North Circular Time (part two)

Previously I detailed how a lot of my younger life revolved around trips up and down the North Circular Road or A406. Now read on... 

The move to Muswell Hill another six years later took us back upstream along the North Circular.  Now it lay separating us from Colney Hatch and the sprawling Victorian asylum where I would do voluntary work in the Library in between school and university. It still felt like a canyon separating the familiarity of Muswell Hill with its record shops and paper round routes from the strange environment of Friern Barnet (I often wondered how this differed from Normal Barnet and whether this implied that their might be other similar districts of London like Friern Walthamstow or Friern Putney).

It was after coming back from university that I renewed my acquaintance with the A406. I moved to Leytonstone which was the furthest east along the North Circular I had yet lived - and also a little far away from it. A couple of years later the move to Walthamstow brought me within walking distance of it although most of the time I caught a bus which would take me past the dog track (the illuminated sign on the front of which had been visible from the childhood home in Muswell Hill) and then past a factory called Shadbolt's which would always have the Veneer of the Week on display, labelled with removable letters in  a retro-looking (even then) font - what looked like a serif version of the Washington font used by the BBC in the 1960s.

Always something to look forward to.

After that the bus route moved back into the more familiar territory of Edmonton although at the time it felt like a very strange nostalgic territory of Deep Childhood - the first time I really began to experience the odd time travel properties of the A406. I felt that if I got off the bus at Silver Street (I never did) I would somehow be transported back and, if I walked far enough, be able to come across the five year old me playing in the alleyways of suburbia.

Of course the temporal gap between Childhood Edmonton and Young Adult Walthamstow was ten years less than the gap between now and (that iteration of) Walthamstow.

I did spend a few years away from the North Circular Road (in Finsbury Park) but it wasn't long before I returned to Walthamstow where I remained right up until my departure for Brighton. I lived in a couple of places in more or less the same area. However, this was the point at which They began ripping up and vandalising my memories. Stretches of the A406 were modernised with flyovers and underpasses and many nostalgia triggers removed altogether.

But that is so often the case - you move back somewhere and it's all just as you remember it, every street corner a mental time machine... and then suddenly without so much as a by your leave they start changing it, despite having left it as it was in the interim.

I had a similar experience when leaving the environs of the A406 altogether and moving to Brighton. It was just as I remembered from my student years - including the university where I'd previously studied and was now working. They even had the same periodic table pinned up in one of the lecture theatres - for a few months. And then the city and the university embarked upon a programme of change so far reaching that they're both now almost unrecognisable.

The only place these locations appear to remain as they were is in dreams.

But dreams are as unreliable as memories and dream memories even more so. You may find yourself returning somewhere that invokes a massive rush of nostalgia only to awaken and realise that the way you dreamed it never existed in the first place.

But fragments of the dream memory can remain in your brain and get mixed in with the real memories. Sooner or later it's almost impossible to tell what happened and what didn't.

The past is probably completely unlike what we remember.


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