I have a new home. By “home” I don’t mean a house I own or rent, but an area where I feel at home, I know where I am and am familiar enough with the immediate area to be comfortable.
One of these “homes” of course is my actual home in Norwich, UK, that fine city which traps anyone who studies at the University of East Anglia and doesn’t let them leave. At least, not for long.
That wasn’t how it got me. I was fortunate enough to be born there, in the eminent setting of Earlham Hall. I am not remotely upper class: it was serving as a post-war maternity home at the time. Now it’s part of the aforementioned UEA – the School of Law, in fact. Odd, Holmes.
Norwich is fine. It has a ludicrous council, but what city hasn’t? It survives being dug up and put back together again in a hamfisted way that makes living more difficult. But that’s life.
My second home was Coventry. I spent five or six years of my childhood there until my father died and we returned to Norwich. My brother Andrew still lives in Coventry; so I visit quite often. My third home was London, bits of which I got to know well: Stamford Hill and Winchmore HIll, for example, and Acton (no hill), where I worked for a while.
My next home was Yelverton, a village just outside Norwich, where I spent 12 years, and where my son grew up. Then it was Norwich again.
These were all “real” homes. But there were also places that I visited often and knew intimately. One was North Walsham, where my wife grew up, and another Blakeney, a favourite holiday haunt. Both are in Norfolk. I know most of Norfolk pretty well, because I worked on the local newspaper, and had to.
Outside Norfolk there is Buxton in Derbyshire, where we stay once a year, and Corwen in North Wales, where my wife’s cousins live. Many happy times were had in both those beautiful places.
Ballater, in Aberdeenshire, next to Balmoral and in the middle of some stunning scenery, is irresistible – so irresistible in fact that we have stayed there almost every year for the last 30 years (pandemic permitting). A real home, that one.
Which bring us almost to the point of my opening paragraph. Which is quite soon, for me.
One other place that has become home for me is in Ontario, Canada, a few miles north of Toronto, where we have spent time over the years with old friends. Well, we’re all old now. Canada for me is all space, relaxation and walking. A lot of walking.
And now… and now… we’re in Canada again, at the home of our son and his wife – who also happens to be the daughter of our old friends. In the space of a few days we have explored the neighbourhood, visited key points – the mall, an excellent restaurant, a fromagerie, farmers’ and antiques markets and Canadian Tire. Just for the smell.
Yes, it’s home. We’ve done the walks. We know where we are. This may be bad news for them if they wanted a quiet life, but it’s good news for us.