Friday, October 05, 2007


This is another guest post from Ian (Shades of) Grey

One of the downsides of moving (and travelling) abroad is in missing home. Sometimes it is just a mild yearning because you know that you are missing an event with friends. Other times it can be a wave of self doubt. Why am I here? Was it a mistake? If I hadn't have come here what would I be doing instead?

My first attack of the latter was when I left home to go and work/study in Coventry, back in the mid 70s. As a City it was much less vibrant than Newcastle and the Pubs seemed a lot less relaxed. My first awareness of this was in seeing all of the buses roar out of the Pool Meadow Bus Station at exactly 10:30 (Pubs closed at 10:30 as well in those days) and finding out there wasn't an all night bus service. My real first yearning for home was unexpected and also Bus related: I was walking through the City Centre towards Broadgate (home of the Lady Godiva statue) and saw the destination board through the trees. It said Wyken but I misread it as Byker. I suddenly felt very alone, sad and disappointed. This was entirely unexpected as Byker is not a part of Newcastle to yearn for, having a reputation for Pubs where you chalked up your name on the dartboard for the next fight. (I have mentioned the Byker Raby before on my own Blog). I realised quickly that the reacton was causal, my sub-conscious shouting up that there was too much change and seeking solace in familiarity.

Despite spending a year in Norway, I never felt homesick there at all. This was because I was on a "six home flights a year contract" so I was never more than a couple of months from some R&R and could juggle the dates and flights to suit. There were times when I was bored of course and going to the Pub involved some serious Wonga at £2.50 a half Litre when it was less than a Pound back home (& not a short measure either).

I followed this with a year in Saudi Arabia and realised very quickly that this was a bad move. The role was a bit of a non-job with lots of make-work and the terms & conditions were unilaterally degraded during the year. I verbally resigned within about six weeks of starting but my Boss managed to persuade me to stick it out which I did but essentially as an economic mercenary. The TV was much better there (the oil company had its own TV channel) but it was heavily censored, as were the films in the camp cinema. I saw "10" with most of the racy bits cut out (kissing couples did the Saudi two step, where they approached and then backed away again). I recall going to see the Blues Brothers, seeing a Nun in the credits and wondering what happened to her in the movie as she had been completely snipped out. This contract was based on two weeks off every four months or so and it gave me (and everyone else) plenty of anticipation time to the forthcoming holiday. (Lots of my workmates just went to Bangkok rather then back to North America). (You can read more views of my Saudi year on my blogif the whimsy takes you).

Another time when homesickness kicked in was a trip to Doha for a week which stretched out to a month when I was held to moral ransom whilst specialists tried to fix a peculiar software problem over a dial-in link during the early hours. I got to be really friendly with my "kidnapper", which is common for hostage victims!

Sometimes homesickness is for a time as well as a place. I am still very fond of Coventry but for the memory of my friends there, not the architecture which was rather lacking. (What survived the Blitz was subsequently blighted by the Planners).

Now, approaching middle age, I find that I can get homesick just spending a couple of nights away from home. Not that I am necessarily missing anything other than that warm comfort of being totally at ease with the family. But having been an only child and having married late in life, the joy, trust and acceptance of simply belonging is still quietly delightful.

P.S. I didn't realise that my last post here was only yesterday!


jmb said...

Very interesting post Shades.

I never felt homesick for Australia when I lived in England for I thought I would go back there. When we moved to Canada (supposedly for two years only) I could hardly wait to go back, but after two years I had settled here and we never did.

Now I have only a three week tolerance from being away from home. After that I want to go home to Vancouver.
Good post.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I'm very glad you posted again so quickly, Shades. Fascinating insights, especially into Saudi Arabia. fancy being held to "moral ransom"! Must have been scary. I agree that you can homesick for a time - the Cardiff I sometimes feel nostalgia for is not the place as it is now. I really love your last paragraph here . Thank you again.


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