Becoming a grown up adult means moving to a new area of the world, to prove that it isn’t where you live that is causing your lack of success. It’s a chance to show everyone you grew up with that you’re better than them, because you have ambition: ambition to go and fail in an area with higher rent prices.
Here are the top five things about returning to your hometown:
5. No one noticed you had gone
You see the sign, step over the border, venture into town, look around at all the sights you remember and gasp at all the new developments (a Thai restaurant!). You’re home. Where everybody knows your name. If your name is “Move, why are you standing in the road, staring at a Thai restaurant?” Then, it slowly dawns on you that nobody knew your name. It’s a town of 12,000 people, of course no one remembers you, they didn’t even know you were there in the first place.
4. The best fish & chips
The best fish & chips shop is definitely in your hometown. And going back to it hasn’t lessened that quality, because every single mouthful is now improved by raw nostalgia. The perfect accoutrement to chips.
3. Your school looks small
Even when you’ve double-checked that you’re standing close to it, it still looks much smaller than your brain is telling you it should. The dominant, foreboding symbol of spending seven, hellish hours having to run round a playground with your friends, sprinkle glitter onto PVA glue, draw Tudors and occasionally eat PVA glue is now a meek, timid building with a new sports hall.
2. Your paper round route feels longer
I was thirteen. Thirteen! I’m now 31. The opposite of thirteen. I walked my old paper round route and was knackered after the second house, and all I was carrying was an iPhone and a wallet, heaving with £50 notes. When I was 13 I carried a bag bigger than any I’ve owned since, filled to the brim with the densest, heaviest paper. I did this every morning for three years, my formative years spent systematically destroying my posture so that I might, with a little bit of luck, suffer from crippling back pain in the future. I did this every morning for three years so that, at the end of every week, I could feel the sweet weight of an envelope containing £14.52. Not every other week: every week. I did this every morning for three years so that I could know what it feels like to be so tired that you cycle into the back of a parked car, topple to the ground, spill the newspapers into the snow and then hear the laughter of an old man.
1. You’re still banned from the bakery
Someone remembered who you are! They’ve still got a photo of you from 12 years ago AND they recognise your face, despite the horrid onslaught of time. Not only that, she’s deeply sorry because she read your last Huffington Post article “I love Belgian Buns” but can’t contravene the banned list. You understand. You wouldn’t want a teenage girl to get fired, just because of your bad boy history and current, crippling addiction to icing, pastry and glacé cherries. So you turn on your heel, step away from the situation and allow her to live her life free from danger. You allow yourself one glance back and yes: she is crying.
I recently had the chance to go to a hometown. Not mine: James Acaster’s. He’s a stand-up comedian who has won and been nominated for awards that tell you: this guy is good at doing stand-up comedy. He’s also been on TV shows like Never Mind The Buzzcocks, 8 out of 10 Cats and The John Bishop Show. All of that is supposed to reassure you that he’s good, because travelling back to his hometown of Kettering did not convince me of that. It was supposed to be a triumphant arrival of a rising comedy star at all his old haunts, it turned out to be something quite different. Sweet Home Ketteringa is a documentary series we made about that return, James visited Kettering attractions that he used to work at, his old school and the Weetabix factory, reconnecting with his hometown. Six 8-minute episodes, which we’re very proud of, for different reasons.
EPISODE 6 (if you like to start at the end)