“I breathe deeply and say over to myself: – ‘You are at home, you are at home.’ But a sense of strangeness will not leave me, I can find nothing of myself in all these things. There is my mother, there is my sister, there my case of butterflies, and there the mahogany piano – but I am not myself there. There is a distance, a veil between us.” – from All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque
As a soldier returning home, this passage has always stuck with me. It’s strange coming home after being away for a long time. The place looks the same, but different. The people – family, friends, the old man down the street – they also seem the same but different. Or at least that is what I used to think. I realised after a while, that the place and the people were the same, it was me who had changed, and that I would never be the person I was before I left. I was a stranger to them and them to me.
I met Andy for the first time the other day. And like me, he has been away from his country for a long time and coming back, he has realised that he too is a stranger in his own town. While I went off and fought some battles in my head, Andy started a website called Secret Kenilworth in an attempt to get to know his town again.