Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What is Home?"

On 27th May, 2005 I sat on the bare floor of my house in Cardiff, Wales, UK and I cried.  My possessions were on their way to Sicily, my precious dog was in boarding kennels at Gatwick Airport, London and I was remembering the last time I had seen the house empty, 21 years before.  

I had not always been happy in that house - indeed, it held as many sad memories as pleasant ones for me - but it had been my refuge from the world for a long time and now, with only the echo of my own footsteps and sobs where once there had been friends' laughter, the sound of dogs barking and my mother's beloved voice, I felt as if my heart would break. 

Yet it had been my choice to go and I was about to do something I had been dreaming of for 36 years, for I was moving to Italy.  So what was it that made that little house so hard to leave for the last time?  What was it that had made me call it "home"?

What I realised with a shock on that day was that, for a while, I would no longer have a home and that revelation made me feel strangely lost in the world.  Home, then, was not just the place I came back to at the end of the day or the trip, but it somehow fixed me somewhere on this vast earth.  I opened and locked my own doors, I received utility bills, I "belonged" to a street, a community, a town.  Now, by a stroke of a pen, all that was gone and I had no "space" of my own.

In Watching the English the anthroplogist Kate Fox writes that the British "sport" of hating estate agents [realtors] stems from our obsession with the carefully demarcated little spaces in which we live:  to sell our home is to invite an intrusion into that space - in other words, an invasion of our haven, the place where we can look and do as we like - and to agree to have judgement passed upon it.  And I had hated the estate agents' visits, the uncaring marches of others across my "little plot of land" so much that I had nearly given up the whole project.  So we  can be fiercely protective of our "home", even when preparing to leave it.

My garden in Cardiff had long become too much for me and even before I reached that point, I liked to look at it but had never wanted to do the work involved in keeping it even marginally tidy!  But I had shed tears for my garden ornaments, too.  They had been part of my life and I had "talked" to my stone animals and people every day.  Some of them were given to good, new "homes" but others have made a happy transition to my balcony in Sicily and I greeted them again as I unpacked them here:

When Simi the dog and I first arrived in Sicily we lived, for a while, in a tiny, traditional house belonging to a kind friend. It was comfortable and cool for us during the first months of that summer of 2005 and, with its magnificent Sicilian locks, we felt safe there:

But it wasn't "home".  No mail came addressed to me there and, although my neighbours were pleasant enough, they knew that we weren't going to stay so we did not become part of their community.   The house didn't contain our things but, more importantly, it didn't contain our memories.  We lived there but we didn't "live our lives" there, as we did in Cardiff and as we do now in our flat.   Home is a place for making memories. 

Simi and me at home in Sicily

Here is a list of other blogs which are participating in this week's "Blog Off" theme:


Joseph said...

Wow, that’s quite a blog on this week’s topic! My wife and I went through the same thing when we left our home in Huntington Beach (about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, California) and moved to San Diego in 1982. That last night we both cried like babies at the thought of giving up our home in Huntington Beach. It took about a year before we were able to get a place as nice as the one we left. Man, that first place in San Diego never felt like home to us; to this day we refer to it as “the toilet!”

Paul Anater said...

I love hearing from ex-pats in Italy.it gives me hope that some day I may fit in there too. Thanks for joining in Pat.

Miss Footloose said...

Great post. I have dealt with the home issue many times since I have lived as a serial expat in a number of countries. I managed to make it home because it's where my family was and is.

I remember well the time we sold our house in the US before moving once again. It was disturbing at first to not have a place of our own anymore, but we got used to is.

Now I'm looking forward to a more permanent perch, but since we have not "roots" anymore anywhere, I don't know where that will be. Maybe Sicily ;)

Whispering Walls said...

But your home has definitely moved from Wales to Sicily. Brava!

Lucia said...

My home will always be on Kingston Road in Scarborough with my parents, and then again Scarborough where I first lived with my husband, moving to Pickering we made a home for Marina. It doesn't feel like my home, it feels like hers and Todd's home because he lived in Pickering for so long before marrying me and Marina's memories are all Pickering related.
Does it feel like home now Pat? I'm still trying to determine whether I feel at home in Pickering and it's been 10 years.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, Joseph. I'm gload I'm not the onloy one who cried at moving house! Thanks, Paul. Where would you like to live if you came to Italy? Hi, Miss Footloose. Yes, I know you have moved many times and I do admire the way in which you are determined to make a "home" in each country. You must let me know if you decide to settle here! Oh, definitely, WW. Hi, Lucia. I do understand. Oh, yes, it feels like home and I wouldn't wanht to go back. But it has not been, and is not, without difficulties.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Pat I have lived on the same block in Brooklyn my entire life! My Mom lives 7 houses away from mine. I often wondered why I have been content to stay put so long? I do love to travel so that is my way of seeing the world so I am never bored.

Anonymous said...

I visited Wales a couple of years ago. Spent a day in Swansea with friends, while traveling around England for three weeks.

Isn't it funny that (from an American perspective) we hear about these exotic places like Wales, or Italy and think how exciting it must be to LIVE there? But if it's not your home, it's not "home."

Anonymous said...

By the way, my wife's maiden name is Flewelling, a take on Prince Llewellyn!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Pat. And I often envy people who have always lived in the same place. It must be nice to have your Mum so near, too. Hi, Scott. Yes, it is strange but as ypou say, it is not "home" until you make it so. It's very nice to meet an American who has visited Wales on here and to know about your wife's lovely surname!

thatissocute said...

Great point about home being the place where you "live your life"!! Great post.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hello, thatissocute and welcome. Many thanks.


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