This week’s Theme Game theme is ‘home’. It’s funny how, no matter where I go, or where I live, or where I choose to settle, there is still a little corner of South West London which will always be my true home. My parents still live there, perhaps without them there it wouldn’t be the same. I know that when they sold my childhood home, 11 years ago now, I didn’t mourn for that particular house the way I thought I would.
But now, when I visit Teddington, Hampton Wick, Kingston, Richmond and Twickenham it does feel like going home. Places like Bushy Park (where I learned to ride my bike), The Teddington Cheese (which used to sell coal!), the Anglers pub down at Teddington Lock, the Broom Road ‘Wreck’ (as I always used to think it was spelled) where I swang almost high enough for my feet to touch the branches, before running down to the riverside to feed the ducks and make swings in the fronds of the many willow trees lining the banks, or climb into their gnarled branches for an impromptu picnic – all these places are a part of who I am.
I have seen the way Kingston town has developed and this sense of bearing witness to the history of a physical space makes it feel like home.
I remember once, when I was about 22, going with one of my best Uni friends to stay at her Grandad’s house in the mountains outside Perpignan on the French/Spanish border. He was a world renowned doctor and had another home in Paris. He had obviously travelled the world and lived in many places. We got talking and he asked me where in the world I had lived. At that point it was literally my childhood home in Teddington and my Uni digs in Brighton. He was shocked! I guess by my age he had travelled and moved around and re-located several times. For me though, that made him a nomad. I think there is something a little poignant in the expression ‘wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’. It speaks of rootlessness and transience.
Last time we visited my Mum and Dad and passed through Teddington, I pointed out my old childhood home to JJ and explained that ‘that’s where Mummy grew up’. A few beats later he said ‘Mummy, is that where I grew up?’ and I had to explain that there was a time in my life when he didn’t exist, long before I ever met his father. I think this was a bit mind blowing for him and I’m not sure he accepts the validity of it even now!
It makes me feel a bit weird to think that his childhood memories will be of the town we live in now – about 30 miles from my old stomping ground. We have only lived here for 6 years and whilst I know a lot of this, and the surrounding areas, intimately, and feel AT home here, I don’t think I will ever think of it as my ‘True North’. But maybe my children will.
Underneath all of these ponderings though, I realise that home is where you feel safe and comfortable. And most importantly home is where your loved ones are to be found. Maybe, at the root of it all, ‘home’ is ultimately about people, and not about places at all…