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When is a house a home? Tuesday July 18, 2017

Our children were born in this house – we would probably be there still, but it's under the M25.

In 2003 (in UK) I wrote an article entitled 'Home, Sweet Home' in response to an excellent sermon given by our priest, a New Zealander.

We were about to leave our country of birth, England, our country of adoption, France, to go to a country of poverty and much homelessness, India.

A daughter was in Qatar, among strangers, at some danger then. Another son and family lived in Australia. So where IS the gathering place for our family? Has to be the one with the biggest house in reasonably easy reach of road, boat or plane.

Many emigrants to the Antipodes talked of going 'home' to the UK, even second generations born there. My mother used to talk of dying as 'going home', and one's final resting place is subject to much debate.

Our roots are well spread; we are not a family with a claim to fame, so that our graves would not be visited by strangers. By common consent in the family the parish where we were married, five children baptised, one daughter married, and where my mother lies under an ancient oak seemed the likeliest place, so we are 'booked in' via a faculty from the diocese.

But as people are more mobile, and live longer, to get ourselves carted expensively from one country to another to be buried next to Mum is not really practical. Lots of ex-pats are cremated then their ashes returned to whatever passes as the family plot, or where they were born. But we don't like cremation. Morbid thoughts, maybe, but like wills somebody has to do them so not to leave a mess.

In England, sadly, because of wild property fluctuations, a 'home' is less a centre of family love and comfort than a way of making money. In the sermon our priest said his reminder of home was people and atmosphere. To me, it is warmth, a beautiful cat, loads of books, and an ever open door to friends and strangers alike. The French call it 'a corner to cry in'.

How do YOU see 'home'?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Orangeblossom Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 6:12am

Hi The Gardener I read your blog with lots of interest. I originally come from Nairobi in Kenya. My birth family live in USA but I have a few scattered cousins living in England and a family going back to Nairobi which I haven't visited since 2002. We live in a university market town called Lampeter in West Wales. We moved there thirty years ago in August from Birmingham.
I consider Lampeter home as I have the chaps here (son & husband). Our daughter lives in West London. She successfully escaped. I didn't but have learnt finally to enjoy where I live. It has been a slow process but it seems that I am reaching another level of contentment.
Hope that you and Mr. G have a reasonable week. Am thinking of you.

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 8:21am

My father moved to Lampeter in the 50's, using the Old Rectory (I think) as a B & B. He was with a lovely lady called Sabina Demel, homeless and stateless, being a displaced person after the war, born Czech. Papa is buried in Brecon cemetery, one of the loveliest views in the UK, throughout his turbulent life he kept a love for Wales.

Jane SG Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 6:42am

Hi TG. Home us where the heart is. I'm not sure at the moment. I'm torn between my parents and children and what I will want for myself when my youngest leaves home xx

LP Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 7:23am

I still live in our first home, with my 2 children, where they grew up.
I feel at home here. It's where we come back to at the end of our day and wonder what's for dinner!
It's where they and I still want to be on Christmas mornings. It's where we feel a sense of relief of coming back to after being away and feel the comfort of our own beds. It's where the family sofa is.
We have a beautiful view, which would be hard to match. The house is too small and prices are too high.I've known people to say that it's surprising how if you pack up to move, the home becomes just a house, a shell.
My ex needed to leave as it became unlivable for him to be here.
It's been 6 years now and I need to find someone supportive who can guide me through the divorce procedure, as simply as possible, without charging a fortune. It seems daunting but I can't put it off for much longer.
Thank you for a chance to reflect TG. Am also hinking of you and hope that one day at a time you mange in these difficult times. Hugs, LP xx
Ps I will be away for a couple of weeks soon and may check in if I can, or may immerse myself in the experience with everything about my home life on pause for a while. I'll go with my flow. Love to all LPxx

Lexi Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 12:44pm

HI LP, I too live in the first house that we bought and where I am raising our daughter. Her father moved out a couple years ago. This home is small but it's ours. We too love our family couch and it's our haven at the end of the day. I do hope you find someone supportive to help you through the divorce. Love to you, Lexi

Jane SG Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 10:41pm

Dear LP, divorce is so hard but you can, and will, go through it and come out the other side stronger. Enjoy your two week break when you go. Lots of love Jane xx

