Going home. Where is that? What does it mean? Is it where your bricks and mortar are? Where your parents are? Where your children are? Or, over the next few weeks, is it the place that makes your heart swell when an Olympic gold is won?
I met an Englishman at the Colmenar Social Club. “I haven’t been home for over 20 years” he announced. Struck by the obvious anomaly in that statement, I glanced around to see if anyone else had picked it up. But there were nods of agreement. “I went home about three years ago for a wedding, but that was the first time for about ten years” said a woman. Both had lived in Spain for well over 20 years and have no intention of ever living anywhere else.
So where is their home? Surely the only answer to that, is Spain! Neither has property in England, and one has children living abroad as well, one in the US and one in Saudi Arabia. And yet both instinctively call the UK “home”. Others at the social club did the same. “Why would we want to go home?” one asked, “the weather’s terrible at home!” “I visited my grandchildren at home once” said another, “but mostly they come out to see us here.” Always differentiating between “home” (the UK), and “here” (Spain). “Here” is where they have laid their hat, but does that make it home? Something in them stops them calling Spain “home”, even after so long.
Taking the opposite position is John, who runs the Bar CO2 on the square in Colmenar. He last visited the UK three years ago, and all the time he was there he was looking forward to getting back home as soon as possible. He talks about going “to the UK”, and then coming “home” to Spain. The choice of language defines the perception.
A couple of my new friends here seem so “at home” in Colmenar, so in tune and comfortable with the Spanish culture and way of life, that I was surprised to discover that they DON’T live here but are just visiting their daughter. It feels wrong to think they will soon fly half way across the world back to their home in Canada, when they seem imbued with the essence of the Axarquía, more than almost any other non-Spaniard I have met.
So today I fly home to Dorset. To the little thatched cottage I originally bought eleven years ago as a “second” home, but which within three months became the place I wanted to be, so I escaped from London permanently and moved fulltime to Shaftesbury.
Home. Yes, I’m going home to the UK where my home, my work and most of my friends are. Where my books and music are. Where the computer holds all my files (until one day everything is transferred to “The Cloud” so that it’s all stored up in cyber-space, as it will be in the near future, I’m told).
And then a few weeks later I shall return here to Colmenar. Backwards and forwards for the next few months while my brain learns to cope with new opportunities, a new place to be, new ways of life. The end of the responsibilities of caring for my mother – inconsolable sadness at her death, in parallel with the slow realisation that out of grief and loss can come change and opportunity.
I’m going home to the UK today. I’ll watch the Olympics at home in the UK. I’ll cheer on Team GB and share the national rejoicing when “we” win a medal. I’ll take pride in Spain’s successes too, as I did in their recent football triumphs. “Their” triumphs, “our” medals. I’m British, returning home to England. Next month I will visit Spain again. I will watch myself over the coming months and years to see if – or when – the language I use changes to reflect a different perception of “home”, where it is, and what defines it.
© Tamara Essex 2012