I spent New Years Eve with my brother in Wombwell, a small town in Yorkshire, near the coal mining town of Barnsley.
We talked about going on a drive and seeing if we could locate some of the houses we had lived in during our times in England.
Initially, I had just requested a ride out to Penistone, a village we had moved to in 1967, when I was 17 and he 14.
Well, Len and I decided to extend our search to everywhere we had live while with our parents in Yorkshire.
Len had all the places Mum and Dad had lived on a list and so had some ideas where to go.
On a sunny, bright January 2nd, 2014, we set off in search of our past.
First we headed towards Barnsley. We needed to get to Stairfoot. This is the area of Barnsley where mum lived as child.
imagine how exhausted he must have been to have to walk back home after a long shift underground in the pit. Len told me the story of what a great day it was for the miners when they actually got showers at work so they could wash the coal dust and grime off before heading home.
He pointed out Victoria Crescent where my Mum had first lived with her family while her Dad was a miner and her sisters all went off into service as soon as they were fourteen.
We reflected on what life must have been like for my Grandma Galloway raising eight children in such a small terraced house.
Next we set off to find our first home in England, in a part of Barnsley called Gawber.
These place names are magic to my ears, as I have heard them in conversations all my life. It was so great to see the street names and to be right there where my mum had grown up and lived.
After their first time in Canada my parents returned to England with me when I was only eighteen months old. Our first home was at 25, Beever Lane in Gawber.
I have pictures of myself with my Mum in the back garden of the Beever Lane house. This is what it looks like now.
I remember the ginnel, (a passage) that led from the road to the back of the houses.
Our Len was born here and by then my parents must have already decided to go back to Vancouver.
Next, we said good-bye to Barnsley, and Len drove us over the hillsides and down the roads boardered by drystone walls to Penistone.
The interesting thing about England is that there are so many small villages and it was great to read all the familiar signposts to Silkstone Common and Denby Dale.
I was surprised to see all the windmills on the hills, This was new since I was last here.
As we came into Penistone we passed Penistone Grammar School.
This was the school that I went to for only one year. I remember the culture shock of my first year in England, especially in this part of Yorkshire, as the accent was so 'broad' and I really did have a hard time understanding the colloquialisms used as well as the accent.
There was a walkway over the street to get to the other part of the school. The school has gone through lots of changes but the walkway is still there.
When I started at Penistone Grammar, I thought it was kind of like a storybook, as I had never had to wear a school blazer and tie.
Also I was in awe of the fact that the school had been founded in 1392, it was over 500 years old! And Canada was only celebrating a hundred years since confederation. Sitting in the classrooms, I couldn't help but imagine what the site had seen over the centuries. The sense of history and antiquity made an impression on me.
Driving up and down the hills from the Grammar School and through the village and up to where we lived on Cubley Rise Road brought back lots of memories to us both. We always walked to and from school and it was a very long way.
The winds are expecially strong in Penistone, and we were blown about and rained on during our walks. We used to pass all the other kids from Cubley Rise waiting for the bus and wonder why we had to walk. We laugh about it now, but at the time, we felt hard done by.
As we drove through the town, it was great to see the library where my mother worked part time, and all the shops.
A man was unloading groceries from his car, so I asked him for permission to take a picture, explaining how I had lived there many years ago.
My dad had sold the house while I was at college, so the family could move into Barnsley where my mum could be nearer her family.
He mentioned that he thought he was probalby the one who bought the house from my Dad, and after doing some calculations, it turned out that he had. He offered to let me see inside the house but I declined.
Seeing the bungalow reminded us of a funny story we always recall when we get together.
Whenever we moved into a new house, my Dad always made some alterations to it. It was the way he was, and it seems to be a bit of a family trait. In this bungalow, he had added a door into the living room from the kitchen, to save us having to walk all the way round through the entrance hall to get into the long living room/dining room. He always used to joke as he went through one of the doors.
"I'm going through THIS door now!" he would say in a loud voice.
Leaving the bungalow we drove further up the hill and turned right to get to Cubley Rise Road. This was the first house we lived in when we moved to England. It was brand new at the time, and seeing the hill it was built on made us realize how reallly steep that hill is.
Fortunately our house wasn't too far up the hill.
Number 4, Cubley Rise Rd was a semi-detached house and a new concept to us kids.
Also there was only one coal fire to heat the entire house, which to us Canadians used to central heating was a major shock. We used to huddle round the fireplace with our coats on and argue about who had to go into the kitchen to put the kettle on.
Eventually, my dad hunted around till he found someone who would put us forced air central heating in. Nearly all the central heating in England is hot water, but being my dad, that wouldn't do.
The man who currently lives in the house came out when he saw me taking pictures. I explained what I was doing and he said that the owner previous to him had taken out the heating ducts, and put in a regular boiler with traditional British central heating. He said how he had recycled the metal as it was worth quite a bit.
Coincidentally the current owner, Mr Leggett, was a retired headmaster from Penistone Grammar School. He started out there as a music teacher and I am wondering if he didn't teach my younger sister.
Driving back to Barnsley via another route, which took us past Browns and the blackened stone terraces and houses, I felt stangely connected to this village which I had lived in for such a short while.
I used to walk up into the moors for long solitary walks, and it was the place I made my first connections with English life and culture.
Penistone seemed so strange to us when we first moved there from small town British Columbia, but it opened its heart to us; gave my dad a job and my mum her time in the library, where she got to go out on the library buses to service the remote villages.
My brother made friends at school in
Penistone, friends he still sees today on a regular basis. My sisters still have firends from those days. I am probably the one with no real people connection as I was only at school for one year. I had one friend at school, Janet Steele, who was so kind to me and used to invite me over to her house.
Then I was off to Scarborough and only home briefly during the holidays.
As we left Penistone, we were once again out in the gorgeous Yorkshire countryside, heading back to Barnsley.
It was such a great day, and the weather was sunny and the sky was blue.
What was so special about this day was that Len and I experienced it together. As he has never moved back to Canada, he is probably the sibling I have spent the least time with as an adult.
Whenever I am in England I get to stay with him at his lovely home and we have been out driving the moors together, visiting Haworth, where the Brontes lived etc. But this was a personal family journey and we had such great conversations while driving, recalling our times together and guessing at what it must have been like for mum and dad.
Finally we arrived back at Lens and I got some pictures of his place too.
We had another few days together before I headed off to Portsmouth and the ferry to France.
Of course, that's another story.