Home is such an evocative word, isn’t it? And I think it means something different to everyone. For those who have settled a long way from where they started, either by choice or circumstance, it can refer to a country. For others it is the place where they were raised and for many it is the house (or other dwelling) in which they live.
But what if nowhere feels like home?
This is something that I’ve thought about a lot. When I was a girl, my family went through a period when we moved house regularly because of my dad’s job. In the late 70s and early 80s, I attended five different schools in seven years. Each time we packed up and moved on, my brother and I had to resettle ourselves in the new place. I think I got quite good at it. I enjoyed having new schools, new friends and a new bedroom! It was an adventure, each fresh town like a fairground ride that I hadn’t tried out before.
Then, when I was sixteen, we made what would turn out to be the final move to the town where I still live – Ilkley in Yorkshire. (If you’re interested in Ilkley then there is a free PDF about my favourite parts of the town in the Reading Room – just sign up to my newsletter to get the password.) So, you would think Ilkley would be where I think of when someone says ‘home’. After all, apart from leaving to go to university, I’ve been here for almost forty years.
And yet it doesn’t. I still feel like I’m passing through, that I’ll be here for a bit and then I’ll move on to the next place. I don’t consider myself a Yorkshire person either. My husband is from Yorkshire, born and bred, as are my children. My parents and brother live here as do my husband’s family. I couldn’t have a closer association with a place – and yet. . .
When writers have something to say . . .
they often find it working its way into a book. All my stories are about family and have homes at their centre but what if the characters don’t want to be there? What if, rather like me, they feel adrift and ungrounded?
Reluctantly Home explores this issue. In the book, we meet two characters who both felt the need to escape from the place they should call home, only to find themselves, through no fault of their own, thrust right back there again. For them, the word ‘home’ doesn’t conjure safety. They don’t see home as a happy place where they are free to live, laugh and learn, where they are loved, respected, and cared for, even though one of the characters most certainly has a loving and supportive family behind her. Rather, home is stifling, somewhere that is holding them back and preventing them from being who they want to be.
Recently I saw the Oscar and BAFTA winning film Nomadland which is, unsurprisingly, about people who choose a lifestyle that is radically different from the norm. Walking home, I discussed the film’s message with my companion and was not entirely surprised to discover how differently we had each interpreted the film.
They had seen is as a sad and quite depressing story of never being able to put roots down and needing to be constantly moving on, looking for something new. I saw it in exactly the same way, but whilst for them this lack of ties was what made the film quite downbeat, I interpreted this as a positive. The nomads chose to travel, moving on whenever things changed and never staying in one place longer than they needed to to achieve certain goals. What’s not to love about that?!
Basically, we concluded, the answer came down to what an individual is looking for to find contentment. For my companion, it was to feel safe and secure in one place. For me, it was to still feel safe and secure but not to attach that to one particular location.
What I have discovered over the years, is that it’s very hard to explain the need to keep moving to a person who doesn’t feel it. I’m not sure I have done that successfully yet . . . but I keep trying.
Of course, I’m not unhappy in my ‘home’. Ilkley is a delightful town in which to live and bring up children. We have a lovely house which is generally filled with music and laughter, and I’m sure all my children feel grounded and secure. It’s just that I think I will always feel like I’m just passing through . . .
Reluctantly Home is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook.