Writing me Down

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


This is an exercise that Helen suggested from a trAce project.

What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?
Home. Where my bed is. Where I prepare my own food. Where I live with Rick. Home is wherever my family are – but it is not the actual places, none of which are home without the people who live there. Home is somewhere I feel safe to return to, somewhere I know well. Where I can come back to and go ‘ah, I’m home’. Somewhere known, comfortable, with people I love and feel safe with.

Please describe the home of your childhood
Which childhood? Which home? The main one that I can remember, and which seems most formative, I was aged 5-9. It was a bungalow on a new housing estate in Forres, Morayshire. We went to see it when it was being built. I remember the plasterboard lying around the building site. It was fabulous – you could just tear the cardboard layers off the outside and you had as much chalk as you could ever wish for to scratch upon the shiny new black tarmac pavements. These had pristine white concrete curb stones with tiny dot textures in the surface along the top edges.

I used to roam around the estate to the building site at the top end, and help myself to chalk and dried brown dock seeds that became ‘coffee’. The place smelled of new tarmac and creosote, such that these smells on a hot day take me right back. I used to break thorns off next door’s roses, lick the cut side and stick the thorn on my nose like a rhinoceros horn.

Where was I? The bungalow had white pebbledash on the walls which often grazed my elbows as I ran or roller skated up and down the side path. There was a smallish garden with a lawn and flower borders at the back, and a rotary washing line with pebbles all around the area below it. We had collected these a few at a time from the beach at Findhorn where a long ridge of pebbles separated the sand dunes from the sandy beach. Getting to the sea with bare feet was a painful process.

Round the side was a vegetable garden. I can’t remember what exactly grew there, but by the door I had my own tiny bit of garden, and I grew anemones. I remember them as being bright colours – reds and purples – with black at the centre. Recently I bought some from Wilkos and was disappointed to find they were nothing like I remembered.

Please describe the scent, taste or feel of home.
A waft of washing drifts from next door, and I realise that is one of the smells that is home – washing that has been dried outdoors and then the fresh-air smell that comes when you iron it. Freshly laundered sheets. Fresh air blowing in through open windows. The smell of onions cooking. The smell of the bathroom after someone has had a shower – lingering smells of soap, toothpaste, deodorant. The taste of coffee – café direct or home made stove top espresso. The taste lingering in my mouth now of salad – tomato, cucumber, olive oil.

From my childhood, it would the smell and taste of home baked brown bread, and flapjack made with molasses. The feel of home – my own pillows, just the right thickness. The softness of the fleece blanket that I curl under on the sofa. The pitted worn mahogany surface of the dining table under my fingers.

Which object most evokes home?
Probably an old chest of drawers. Nothing fancy, just a plain chest of four drawers, painted with several layers of gloss paint. The first I remember was blue, when they used to be in my childhood bedroom. Then I painted them black and white when I was a teenager, and I painted my room white and put black and white Robert Doisneau photo prints on the walls. Now they are painted fawn, which Mum did when I left home. She painted them to match the pine furniture. When I moved here, she gave them back to me. I’ve meant to paint them again – lilac and blue – but never got around to it.

Where do you feel you ‘properly belong’ now?
Yorkshire. I don’t know why. All my family come from the North East, and I used to visit a Great Aunt in Glaisdale. She died earlier this year. The house where she used to live was my favourite place as a child, with a huge tree in the garden. There was a swing hanging from it, made out of rope and a length of tree-branch. From that swing, you could see right across the dale, across the row of terrace cottages at the bottom and then up the hills on the other side. I remember the smells of the woods, and of heather and gorse from the moors, and the pervading smell of sheep. The sounds of the stream tumbling down to join the river rushing along below. The sheep bleating and crows clack-clacking. It has never left me and it is always the place that I want to be. But do I belong there? I don’t know. I just feel my heart belongs there.


At 6:57 am, Anonymous Sharon said...

I've enjoyed re-visiting your blog and wish you a perfect New Year in 2006 (no matter when it actually began).

Sharon (from trAce)

At 1:19 pm, Blogger Carole said...

Hello, Sharon!
Happy New Year to you. It's nice to see you here.
I hope all is well with you,


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