You’ll be an expat for a while and you’ll have got used to keeping in touch with friends and family back home in a kind of random, long-distance way – a bit of skyping, some texting, some calling when skype is playing up, lots of facebooking.
Then one day you’ll realise you haven’t actually been back in your home country for longer than a weekend in a really long time. And the last time you were there for a week was for Christmas 14 months ago which, as wonderful as it was, pretty much involved eating and drinking in one house for seven days straight.
And so you decide to do the thing you’ve been talking about for oh so long. Actually visit your home country. For more than a fly-in-fly-out weekend. And you’ll actually visit some museums and see some sights. And you’ll catch up with friends you haven’t seen in ages, and get to finally have a conversation with one of your oldest friend’s new(ish) wife. You’ll get to see your sister’s new flat that she bought last summer, and you’ll make it all the way up north to relive your uni days of sharing a flat with your best friend. And you’ll catch trains and get afternoon tea and it will be just wonderful.
Oh I adore my little sister; Baker Street – my favourite underground station; We went to the British Museum on a bank holiday which makes us nutters, but was great fun; Beautiful London.
And it was. Except for the one horrifyingly awful night of food poisoning in London. But the rest was just fantastic.
I went to cities I’ve never been to before (Newcastle and Durham, I’m looking at you). I ate afternoon tea and cake in a cafe THREE TIMES in one week. I walked on the beach. I ate Italian tapas at Covent Garden with my wonderful cousin. I went to the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery and just wandered. I met friends and walked along South Bank. I went out for late-night ice cream sundaes with my sister and her boyfriend. I discussed theology and church-politics into the wee hours with my friend Ellie. I redecorated my parents’ kitchen with Rasmus.
It was generally just wonderful.
I did not expect Newcastle to be so lovely; Afternoon tea with Ellie; Who could resist falling in love with Durham? The cathedral cloisters make me wish I was a nun…
The question of “home” is always a funny one for me, living overseas and married to someone with a different home country, my roots reaching across multiple cities and continents. But even with all that complexity, there’s something nice about being back in the place I grew up. There’s something wonderfully easy about being able to understand where to go and what to do, the way everything is so achingly familiar. It’s surprising to hear voices all around me and realise I actually understand everyone. And sometimes the non-international-ness of it all is weird to me.
But it’s home. In some way it always will be. And so these ten days were a sweet joy…
A blustery day at the beach with Ellie; Well hello, Nelson (Trafalgar Square); Afternoon tea and cake with my sister; And getting ready to spend a blissful morning at the National Portrait Gallery.