Belongings

Belongings

Being here for a few weeks, it becomes a sort of temporary home. The duration, 7 weeks, doesn’t feel like a holiday and we bring our life and work with us. So, we’re busy, just in a different place with the same, very small amount of idling time. The place isn’t ours; it’s just a small rental but the same one each year means you get to know its foibles. You become familiar with the one tall glass in the cupboard that’s rough around the rim, the clock that never works, the dodgy boiler, the enveloping presence of IKEA. You’re accustomed, acclimatised. Once you’ve unpacked, your books are on the shelf, the old, no-longer-white Le Creuset casserole I use to bake bread is on the worktop, the dressing gowns are on the back of the door, once these things are in place it feels a little like home.

I’ve been preoccupied with the notion of ‘home’ recently. No doubt to do with the reordering of my native world since my mother’s passing last year. My tribe is dwindling, the Scottish strand of my world becomes more tenuous and fragile, more complicated to manage, more needing to be thought about so as not to lose by neglect.

I was in a conversation last week with a couple who took early retirement and came to live here 11 years ago. Sold up, moved out of the UK. They spend a lot of their time travelling all over the world but this is where they come back to, where their belongings are. Funny that word, ‘belongings’;  the last letter makes all the difference. I was interested to know, given their lack of rootedness here, where they considered to be home, where they had a sense of belonging. He responded as if it was not really a question worth discussing. He likes it here and would never go back. She seemed more attuned to the nub of the question. But she couldn’t say. She seemed troubled by it. Maybe some things are better not thought about.

Does it matter where home is? Sure it does, even though I know it’s, likely, one of those First World preoccupations of which one must be wary. Displacement, migrations and homelessness-es much deeper than hers or mine are all around us.

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