Before I left for Chiang Mai, I felt a little bit homeless.
Typing those words makes me feel ungrateful and ignorant as I had a choice of roofs to put over my head, but I’m talking about home as a feeling, not a place.
OUR HOUSE, in the middle of our
It had been five months since I’d left my bachelorette pad ready for a move to Hong Kong.
That place was my realm of independence, my sanctuary of sanity and my four walls of freedom.
My best friends had keys and would let themselves in, sitting there waiting for me when I got home. It was where I hosted dinner parties and Margarita madness, where we played Cards Against Humanity and Twister and Scrabble and we danced around in animal masks.
It was a quirky-shaped, magnolia-coloured little haven overlooking my favourite park in Liverpool with enormous wardrobes, a cinema-sized television and windows everywhere letting in the light.
My kitchen was kitted out with Laura Ashley kitsch from previous homes and my windowsills were always full of flowers and marimo moss balls that I was determined to murder in record-breaking time.
I’d spend my Saturday and Sunday mornings in there knocking up indulgent brunches and bubbling out Turkish kave in my little golden cezve pot while listening to Pink Marini and whirling dervishly.
It was there that every Sunday, I’d luxuriate in long, hot bubble baths, with wisps of nag champa incense dancing to Indian flute music in the flickering candlelight as I relished every sentence of Shantaram. It became a ritual that I didn’t want to relinquish, so much so that some chapters got a double read and when I stepped out of the book, out of the bathtub and into reality, I used those words as a spiritual guide.
Our house, in the middle of our
Some of my favourite memories with my favourite people were in that concrete cave.
Sitting there with the other half of Lolomalolo on her visit from Sydney, smiling at her over-excitement as she perched herself on the back ledge of my sofa with her face pressed against the window, watching her first snowfall. Or when she sat next to me as I bathed under bubbles because we couldn’t bare to halt the talking for more than a sip of coffee or a splash of radox.
Christmas Eve sat on the carpet, eating festive nibbles, swapping silly presents and having a Scrabble war with a human that no more than six months later I’d never be able to see again.
Sharing pre-date nausea and prosecco with my Tier 0 before we’d jump in a taxi to meet our Tinder Fates only to return a few hours later to swap stories, savagely demolish pizza and roll around the living room floor in fits of laughter.
It was the sleepovers, the face masks and the egg-covered pyjamas. My Scrapbook Sundays and keyboard lessons. It was the Helmut Newtons on my wall, the fairy lights and my never-ending book collection. It was watching the leaves change colour outside my window and listening to the birds, the nights spent warming up under my crotchet blanket after crunching around the park on frosty leaves.
It was home.
Our house, in the middle of our
Between April and September I’d had a selection of roofs over my head, some concrete, some plastic, some I had to myself and others I shared with monks, stoners and strange strangers, but mostly it was that of my childhood home.
It can’t be easy having your overgrown kid returning with a dent in their pride and enough Things to fill a container ship, so the patience and kindness of my parents is – as always – forever un-repayable.
But no matter how much gratitude I had and even though I was in the home I’d always known to be home, I just didn’t feel it anymore. It wasn’t where I wanted to be.
I’d lie there in my old bedroom and the familiar sounds of a ticking clock or the trickling pond waters below my open window would act as an aggravating reminder that I was, in the words of Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There.
Our house, in the middle of our SOI
It was almost two months before I arrived here, before I’d even booked my one-way flight to a country I’d never been to before, that I wrote a post about sleep. And in that post, I wrote “can volunteers not get a large room with a king size bed, silk sheets and an en suite, preferably with a bath?”
And here I am with my own enormous bedroom in a bohemian palace, a kingsize bed with silk sheets and an en-suite bathroom large enough for a few katwheels. But more than that, it feels like home.
I wake as the sun rises over the city and as I draw back my curtains I can see the silhouettes of lush green mountains and hear the birds sing in voices I’ve never heard before.
I tiptoe down the dark wooden steps onto the first floor where there’s a huge open plan living space with a split personality.
On one side is the reader’s corner with a black and white aztec print sofa, a tall-standing bookshelf and an all-year-round Christmas tree. On the other side is a small wicker sofa, surrounded by Buddha statues and vases, facing out across the parquet flooring and onto the sun-drenched terrace.
As I tiptoe further down more steps, I’m greeted by Linus and Comet. They follow me through the mounds of beanbags, past the huge teak dining table and into the kitchen whailing out a chorus of attention-seeking meows and it’s not before long we can hear the pitter-patter of Chloe’s fluffy paws trotting behind.
I have three hours of me time for mindful coffees and scribbles, jog-in-the-smogs and meditation before my adopted family rises and we’re sat around our coffee table ready to start our working day.
There’s three of us here right now – my sisters from other misters. Three nationalities, three personalities, three hearts and one home.
And there really is no place like home.