Tuesday 24 February 2009

a room is still a room....

My wife informed me the other day that I would be on my own this weekend because she is going home. It's an odd turn of phrase, isn't it? We've lived together for something like eight years, and we've been in the same house together for a little over six of those years... and yet when she goes to visit her mum and dad in France, she says she's going home. She hasn't lived there for fifteen years or so, and it's not really the house that she grew up in, but it's still home; it was the place her parents were living when she moved out.

Home. I'm not really sure what that means. I was born in Northampton and my parents lived in the same house a few miles outside that town for something like thirty-four years before they moved last year. Does that mean I should consider Northampton my home town? Did I think of that old house as my home? Was I sorry when my parents moved down the road? Not really.

Someone once told me that they thought I had a Northampton accent. If that's true, then I have absolutely no idea how I picked it up. My dad is from Plymouth and my mum is from Essex and I was born in Northampton General for the simple reason that both my parents were working there and living just by the hospital. The worked in the hospital itself, actually. Neither has an accent of any description, as far as I can tell, and anyway, I don't even know what a Northampton accent sounds like. I hardly picked one up by osmosis from the locals either - I was sent away to boarding school when I was seven years old. Although I suppose I technically didn't leave home for another eighteen years, when I finally finished University, to all intents and purposes, from the age of seven, I was spending more than thirty weeks of every year living somewhere completely different: at school until I was eighteen, then as an undergraduate at University for three years, and finally as a postgraduate for another twelve months. In that time, home was probably still near Northampton with my parents, but you were far more likely to find me in, successively, Brackley, Rugby, Coventry, Leamington Spa, Venice or York*

Northampton has never felt like my home town, it was just where I was born. Even the house that I called home wasn't where I spent the majority of my time or near where my friends were; it was just where my parents lived and where I spent my holidays.

I moved to Nottingham on the day that Princess Diana died in 1997, and I've lived here ever since. That's more than a decade now, and certainly the longest I have ever solidly lived in one town in my whole life. Since January 2003, I've even lived in the same house (I can remember painting the skirting board of the dining room on the day that Hans Blix revealed to the world that he had not been able to find any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq).

Does that make Nottingham home? I suppose the fact that my parents have moved out of the house I grew up in helps clear things up a bit, but is Nottingham now my home town?

Home. It's just a word, isn't it?

* One of the great advantages of buying a house has been finally being able to fill in a form without needing to try and remember about twelve different addresses: I've now lived in one place for long enough that I only need to remember a couple.


  1. I grew up in the surroundings of Ealing, West London and was there for 22 years, from age 12 all the way to 34. Now I live in Perth, West Australia (it's only 17,000 miles away) and have done so for a few years.

    I guess I could live here for another 30 years, far exceeding my time in Ealing - but that was where I grew up, and that's what I consider home.

    My experience is that home is what you yearn for when you are feeling down - homesick; you want to get back to familiar surroundings but its all so despondantly far away.

  2. Even as a 7 year old at boarding school, I never felt homesick. I felt somehow that I should, but I never did and I don't think I ever have. I am where I am. I'm not sure I actively miss people either. I might wish they were around, but seem to be able to get on with life knowing that they're not. Seems like a waste of energy to do otherwise. Is that weird?

  3. My parents moved to their house in 1969, and even though I only lived there full-time for 7 (non-consecutive) years, I consider that "home". My hometown, however, is where I was born and where my mother's family (mostly) lives.

    I also refer to my current residence as home... Funny word, isn't it?

  4. For many a long year the house we've lived in in Nottingham has been "home" to me - child brought up there, the old nesting thing I guess. My parents moved house shortly after I left for University and have lived a couple of other places since, which cut the link for me with the house where they lived being the place I called home. My long time partner however always calls where his mother lives "home" - it is the actual house he grew up in - which used to annoy me, but then I later realised it was not intended as a slight on me.

    However I do feel a strong emotional connection to the North East where I grew up, as an area rather than any particular property - rather than to Nottingham where I've spent my adult life. As Crucifer says maybe its what you yearn for when you're feeling down. A connection with a more innocent time perhaps.

  5. Although I moved away over 20 years ago, I still refer to Wakefield as home. Can't help it.

  6. I grew up in the Yorkshire Dales and it was 'home', even when I was at college and then living 'away'. Most recently I spent 13 years in St Annes and it was never 'home', but after 11 months Lancaster IS ....go figure...Also, what you said about not actively missing people, I think I know what you mean and share it, but I do think it's weird.

  7. What constitutes "home" is personal, I think, and will carry different meanings for different people. I still catch myself referring to my mother's house as "home," and I've been out of there for 15 years. But I also consider my current home, "home."

    As for accents, you wouldn't really notice yours, or even your parents'. We never hear our own accents, or of those around us who speak as we do. I don't think I have an accent, but Southerners will tell you I have an obnoxious Yankee accent. I could comment on the Southern drawl. New York, New Jersey, Boston, Long Island, etc. All have distinct accents. All would probably say that they don't.

    I suppose it's in the ear of the listener.

  8. I have really mixed feelings on where my home is since my mum's partner moved in to the house I grew up in. It's changed beyond recognition, and is very much their home as opposed to my childhood home, which is absolutely how it should be. But for some reason it makes me feel a bit rootless. Ridiculous at my age, I know.