My trip home proved 'you can never go back' is a cliché for a good reason | Matt Mohan-Hickson

The closed House of Fraser in Middlesbrough town centre on March 23, 2021. Picture by ShutterstockThe closed House of Fraser in Middlesbrough town centre on March 23, 2021. Picture by Shutterstock
The closed House of Fraser in Middlesbrough town centre on March 23, 2021. Picture by Shutterstock
They say you can never go back – or at least it is a cliché they roll out regularly in sport.It is something I have always thought made sense, given the laws of diminishing returns, but I hadn’t ever truly given it much consideration.

That is until I went back up north for my week off. It was not a particularly uncommon occurrence, after all I have been making semi-regular trips back to Middlesbrough since August, or at least the part of the area where I grew up.

But I realised that I hadn’t actually been to Middlesbrough itself since at least Christmas 2019 – and my recollection of that time is hazy at best.

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After having my connecting train cancelled, I found myself with an hour to kill and decided to venture into the town centre.

It certainly seemed a better idea than freezing to death while waiting on a draughty train platform.

However I had barely ventured outside of the station before I started to feel uneasy. Two years doesn’t seem like a long time but a lot has certainly changed.

I tried to find my way to the Sainsbury’s to get a drink for the train but I had completely forgotten how to get there.

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I could picture the location in my mind and I knew I had to cut through a shopping centre, but the rest had become a blurry mess in my mind. I felt like I was trying to grab smoke and ended up having to Google it, just to jog my memory.

In the high street itself, all the shops had changed. River Island, Game, and more were gone. Debenhams and House of Fraser, also gone.

But the biggest blow was when I walked past what had been the barbers I had frequented for 25-plus years – where they had seen me grow from knee high – and realised it was gone. The door painted luminescent pink, the name changed completely.

It was all quite disorienting. I felt a bit like a ghost of a Middlesbrough past – a festively appropriate metaphor I know, but I’m just going to roll with it.

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I have moved away, forged a new life and the town itself has done the same. I am far more acquainted with the streets and the nooks and crannies of Portsmouth instead now.

Here’s to three months of living in an icebox

I am growing increasingly sick of being cold in my own home when winter rolls around.

It is not an exaggeration when I say that I was dressed in a jumper, woolly hat, scarf and cardigan as I typed out this week’s column.

I tried to take the scarf off as that felt comically excessive but the cold physically hurt.

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Because once again our boiler has gone kaput as soon as the temperatures dip slightly. Last winter it was nearly impossible to take a shower because it involved plunging yourself into cold water only to then step out into freezing temperatures.

However, despite having a house full of people forking out hundreds of pounds each month, it is an issue our landlord has yet to fix.

Here’s to three more months of living in the human equivalent of an ice box.

Let’s hope Covid respects the government’s new rules on mask-wearing

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I for one am thoroughly glad that this winter Covid has decided it will not infect people inside pubs or restaurants.

That can only explain the reason for such a half-hearted mask mandate.

I do not have the stomach for another winter of restrictions but have tried to wear a mask on public transport and in the shops, occasionally forgetting when grabbing a different coat from my usual one.

However I just don’t see why if they are going to introduce rules they don’t go the whole hog – if people need to wear masks, why only in shops or on public transport?

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I also hope they aren’t buttering us up to slap harsher restrictions again in the run up to Christmas.

I got my jabs, I followed the rules strictly in 2020, but it would be too much to ask such things again unless it was as bad as March last year – and, touch wood, that doesn’t look like it is on the cards.

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