Sunday, 20 June 2010

Curse You, Google Street View

A thousand curses upon Google Street View. Or maybe Blessings. Both.

On Friday, I was interested to see the uses to which my department puts this piece of map technology. The Fraud Investigators can verily make good use of software which puts them at the gate of the street address they are investigating. So, this curious anthropoid just had to go and try it for herself.

First, I found my suburb, walked around in it a bit and fetched up by my gate. I can tell exactly which day of the year, this year, that that horrible little camera car was waltzing down the road where I live. There are telltale signs on the gate, you see. I was a little bit shocked to find how far Street View had come in under a year - shocked and a little miffed. A vague feeling of violation...

Well then I set out to find the school I attended in Wokingham until the age of 14 - and my house and the places I used to haunt (and still do). I wandered down Arthur Road, and up it again, pausing to take note of the few changes committed upon 'my' house in the 36 years since I lived there. Down to the juncture with Meadow Road, up that and down the other side, passing Keith Saynor's house, the Sproules' house, and at last the meadow itself. I played cricket and soccer in that meadow, swung across the Emm on Willow branches, lay on my back and watched the clouds, met up with friends and boyfriends. Turning back I mounted to Reading Road, turned off at Holt Lane, and stopped outside my old school. Admired the ancient tone of the building - not changed a bit in the intervening years - and looked over at Joel Park, where I ran cross country, hung around on the swings, walked through the woods.
Back in the Reading Road, I crossed over it and stood by the litch gate to St Paul's church. That old Yew is still there - half as high as the spire where I rang bells - and so, it seems, is every other living thing I remember.

I left work that Friday in a state of profound shock. I told a colleague as we went down in the lift that some things just shouldn't be so accessible, after 36 years and a continent of separation.

I'm not really sure why Wokingham calls to me so strongly, when places I lived in (and people I have known) much more recently fade so fast. I cannot quite recall the smell and the touch of two husbands, for crying out loud, as perfectly as I remember the steeple at St Paul's.

And it hasn't changed. On Saturday we drove through the terrain of my partner's boyhood, and he threw up some memories. But they are almost at a distance with him - as perhaps they should be - while these particular memories of mine just don't leave.
It's that I won't let them, I think.
The best chance I have now of harbouring balanced memory forms is to acknowledge that I have put a stranglehold on Wokingham which I needs must release.
The land which I love, now, and which loves me back, will help enormously in this. When I wake after a midday nap in the depths of a Highveld winter to open my eyes upon this, then the task seems so much easier.