Home (and whatever the hell that means)

“Home”, and what the word really represents, is one I’ve considered a lot. Maybe it’s down to me having moved around a lot as a kid.

In my time, I’ve often been asked “Where are you from?” I’ve never really been able to give a straight answer. I used to say, “Well, I’m not really sure.” It seems a pretty strange answer. How can I not know where I’m from? Well, I just never stayed anywhere long enough.

I was born in Manchester, way back in 1981. I was still a baby when I left. Obviously I have no memories of life in the city. I have early memories of Rochdale. I was about maybe four or five when I was in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I remember being six in Edinburgh. I was nine when I moved to Reading (it was 1990, the year of the World Cup in Italy). Fourteen took me to Stourbridge. Eighteen to Slough.

I could say that Berkshire is my home region. The closest thing I have to a home town is probably Reading. I spent my early formative years there, and when I was in Slough, I spent most of my free time there. But now, except for a couple of old friends and some damn good memories, I have nothing there. I haven’t even set foot in the town since 2008.

In spite of — or maybe because of —  all that moving around, I always settled quickly in a place. “Home is where you hang your fucking hat,” I used to say. Where ever I went after I was free of the restrictions of childhood, I settled in pretty quick. I wouldn’t say I made friends easily, but I felt comfortable. I never really needed very much. As long as I had my books, my guitar, and music to listen to, I was fine. Mostly. Obviously, we are social animals, so being alone for a long time gets depressing.

After leaving home, I lived in Ironbridge Gorge, Bath, Brighton, Lincoln, Kamakura (Japan), each for a few months to a year, and no matter how long (or short) it was, I felt comfortable. Happy. At home…

Which is why I always said what I used to say.

In 2009, I moved to Frankfurt, Germany. A country I never even thought about visiting. I upped and left my homeland, to take up a job. At the time, I never really imagined I’d end living here for seven(soon to be eight) years. I said then, I’d see for a couple of years, get some work experience, and then head back. That never happened. But, in that seven years, I’ve really learned to appreciate what home is.

Home really isn’t just a place to rest your head. That’s a purely practical thing. Home is not just having a few friends around. Home is having a place that, after a long journey, you get back and breath a sigh of a relief. Not because you can rest, but because it kind of completes you being there. It’s a feeling that’s really hard to express with words, but only when I didn’t have it did I realise what it was. I think after a long journey everyone’s happy to have a chance to rest. But when returning home there’s always something else. Kind of like when you’re away there’s a piece missing, and only when you get back do you find it again.

But I’ve been living in Germany for a long time now. It’s the longest time I’ve spent in any single city. When ever I returned “home”, from wherever I’d been, I never really felt like I was being reconnected with that missing piece. I only ever felt that relief that I didn’t have to travel anymore. I don’t look upon the cityscape and feel a soothing contentment at being home.

But then, when I look at the events going on back in the UK, I wonder if the country that I had always loved even exists anymore. I mean in spirit, of course. Maybe I’m guilty of living in a bit of an arty, liberal bubble.

I was naturally drawn to people like me. People who thought like me. I guess that cut me off from what a lot of people seem to think. The politics of division are going wild, stoked by Farage and his ilk, and the festering wounds under the nation’s skin have burst. I feel like my country has been dissolved in my absence, like Tom Hanks’s character in “Terminal”. It seems that my green and precious land — the one of tolerance, individuality, of generally progressive values — was a fantasy. A pure fantasy. My liberal, progressive utopia never existed, except in my own little bubble.

Stateless. Homeless. Even if I do actually have a place to hang my fucking hat.

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