It is time to write my blog again and I have been looking forward to this precious moment. Writing is a brilliant way for me to process the dynamic flow of changes that are currently coursing through my life. Our new baby, extensive hotel renovations and the ongoing learning curve of being a step-mum can sometimes make my day-to-day life feel in a constant state of flux.
Today’s post is inspired by this postcard that a friend recently sent me from London. It got me thinking about home and what that word means to me. Here are 5 very personal definitions of home:
1) Home is…where I was born.
I was born in Dulwich Hospital (London) and lived in neighbouring Peckham until I was 13. To this day I still feel a warm affection for Peckham and enjoy going back. This small area of South East London is where I first began to learn about the world around me. I remember streets with funny names like “Oglander” and “Gowlett”, Peckham Rye Park with its ducks and bandstand, the cul-de-sac where I learnt to ride a bike, the swimming pool where I learnt to swim…I remember the journey to primary school – often travelling on the back of Mum or Dad’s bike!
Little details spring to mind, like the pelican crossing where the kind lollipop lady once gave me a toy telephone as a present. The fish and chip shop where my mum, brother and I would buy dinner every Friday after swimming. Excitingly, they introduced a new product called Southern fried chicken in the 90s, which quickly became our Friday night staple. (Incidentally, for anyone that knows my brother’s longstanding affection for fried chicken…perhaps this is where it all began!!)
2) Home is…where I had the best year of my life.
It was 2004, I was in my early 20s and I was on a plane jetting off to the Cote D’Azur. Not for a quickie summer holiday – oh no, this was far more exciting – I was going to live there for an entire year! 10 years of classroom French was finally to be put into practice as I began my year abroad. I was on the cusp of a new adventure – about to live out that year in the city of Nice as a language assistant.
Nice is a beautiful city with a beach. And pavement cafes. And delicious French bakeries, enticing French restaurants and real French people who, like, did real French stuff. No more reading about it all in textbooks…this was France for real!!
And, oh, how I loved that year. I was working in a tiny village called Villeneuve Loubet. On my first day my boss apologised to me for the state of the school lunch saying, “today’s smoked salmon starter is not brilliant”. I stared goggle-eyed at the rows of 4 year old’s sitting at tables, reverentially eating their salmon starter. (Starter?!) My experience of UK school meals (pre-Jamie Oliver) was a canteen-style buffet where I generally stuck to the safe option of a jacket potato! Here in Villeneuve Loubet there was table service and every child enjoyed a 3 course meal. This was the first of many eye-opening moments that year, which challenged my assumptions about food, teaching, learning and life in general.
And, I suppose, because it was such a formative and intense year full of colourful experiences (not to mention colourful people!) there is a part of me that will always feel at home in Nice.
3) Home is…my favourite foods
Sometimes, home is a feeling. That sense of being ‘at home.’ Favourite foods can create this feeling e.g. my mum’s chocolate cake, which I enjoyed at every childhood birthday I can remember, the home-made gnocchi and pesto from my favourite family restaurant in Nice, baked beans, a good English breakfast, a freshly made French croissant, a fluffy scone with jam and clotted cream… Each of these foods is a little slice of home.
4) Home is…my nearest and dearest
Family, friends, my pet dog…spending time with the ones I love makes me feel at home.
5) Home is…where I live now
Home is the familiar routines of preparing breakfast at Urshult Hotell, feeding my baby boy, walking beside Lake Åsnen, singing with Urshult Kyrka choir and Swedish classes at Wasaskolan, Tingsryd.
We have been living in Urshult Hotell now for 1 year, 2 months and 5 days. I have seen winter, spring, summer and autumn here. We have experienced the hotel’s busy summer season and quieter winter season. I have experienced both pregnancy and birth here.
Urshult definitely feels like home.
What about you? Where do you call home?