so many places, so many possibilities but, at last, I decided that I wanted to write about somewhere from my childhood...
The HillWe called it The Hill.
Maybe it had another name, a proper name, but as seven year olds we never knew it. To us it was The Hill and, when we sat at its summit, it felt like we were sitting on top of the world.
The fact that we had been warned by our parents never to climb it only added to the appeal. As we scrabbled on our hands and knees up the grassy slope, which began smoothly before angling up to something that seemed near vertical, we were always aware of the need to move quickly. The Hill overlooked the housing estate and could be seen from almost everywhere on the estate; all it took was for one of our parents to be looking out of their back window at the wrong moment and we would (and often were) caught in the act of climbing its forbidden slopes. But, if we were quick, if we could scurry up that final steep gradient undetected, then we could reach the top and be concealed from view, hidden from the estate by thick tufts of tall grass.
Sun baked mud beneath us, we’d share a paper bag filled with one penny sweets; aniseed balls and white chocolate mice, liquorice torpedoes and blackjacks; a can of warm shandy to go with it if our limited pocket money could somehow manage to stretch to it. We’d look down on the housing estate, on the rows and rows of semi-detached houses and gardens and we’d talk. The memories of what we’d talk about are blurry in my mind now; like looking through several panes of frosted glass, all I can see are vague shapes, nothing definite. I can still remember the things that were important to us though; bicycles (did you want a Chopper or a Grifter?) and Star Wars figures, football and stories. We filled the gaps in our world with stories.
The summit of The Hill plunged sharply downwards on the right hand side and was swallowed up by woods and their dense canopy; it was a place that was shrouded in gloom even on the brightest of days. To go into the woods, to set off down the steeply inclined mud path that led away from The Hill and into the darkness, was only ever done for a dare but none of us got further than fifty feet. It wasn’t just the light that died in the woods; the sound of the street faded away with every step you took and the layers of moss and pine needles deadened the sound of your footsteps until all you could hear was the pulse of your own heartbeat in your ears. We made up stories about the woods. About the creature that had made its home in the abandoned shed that you could see in the distance once you had descended into the shadows, about the werewolf that roamed amongst the trees and was ready to snatch up anyone brave, or stupid, enough, to find themselves alone here. Like this we filled in the gaps, fashioned the world with our imagination.
In the summer, we’d pick the wild blackberries and raspberries that grew on its slopes and eat them until our fingers were stained black and red with their juice. In the winter, when the snow fell thick enough, we’d drag our sledges through the estate and as far up The Hill as we could manage before careering madly down its slopes, not thinking (or caring) about the possibility that we might end up sliding all the way down and into the traffic that used the road that lay at its base.
The Hill was a chunk of rock and mud, little more than a grass slope thick with brambles and thistles, but it was a magical place to us.
It lies overgrown now. In our absence, the bushes have grown wild and scores of trees have reclaimed its lower slopes such that you can no longer even see the summit from the road below. Maybe the world has moved on, maybe children no longer aim to scale its slope and look down on the world as if, for that brief moment, it was their own.
But the memory of the place lives on with me. I shall always remember the place we called The Hill.