Two songs I love to sing along to spring to mind when I think about “home”. The first was sung by Paul Young when I came across it in the 80s. The line that sticks in my mind is “wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home”. I was an avid hat wearer in those days (before it became more practical as a head warmer), but I think the song appealed to me because I wanted to leave the parental home.
It was the exposure to new people with new ideas that presented a possibility. I remember discovering my fellow college students were applying to university, the thought intrigued me. I had up to that point assumed I would get a job and start earning after my A levels. The plan was to become an accountant because somehow I knew people who were good at mathematics became accountants, and accountants earned lots of money. I can’t be sure what the driver was, but I do know that when I looked into which universities to apply to, the short list all were north of Loughborough. Since my world back then consisted of the south coast and occasional visits to London, this was rather radical.
The other song is by Depeche Mode and in that one the line that strikes me is, “Finally I’ve found that I belong here”. Where as in the first song, home is just where I happen to be, there is a sense of belonging to a home too for some. The latter implies a history with a place, whereas the former implies living in the present.
I went to University in York in the end, 250 miles away from the parental home. After my degree, I popped “home” for a year before continuing my studies, and to live in Edinburgh (500 miles away now). Twenty five years later I still live in Scotland.
When I think of home now, it is the house that I’ve lived in for the past twenty years. I am obviously not a Paul Young kind of guy it turns out, but I am not sure that I feel I belong here either. Home is a place of safety I think, somewhere I can sing, dance, think, write, and relax. Home is a safe place then, and recently I’ve realised that I’m not very good at sharing it. I’m also not very good at being alone so perhaps for me a home needs solitary places and communal ones.
Strangely enough, when I visit my mother now, that environment feels familiar, comfortable and a tapestry of memories. A part of me belongs in the south coast then, and by arriving back in a place, I realise a part of me belongs in where ever I have lived. Perhaps home then is a place where memories are made with others.