LP Wed, Jul 19th 2017 @ 12:39am

Thanks Lexi and Jane xx

Jul Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 8:16am

Salut Gardener. What a very interesting blog and a lovely picture of your former house in England. I agree about the view we have in the UK about property and how different it is to the rest of Europe where property prices do not fluctuate so much and are not seen as investments. We bought our house in France because we loved it at first sight and paid slightly too much for it but vendors price their houses here according to how much they want for it,not market value. Our house in S.E England was the only house we could afford at the time. However both homes are very dear to me. At last I have found two places which I never want to sell. My French house is furnished with second hand things bought in Trocs/depot vents over here and second hand shops in the UK and brought over here in car loads.I think that's partly why I love it.It's not smart and never will be. I am lucky to have it. In England our house is by a river at the back and a main road at the front so not perfect. However I feel a sense of freedom there. I don't feel constrained by what the neighbours think, none of our gardens are picture perfect, our jetties are quite old and shabby with little boats and some of the houses need renovation. I can be myself living there. Jul xx

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 8:27am

To Jul, LP and Jane SG. You are lucky Jul, happy in two homes. After a week-end with a son which was mostly excellent except for occasional hurtful criticism (perhaps I am too 'touchy') I am working on a blog which concerns more and more people - the awful decisions which have to be made after death of a partner, break-up of a marriage (and sorting out the children) - just plain 'down-sizing', because the decisions have to be made under emotional stress - LP obviously having to cope with this xx

LP Wed, Jul 19th 2017 @ 12:39am

So true TG. Xx

Helen Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 9:02am

Hello TG. I lost my home when I was 15 and the family moved. I was devastated and angry (complicated reasons) and unable to consider the beautiful house we moved to home. Now I live in an ordinary 3 bed semi. I've lived there for 17 years, the longest I have lived anywhere, and can finally call it home. It has taken me 40 years to find this feeling again. Home is a complex thing. To me it is my refuge, the place I most want to be, the place where I can be myself and nobody will judge me. I can open it up to friends and family or close the gate and hide. I try not to invest too much in stuff, but you are right about about the cat (mine is particularly feisty but I love him), and as many good books as I can squeeze in! Helen x

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 10:36am

Helen - my parents split up when I was 15 - I stayed in the family 'home' but it had never been a 'home' so no regrets when that, too, ended up under the motorway. Just come back from 'other' house - and noted my shop window. It reflects the last paragraph of my blog. Both houses are for sale (don't ask me reasons) and I used the theme 'home'. Beautifully laid table, picture of super cat (on a birthday card this year), bookcase and 'bienvenue' on the table. The importance of a cat puzzles non cat-lovers - perhaps because they are apt, through their supreme self-confidence, to be challenging.

Dolphin Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 10:47am

Morning Gardener - your blog is just what I am pondering all the time. Thanks for the thoughts.
I have to decide where to live (and in which hemisphere) after a relationship breakup and the probability that I won't be able to afford the UK in retirement.
Last year when I was dealing with the breakup, I had a clear vision that I was my own home. I am able to create a cosy nest wherever I am, find activities I enjoy, and make new friends. Now I am not so sure. Although both my parents died in the last 5 years, my dearest, long-standing friends are in the southern hemisphere. They represent a lot of 'home' because they have known me from school days and early career. They carry my memory as I do theirs.
On a simple level, I now define 'home' as a nest, growing herbs to cook with and animals (which I have to borrow at the moment because of my work which involves travel to other countries). I have also tried applying Lex's levels. The first is optimism - where I can see a future - and safety (a problem where I come from). The second is as he described: faith in myself and others and would imply some sort of involvement in a community for me. The third - love.
So where does that leave me? Especially when one of the most basic questions of safety is an issue? I am still pondering!!!

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 1:14pm

Your ability to make a 'nest' - 'be it never so humble' is vital - but unless you are a hermit outside contacts and old friends are also vital. You are in the same quandary as so many whose work and family have spread them round the globe. When we moved to France, 25 years ago, there was a good choice of ferries, with low period and week-end offers. These have all gone. We had enough money and health to go to India and the Far East, we'd meet UK friends for holidays in Europe, Aussie friends in Malaya. Safety, luckily, has never been one of the factors in our decision making - best of luck - I am glad you have kept friends - some of our children have not kept up with old friends, nor made new - I feel it's a great mistake

Wyvern Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 12:10pm

I don't have a specific place to call home. Home for me is, I think, wherever I find 'hygge', which I equate with something like 'cosy and comfortable'. This can be either physical or mental. Sometimes it's the people I am with, sometimes it's the place itself. I like Dolphin's idea of a nest, which to me sounds very hygge.

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 1:20pm

Our kitchen/dining room could not be called 'cosy'. It had to be designed to be functional and cluttered to deal with Mr G's physical problems - and it's a popular meeting place, nevertheless. I wrote a blog on 'The Empty Chair', that chair is now Mr G's sanctuary, his haven, in the world which has crashed round both our heads. I've always loved making a 'home' (7th currently) and feel comfortable and relaxed in every room of our ex shop.

