A dozen or so miles from where I'm sitting right now is a place called Lydiate Ash. It's a hamlet, a small collection of houses between Birmingham and Bromsgrove and is actually more famous as being near the site of a motorway intersection. The M42 meets the M5 there, and there are some hefty A-roads going through it too.
As a result, you tend to go via Lydiate Ash (or more correctly, the Lydiate Ash junction) to get to a wide range of places to the south and west. This caused a degree of gentle leg-pulling when my father was alive.
For several years, whenever we told him we'd been somewhere, he would always seem to ask, "Did you go by Lydiate Ash to get there?" Wherever we'd travelled, sometimes if it was in the opposite direction, the same question. I don't think he was obsessed by Lydiate Ash; I suspect it was just that he'd used it himself and, as it was one of the few junctions that was named rather than numbered, it stuck in his mind.
But Katie and I found this amusing, so we'd often jump in to tell him we hadn't used Lydiate Ash when travelling to this place or that. This memorably included New York on one occasion. We said we'd save him the trouble. Then, when Dad mentioned he'd nipped down to the corner shop for the paper, we'd innocently ask him whether he'd gone through Lydiate Ash to get there. He'd just pull a face and tell us to stop being silly.
Harmless fun, but one of those things that are meaningful within families.
This morning, my brothers, my mother and I went to scatter Dad's ashes. We picked a beauty spot on the edge of the city, a place where he'd taken us all as kids. He loved this place. It had been Mom's wish all the way since December, yet for various reasons it took us until today to fulfil it.
In the shade of a quiet copse, away from the main pathways, we found a place. Afterwards, we walked back to the car park, bracing against the wind under an overcast sky. Brother no. 2 and I diverted to look at an old monument we'd played on 30 years ago, while B#1 sat with Mom looking out over the city.
We went for a meal and toasted Dad's memory. Then we got into our cars to come home. I predictably decided to go my own way and got lost. I wasn't too familiar with that area of Birmingham, and in any case it had changed a lot since I was last there. Not wanting to go across town, I followed a sign for the motorway, but I was still unsure of my whereabouts.
Coming around a bend, things began to get familiar. I'd been here before, I'd just approached it from a different angle.
The sun broke through the clouds and I grinned.Although, if anyone had looked very closely, then I'd have had to admit to maybe having something in my eye.
Maybe there are certain places you always have to go through.