We follow Youngest up north, arriving at my home town by train on Friday afternoon. The queue at the taxi rank snakes right across the elegant front of the station. Women in fascinators and too-tight dresses, exposed arms revealing tattoos as well as flesh, fat feet squeezed into too-high stilettos: it's the York races.
"There weren't queues like this when I was a girl," I say.
We stand and wait and listen. To short 'a's, to long alien 'eee' sounds, to 'the's' gone missing entirely and replaced with 't's'. "Eeee, it's a right long queue, in't it," I say to Middle One.
The taxi crawls through town and out again towards my parents' house. Tom Jones is coming, says the driver, they're expecting 40,000 at the race course tonight. Really? we say, and then we chat amongst ourselves: about the news, about politics, about Jeremy Corbyn. How old is he? I ask Middle One. "He's 66!" chips in the taxi driver. I'd forgotten how friendly taxi drivers are here.
For the whole of the weekend, at the end of the cul-de-sac on which my parents' house sits, cars idle in long queues into town, nose to nose, engines ticking over, obligingly moving to let us through whenever we emerge. I'd forgotten how courteous the drivers are here.
"There was never traffic like this when I was a girl," I say to Husband.
On Sunday my father and the boys drive to the community orchard, the one my father helps to run. Husband and I walk there, along
the river. "Himalayan Balsam," I remember my father saying, the last time we were here, "look how it's invaded the landscape, taken over everywhere," and it has.
"There wasn't all this Himalayan Balsam here when I was a girl," I say to Husband.
There's no one at all by the river, and I'd forgotten how lovely it is, except for the hum of the cars on the bypass, a hum which never ends.
"There wasn't a hum like that from the bypass when I was a girl either," I say to Husband.
A mile or so later we reach the orchard, where my father and the boys are moving cut grass. Husband pitches in, quite literally, while I sit reading under a tree.
There's no one else in the orchard. Just fruit trees, wildlife, flowers, but all around are cars, rows and rows of cars, parked for the shops here. 'Designer Outlets' it's called. Most of the people stepping just a few short feet from vehicle to shop, have no idea there's an orchard nearby, a little oasis of calm.
"There wasn't this enormous car park here when I was a girl," I say to the boys, as we criss-cross the tarmac, on a mission to buy some lunch. "It was a maternity hospital, and fields. I was born here."
We walk through Designer Outlets. It's packed. People everywhere. Shopping, buying, eating, talking, calling out to one another. But mostly shopping.
"There weren't all these people here when I was a girl," I say, to anyone who will listen. But they can't hear me over the racket.
Love E x
P.S. Eldest returns from the Far East tonight!