There’s a small area of land on the cusp of Cheshire and the River Mersey that for me is most fitting of the name ‘Home’. Even though my documents list my place of birth as ‘Chester’, I’d never call myself a Cestrian as doing so would be a lie – in truth that was just where the hospital was, and I doubt my mother fancied giving birth in the tub.
The name of that place I call home is Elton, and its where I grew up. Recorded in the Domesday Book as ‘Eltone’, meaning ‘Eel Town’ or ‘Eel Farm’, this small expanse of land comprised nearly the entirety of my childhood despite having a population of under 4,000 people.
Elton isn’t known for a lot of things, it’s a pretty run of the mill village crammed between areas of more people and substance, but it has had a few moments where it has infamously made headlines.
The first, is the existence of the massive Stanlow Oil Refinery that takes permanent residence here. It is pretty much on the village’s doorstep, so much so that I could see a lot of it from my childhood bedroom window. Some fun facts about this factory – it is the second largest in the United Kingdom, its product suffices a sixth of the country’s petrol needs, and that it used to let out a foul mushroom-smelling odour every Saturday alongside an accompanying alarm. I never knew what that alarm was for, but every time it rang my mum used to call us inside and close all the windows. Can’t wait for the health affects of that to hit me down the line.
Alongside that, there’s a glass bottle production factory that houses the worlds largest container glass furnace – which me and my friends were chased off once for pushing a large black pipe onto the only road in and out of the facility.
The village is also the victim of a joke from some football fan who works at Google, who randomly changed the road behind the shops, originally named Willow Way, to Diego Maradona Street – which I’m guessing has caused chaos to every mailman or woman that operates in the area. There’s also the small fact that a former resident went on trail for murder in the USA.
None of this strange and surprisingly notorious history matters to me though, because this was my home, my little slice of Earth. As a child, nothing outside of its tiny boundaries mattered. This was where I went to nursery and primary school, where I tried and hated Taekwondo, where I played for my first football team (Elton Youth ride or die) and where I grew up most importantly. You see, other than visiting family in nearby Ellesmere Port, Frodsham or Helsby, this was where I spent all my time. Elton’s placement made it a nightmare to walk anywhere else, unless you fancied walking down the A5117 which back then didn’t have a pathway and forced you to walk on the road or the overgrown grass. Whatever your thoughts on what I’m saying in this essay so far, I loved the place and thought it was great.
It’s strange growing up in a village like that because it gives you a really warped sense of the rest of the world, mainly because every time we’d walk to the shop or to school, we’d always stop and talk to someone that we knew – which was pretty much the entire village. It’s probably the only time in my life that I’ve felt myself inside a community like that, where you have the support of so many other people through familiarity. It must be a nightmare for new people moving in, but when you’re inside it, it can make it so hard to leave.
Childhood memories are a strange thing to quantify compared to the ones you make in your adult life, there’s always an element of fuzziness to them all, like that part of your brain hadn’t finished forming yet. I can remember my old house and the robin who used to visit our garden after my granddad died, which our family believed carried his soul and was checking in on us. I remember our next-door neighbour throwing up a haphazard fence extension upwards to stop me and my brother looking into his garden when we were on the trampoline and us seeing it as a challenge to jump higher. I remember riding to the shop on my bike to buy Somerfield own-brand chocolate to sell at my high school in Chester or the time my friend stood up too quickly, headbutting the underside of my chin and caused me to bite my entire upper lip with the whole bottom row of my teeth and getting sent home and playing FIFA 05 on the CRT in my room.
I’ve been fortunate to live in some far-flung places across the globe since, but nowhere fills me with the familiar feeling of home that I get riding through Elton on the bus. I should probably get off and explore it again one of these days, but I doubt that much has changed. It will always be the place where I discovered Pop Punk by listening to ‘Kerrang: The Album 08’ in my bedroom, or where I got pelted in the face with a rounders bat in P.E, or where our entire street played in the gross water that regurgitated from the grids one rainy evening.
It almost makes you want to stay on the bus, just so those fuzzy memories don’t get replaced with more rigid ones from adulthood, and you can live in that moment in time forever without knowing any different.
Although I’d rather forget the time I rode my bike into a bench and snapped my rib in half.