From 2002 to 2005, I lived and studied in Paisley, a 20-minute train trip from Glasgow. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to revisit the town for the first time in at least a couple of years.
Throughout the journey, I began to remember snippets from my life there: familiar landmarks; songs I associate with the place; even which train would stop at which platform. At my destination, I could have gone to any number of places and they would’ve triggered other memories: the stalag-style residences with the hilarious security guard; the club we visited on Student Sunday; the computer labs where we played Gaia Online all night; the locations where we shot films for the course; ex-partners’ houses where we argued. Maybe.
But as I had limited time, I could only visit the student union, a purple building with a concrete and aluminium interior. The place you went when you didn’t want to spend very much; where we went in for the weekly quiz, karaoke and pool tournament; where I ran a juggling club; where someone stole a dozen bottles and dropped them when one of the bar staff slapped him.
Before I become too self-indulgent, my point is that revisiting a familiar place can trigger off a lot of memories and potential story ideas. I would have found it rather difficult to compile the above lists when I wasn’t physically in the location. Yet if I’d had more time in Paisley, I could’ve filled half a notebook with recollections.
Long-term readers will also know I’m a big advocate of walking anywhere. The physical act of bipedal locomotion is a fantastic way to sort out your thoughts and solve plot problems.
If you have the opportunity to revisit an old haunt, I recommend doing it. When you see a familiar place, or a gap where a building used to be, it can bring to mind details that you might not have remembered otherwise. That memory might become your next plotline. Don’t forget your notepad and a pencil.