This week on Lorna’s Ginspiring Writing Prompts (or, #GinPrompts for short), Lorna asked a simple question: How far have you travelled from home?
I’m not what you’d call a natural traveller. Wanderlust doesn’t seem to be in my blood — while I occasionally want to be somewhere else, I’d usually prefer to already be there, without the fuss of actually getting there, and no matter how much I enjoy being away from home, I also find myself constantly anticipating getting back again. I’m Bilbo Baggins before his adventure, without a lot of interest in straying.
I like my creature comforts. My books. Food that I’ve cooked, in a kitchen I’m familiar with, safe in the knowledge that it’s probably not poisonous to me. (Although to be honest, these days I have no idea what I can and cannot digest. Thanks, IBS.)
I’ve lived in this house for nearly 22 years. We moved shortly before my first birthday, and I’ll be 23 in January (yikes). For the first eleven and a half years, I lived in the smallest room, second from the back of the house. For the ten after that, I’ve lived in the back room. I spent my childhood in a room with yellow flowery walls and blue floor, my early teen years in a pale green room (“Celtic Moor 6”, because I’m on brand like that), and the last few in a room that is a somewhat overwhelmingly bright shade of yellow.
Now, as an adult who will probably not be able to move out in the near future and the last of the children left at home, I’m preparing to occupy both of those rooms. We’re decorating the smaller one at the moment, which will be my bedroom; my current bedroom will be an office/library/living space, since it’s already almost entirely colonised by books anyway. They’ll be grown-up rooms, with more muted colour schemes than the current colour explosion. But ultimately, they’ll still be the same rooms I’ve lived in all my life.
(I fully acknowledge how lucky I am that my parents can afford for me to live at home, and also that I can have two rooms rather than one. There are some benefits to being the youngest child.)
Of course, I lived away from home during my university years, but the short Cambridge terms meant I was home as often as I was there. I left a part of my heart, a part of my sense of belonging, in the city of Cambridge when I left, and I think if given time, I could plant roots elsewhere. I have no great love of my hometown, and would love to live somewhere with more history, more books, and fewer Tories. But before anywhere else, this house is my home. Has more or less always been my home, since I don’t remember our old house at all. Feels sometimes like it always will be.
I have travelled, a little. The furthest I’ve ever been was to Canada, to visit my brother, because he moved out there in 2015. It was my first long-haul flight and, having broken my nose about two weeks earlier, that was probably my least favourite part of the trip.
Canada was nice, and it was good to see my brother again, but… part of me didn’t enjoy the huge scale of it. The fact you could drive for two days and ONLY see mountains. In England, if you drive for two days you not only see all the landscapes we’ve got to offer, but you’ll also find yourself in the sea.
Other than that, though, I’ve only really gone to places closer to home. Family holidays in France. Orchestra tours to Italy (by coach — a 28-hour journey I never want to relive), Catalonia, Germany. The wonderful thing about Europe, of course, is that you don’t have to go far to encounter entirely different cultures and languages.
But mostly — especially in recent years — I’ve stuck to Britain and Ireland. Since 2014, I’ve visited Ireland and Scotland three times each, and Cornwall, Wales, and the Channel Islands once each. I’ve spent happy weeks in the Peak District, the Lake District, and other picturesque parts of England.
I like the smallness of these islands. I like the landscape here, how green it is, how changeable. How one journey can take you through the interminable flatness of East Anglia and the beautiful hills of the Peak District, on your way up to the Borders. I like our history, and the ruins hiding under cities and out in the fields.
And of course, as a Celticist, there’s plenty outside of England to draw my attention. The folklore and music I love about Ireland, placed in context by the weird wild landscape of the Burren or the mountains in Donegal. The mountains in Wales that make you suddenly understand why there are so many stories about dragons here; the ancient seats of power in Scotland, looking out over the landscape.
I’ve never really considered myself patriotic. I don’t own a union flag, let alone an English flag. I’m vaguely discomfited by the whole concept of being proud of where you were born, as if there’s anything meaningful about a random act of fate. It’s always too tied up in politics and ethnicity and other questions of identity. And yet…
I have no Scottish heritage that I know of. My Irish blood is distant. There’s definitely some Welsh in there, but it’s not from any family members I ever knew. My Englishness is random, and most of it can’t be traced back more than a couple of generations before we, too, were immigrants and refugees.
But these green islands feel like home.
(And while it wasn’t intentional, this song provides a pretty decent accompaniment to this post.)
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