Dear Orchard House

Dear Orchard House

Well you’re still here and no mistaking it.   60 years on the same spacious house with a creaking corridor upstairs and stone floor downstairs, many books and good taste without ostentation, set in my mother’s informal garden. You are a bit bedraggled and showing your age perhaps, but what does that matter – what you stand for in my mind is outside time. It is the belief that the whole puzzling shooting match which is the world in all its pain and contradictions makes sense and is understood by someone somewhere in all those volumes and all that culture.  A common understanding, a thread held by the various grandees of the right minded intelligentsia. The fact that I couldn’t quite get it was my fault, I should just try harder to understand it all.

So I left you with a mixture of arrogance and insecurity and now, living in the “North”, people are puzzled by my accent and attitudes. At work they ask me “where are you from” and I reply “the middle classes” – meaning, of course, you! How can anyone understand such a personal comment?  – they withdraw irritated and baffled. So I think the only way I can explain is to organise a coach and take the all the people I love and work with all the way from Ashton under Lyne to darkest Oxfordshire. There they will be met by my doddery old mother who looks like Virginia Woolf (I think) and as they get out of the coach they would understand in a glance my mixture of privilege, comfort, sneaking unworthiness and remorse. Later I imagine our visitors getting back on the coach saying “fair doos, Francis, you could be no other way” and I might feel accepted, even forgiven.

You see, I am not going to change my allegiance to you, I still believe in the project, I remain a middle class intellectual and I believe I’d die for it. This is what home means to us all – be we Ashtonians, jihadists or nomads. I know the feeling is born of our biology – attachment, epigenetics and oxytocin but you feel like home to me!

See you soon and lots of love


PS don’t expect that coach trip to happen any time soon.