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 1:21pm

Mistakes - cluttered should be 'uncluttered', even the cat settles on the back of an armchair.

Wyvern Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 3:07pm

Home can be so many different things to different people, can't it? Although I love the boat I live on, it's not what I would call home in the emotional sense, so I go for the atmosphere that conjures up the feelings I would want of a physical home.

Jul Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 7:38pm

Is your boat in the UK, Wyvern? Is it a house boat with permanent moorings? It does sound rather nice but I dare say not much space. They always look so cosy on TV programmes with their wood burners etc. Where would you really like to set up home? Jul xx

the room above the garage Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 3:40pm

Hello TG, I simply love you. Adore this post today, it is dear to me. I now have 3 teenagers so clawing together a 'home' feeling through any means is important to me. Home for me is anywhere you feel most yourself with those who like you that way. A tiny village in the west of Scotland is where my heart is. Thank you for lifting my day, love ratg xxx.

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 4:07pm

Thanks RATG. Sad reminder of the house v home. A son has just spent 4 days here - he had a wife, two super kids and a beautiful house and garden. The marriage was somewhat tempestuous and broke up years ago. I and my co-grandmother were there. Our reaction? Not 'how sad', but 'what a pity to leave this lovely house'. But, nice, not only the daughter coming to our new 'home', (3rd visit) but her Mum e-mailed 'can I come too?' Super.

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 4:15pm

Such a coincidence - on Radio 4 now 'A place called Home' David Blunkett going back to his roots in Sheffield

Jul Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 7:40pm

Hello Gardener. Your blog today has been rather comforting and conjured up nice feelings so thank you. Jul xx

The Gardener Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 8:04pm

Thanks everybody for most interesting insights into 'home'. Nutty evening - first spoke to one of my History gurus - has prostate cancer - new treatment - hormone therapy - he will take on female attributes? Then spoke to d-in-law whose daughter's wedding I will attend next week in UK. Mother does a good trade in lodging a wide variety of animals in the holiday. I said I would NOT share my room with rats or snakes - so she offered hamsters, rabbits or miniature hedgehogs?? Then friend with long-standing depression who was in the queue to talk - her daughter and family come to us Friday - the MCP father is still not speaking to her after some long-standing row. Once again, I feel I ought to have a Samaritans board outside my house. Market tomorrow - all my pals, unless washed out by another storm. C'est la vie OK if you can stand the pace. Love to all xxx

Mary Wednesday Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 10:47pm

Oh, I hate coming late to this wonderful blog. I have read the comments above with interest - or maybe fascination. Home - interesting... I was born in Suffolk, but at the age of four, after my father took his own life, we moved to a farm in rural Huntingdonshire, on the edge of the Fens.

Although I took it for granted before I moved away, whenever I returned from University and we would drive home from Peterborough Railway Station, I would smell the scent of bog oak burning (like the peat fires of the Scottish Highlands) and know I was home.

I lived in Hull for many years, and then in London where I met and married my husband, a Surrey man. For him, Surrey will always be everything that is civilised and English. Nevertheless, we have settled back in Huntingdon, just ten miles from the farm where I grew up.

Is this home? I think the area is. The Fens are home, although I feel most at peace in our beach house on the East Coast. But, at the risk of sounding - um - whatever this sounds like - my home is where my books are; where my cat(s) are; where my computer is (and by extension, my friends all over the world) and finally, where I can pray. Because, at the end of it all, home is a Spiritual place and one's home is in the heart of one's God.

S Wed, Jul 19th 2017 @ 8:27pm

Huntingdon is a beautiful town. I've only visited it, but the generation of my family above mine spent lots of time there, and in years passed, there were half a dozen households of relatives there since before the second world war. I grew up hearing about it down there so much so, I could almost hear the doodlebugs my grandmother used to see over London, and down by the canals, almost hear my aunts and uncles laughing as they played in the water each summer. And sadly, almost taste the fear as they locked themselves in cupboards during the shooting. It's not home whatsoever, but it's a beautiful and history rich place I feel lots of affection for.

S Wed, Jul 19th 2017 @ 8:28pm

Oops I'm so stupid, ahaha. I was thinking of Hungerford there. Why did I think they were the same? Silly, sorry.

Mary Wednesday Tue, Jul 18th 2017 @ 10:49pm

Oh - and a saying which I will think you will appreciate, Gardener; "A house may be a home; but, without a cat, how can it prove it?"

David Wed, Jul 19th 2017 @ 7:51am

Where ever I leave my hat is my home around the World.

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