The Gap Life Diaries | Home?
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Home?

After Christmas in England and New Year in Barcelona, I’m back in Turin.

I’m back to my cosy and newly de-cluttered house (thanks, New Year enthusiasm/Marie Kondo) and back to my much-loved friends, city, and routine.

Anyway, it’s been a strange couple of weeks.

Every time I go “home” I feel more like it’s not really my home at all any more. During this visit I felt well and truly out of place, which isn’t really how you want to feel at Christmas time, but it has actually made me feel quite grateful in a strange kind of way.

I should start by saying that although when people ask me where I’m from, and I say “near Bristol”, the house where my parents live has never really felt much like home.

We moved there about a month before I started boarding school, after which I went to university a pretty long way away, and then I left for Italy as soon as I finished there. So the house has always been more of a summer holiday residence/place to keep my mountains of Primark purchases than a real home, especially as boarding school and university meant that none of my friends lived anywhere near me and I consequently spent most of my school holidays either sitting on trains going to visit them, or sulking in my room because I had nobody to go out with.

We moved house quite a lot when I was younger, and after primary school I never went to school anywhere near where we lived, so I actually never really considered any of our houses to be my real “home” either. It’s not something that particularly bothers me, it just makes the question “Where are you from?” that little bit trickier.

In a certain sense, Turin is probably the first place I’ve ever really considered home. Maybe that’s weird as I only ever really planned for it to be the first stop on my Gap Life, and it’s also far away from my family and my English friends, but I really am at home here. I have my flat, I have friends who (for the first time in my life) live within walking distance, I know my way around really, really well, I have favourite places – cafés, restaurants, spots in the park – I have a job that I enjoy and, most importantly, I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not living in England.

Having got so used to “home” here, I think I was expecting my “old home” to feel equally home-y when I went back for 10 days, but it just didn’t.

First of all, there were all the classic foreigner blunders – walking to the wrong side of the car every. flipping. time. and accidentally snogging the neighbour because she was going for one cheek kiss and I was going for two – but it went beyond that.

The house didn’t smell like mine. I didn’t know where the scissors were kept and my mum kept referring to it as “my house” and not “our house” which, in her defence, is completely correct. She wanted to spend time walking her dog rather than doing mother-daughter things, presumably because that’s just her life now, much like how Turin is mine. I didn’t like hearing English people all around me. I didn’t know how to use the buses because I’d never had to do that before, and got shouted at by a bus driver for not queuing correctly and not knowing exactly where I wanted to go and not having the right change when I didn’t even know how much it should cost. I didn’t like how everything in the supermarket was ready-made and microwaveable. In a weird, egocentric little way, I didn’t like not having my identity as the “foreign girl”, something which I’ve not only got used to but actually come to like.

Obviously some parts of my trip were lovely. I always appreciate sitting at my Granny’s house with her, my mum, a cup of tea and a crossword. I loved seeing my cousins, their partners and their lovely squidgy babies. I had overdue catch-ups with a couple of my oldest friends, which made me really happy. And it was nice to be able to get a crappy Starbucks without someone commenting that it’s “not real coffee”. Christmas itself was even surprisingly nice, with lovely presents and, amazingly, no arguments at all (probably helped by the fact that my brother and dad were too hungover from their Christmas Eve shenanigans to get annoyed either with each other or with anyone else).

Before going back to “my mum’s house”, I’d forgotten all of the negative things about “home”. I’d remembered the quiet village mornings and forgotten the boring village nights. I’d remembered the delicious Chinese takeaway but forgotten that there’s no delivery when you live in the middle of nowhere. I’d remembered the beautiful countryside but forgotten that you can’t make the most of it because it’s grey and rainy 100% of the time. I’d remembered the cosiness of our house, but forgotten that I get – and always have got – a serious case of cabin fever after 3 days there. I’d remembered how much I like doing things with my family but forgotten that they have their own lives too.

It’s nobody’s fault, and I’m not annoyed about it, but I think I’ve just come to the realisation that my home really isn’t there.

didn’t have a horrible time, but I did realise that apart from my mum and my granny, there’s not a lot more I could really ask for here in Italy.

And that’s something to be thankful for.

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