home and hearth

Rooftops

I’ve been thinking a lot about home recently. Not because I’ve gone all nostalgic, but because it’s the theme of the local TEDx, which is taking place in November.

It’s a great theme, as it offers a huge range of possibilities for talks. My immediate thoughts were quite domestic: houses, family, pets, neighbours…

But of course there are other connotations: home is about being safe. And there’s a definite emotional connection: it’s not just about being out of danger, but being comfortable with the language, the culture, the habits…

Then again, the fact that we have the idea of a place that is home, a place we belong, automatically implies that there are places where we don’t belong. So, from the comfort of home, we turn to the ideas of alienation, disaffection and estrangement.

I lived in Spain for many years. In the end, I was more at home there than here in the UK and felt more comfortable speaking Spanish than English. Before I reached that point, though, I did occasionally feel homesick. Perhaps homesick for the non-existent past, rather than for any reality. And that’s the feeling that triggered this poem:

Hiraeth

The round-shouldered cobblestones nudge
at my sandalled feet. They are smooth
as the pebbles that sang on an Anglesey beach,
as the present-from-Beaumaris paperweight
whose faded dragon still parades
across my desk. They are warm
as cottage loaves fresh from Powell’s,
or bakestones from the griddle. The gulls
shriek with the same harsh voice, but the river
is an unfamiliar olive green and runs
beside a motorway that leads me
away from you.

 
Back to the subject of home: returning to my first thoughts, the phrase a house is not a home kept echoing through my mind. So here are a selection of photos of houses. (It’s probably not necessary to point out that none of them has ever been my home.)

Terraced cottages, Kenilworth, UK

red brick half timbered house

Georgian townhouse

London townhouse

half-timbered house

Terraced cottages, Kenilworth, UK

old fashioned cottage style houses

red brick tenement

Thatched cottage, Kenilworth, UK

thatched cottage

Stoneleigh Abbey gatehouse

Terraced cottages, Kenilworth, UK

For me, the concept of home conjures a warm feeling. And that probably makes this a good poem to close with:

Panegyric

When I come home
from a long day
at the office, you’re there
to greet me.
From the moment
I open the front door, I feel
your welcoming presence.
You reach out to hold
and enfold me, to wrap me
in your warm embrace.
You comfort me.
You are constant,
unshakeable. I know
I can depend on you.
You are quiet
and reliable, never
temperamental.
You don’t flare up
like some, or spit and snarl.
You don’t threaten
to burn the house down
if I neglect you,
or poison me
if I am careless.
You are clean;
you don’t cough and splutter.
Nor do you smell. You
are my brand new
electric central heating system,
and I think
I am in love.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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