“Letter to JHQ” – Natalie Guy, June 2012
Even though we departed almost three years ago, I still cherish you immensely, JHQ.
Your regular appearances in my thoughts make me feel as though somehow you are trying to call out to me, and it’s because of this I long to see you again.
I have thoroughly wasted my time trying to explain you to my friends, as no emotion other than confusion is reflected in their eyes.
Your peculiar name, strange location and unusual concept baffle the untrained brain of a “commoner”.
But to me you are crystal clear – you are my childhood, my good memories and the place I miss so sincerely.
I remember vividly in the height of summer, the stretch of ageing green trees that entwined together creating a magnificent archway over the entry road to camp.
I can see now the straight-faced security guards who greeted us with a check of identification as we pulled up into your territory.
Once inside, the immediate hit of “Mini England”, like cold water striking my skin.
Yet somehow you still managed to stay tucked away neatly into the German countryside, loved by everyone.
There was an ironic sense of freedom as I roamed the five-mile radius of your sanctuary, when really, I was no more than a bird in its cage let out occasionally to spread its wings.
You truly were a magical place in which to grow up; I encountered many out of the ordinary experiences wandering your winding roads.
I was the dedicated constructor of your jigsaw puzzle.
Each new discovery resulted in another piece being fitted together, slowly unravelling your mystery.
Some may categorise me as a “military brat”; brought up overseas and continuously on the move; but that is not the case.
Your peaceful way of life nurtured me for six rapidly passing years.
You treated me well and contributed enormously to whom I am today.
You brought me up to use my legs.
I cycled everywhere (no matter how hard the rain decided to fall).
With this, emerged my love for the outdoors and the ability to take part in wild explorations.
No bog pit or the thorniest of forest stood a chance. I would discover their hideout and any wonderful secrets they possessed.
You taught me to climb monstrous trees with no fear, and for that matter even the feeblest of trees that would blow away in the slightest of winds – just to see if I could.
Wild energy surged through my body as each cracking noise rippled along the thread of branch on which I was precariously perched.
The realisation that I could plummet back to earth with one wrong move, did not jolt my desire to peer over the surrounding building tops or ruin the joyous moment when I had completed my mission.
Although the beloved days of adventures in the woods are sadly behind me, I realise now, you taught me determination and desire.
I will be forever grateful to you, as by possessing these two traits, I am now able to face the hardest of tasks with the belief I will succeed.
Naivety does, however, spring to mind JHQ.
This one characteristic I possess that could arguable be perceived as a flaw.
You hid me from the outside world and the dangers that came along with it, barricading me from experiencing true freedom.
Being released as an adolescent into this strange world has been a challenge and a half, undoubtedly way out of my comfort zone.
Realising that not everyone is a friendly face, that not all my surroundings are safe, and that some places are left not to be explored, have been lessons I have struggled to learn.
You were the “JHQ bubble”, the artificial society; you contained no elderly, no disabled, no impoverished people, and had all necessities only an arm’s length away.
With no need to wander the German streets, you eradicated the desire to get a taste of reality.
You did so well in hiding your shortcomings, JHQ, that you ultimately presented me with a perfect world.
Who care that you may have contributed to my naivety, when on the other hand you gave me everything I ever needed?
I was never reliant on my parents and was never trapped within the small confines of my garden.
You gave me the opportunity to grow into my own skin, to become independent and to be trusted by my parents.
If I wandered inches out of your barricaded camp, I discovered houses of all shapes and sizes, roofs tilted and slanted at all angles and assorted exteriors of various textures; the surrounding land oozed authenticity.
In contrast, your methodically planned streets and houses were, at a glance, similarly built and in the simplest of forms. Undoubtedly you would be perceived as plain and boring by any passing local.
However, to me, you had unique character.
Each street contained slightly different sized houses that provided a game of spot-the-difference, whilst walking to get my friends.
Each street had a cosy blanket of wood that encircled it, providing me with endless adventures (and multiple scars from falls and thorns).
Best of all, each street had a certain house colour whether it be beau blue, cameo pink, deep mauve, or in my case, jasmine yellow.
One day I code named my street “the yellow brick road” and sent my friends on a wild goose chase to find me.
Crouched in the woods behind the rusting garages at the end of my road, I sent texts “hotter”, “colder” and “freezing” as they edged forwards and backwards outside my house, arguing over where the yellow brick road could possibly be.
To me, you were everything.
Whenever, I see a housing estate even remotely similar to you, I feel that sense of warmth and belonging hit me with a jolt.
However, they will never come near in comparison to you, JHQ.
Pictures arrived the other day JHQ, and it kills me to say it, but you are now no more than a ghost town.
Your houses are almost all abandoned, lifeless and in need of love.
You gave me such a wonderful childhood, JHQ, and it’s deeply upsetting to know that soon you will be no more than an empty shell.
Your purpose has been fulfilled and your existence is no longer required.
Nature will soon be glad to reclaim its domain.
You are a place I will never be able to wonder again; a place I will never be able to confide in when upset or confused, or a place that can give others what you gave to me.
However, even though you are starting to pass away, you will certainly never leave me, you are a place I am proud to have experienced.
Thank you JHQ for all you have given me, I miss you and will always treasure you.