I was back in London this last week, for the briefest of visits. Just 48 hours back in Bromley, the four of us crammed into my childhood home along with my brother and his girlfriend, and my Mum (it’s her house after all). In that time I successfully re-painted quite a lot of a house, filled one skip with garden rubbish, got the house on the market, and met the in-laws in London for dinner. I also managed to get the kids up to school to see one of their old teachers and catch up with one of my Mum friends, and drop off an (embarrassingly) late Christmas present for my Good-daughter (turns out, I’m not such a good Good-parent after all…).
Walking back to Blackfriars after dinner, the rain that irritating mizzle (hello hair frizz), I walked past a pub where people had spilt out onto the pavement on a stormy Wednesday night, mostly to smoke, but also because, well pubs are always full on a Wednesday night in the City. It’s just what they are, and sometimes the pavement is where you end up drinking, smoking habit or not. For the first time since I moved to Jersey I had that real pang for ‘home’. It might have been walking past St Paul’s and finding myself snapping on my camera phone as a London bus passed the famous dome (proper London photo cliché alert), it might have been the fact that as we walked round a wave of nostalgia hit me that I had once walked this walk every day to work (though clearly time has dulled the pain of quite how unhappy I was in that job). I have no doubt that cleaning up my – now empty – home, remembering C taking her first steps in the garden, feeding her in the night in her bedroom, garden parties for my Grannie’s 90th and 95th birthdays, annual parties for the girls, both of them starting pre-school and then school, had a lot to do with it. That pining for the past. And it was palpable. A sense of miss-placement. Of my leaving, miss-placing me.
I suddenly found myself questioning why I had moved, and whether I would ever be back for more than a visit. All my roots are in the London Borough of Bromley (don’t judge). I grew up there, I went to school there, my first home that we owned (mortgaged to the hilt natch) was there. My children were born in PRUH, they schooled there. My parents live(d) there. All of me, is there. Except now it’s not. It’s here.
The thing that I learned really, was that actually, what I felt a pang for wasn’t the house, or the area, or the memories, it was actually a pang for a different time in my life. When there were no children depending on me (and answering back to everything with ‘tude). I could be spontaneous, I could quit a job because I didn’t like it. I had no responsibilities. I was – relatively – carefree. And now I am not.
But – and this is the big but – I wasn’t actually that happy then. When I worked in London I hated it. When the kids were babies and not sleeping, I survived it, too tired to do very much at all other than just keep going. And now I have the luxury to look back wistfully and wish I could do it all again. But that’s really not what I want is it? What I want is to have more time. To not see the girls growing up so quickly that M turns ten next month. And yet, all you ever want when you have children, is for them to grow up healthy. It’s quite the dichotomy.
There I was, tearful about leaving my home, tearful that my children are growing up too fast (when in fact, they are growing up at quite the perfect speed thank you very much), and we flew home, the tail end of Storm Doris speeding us back to Jersey (yes, there were some interesting cross winds). And we landed, and the salt was blown inland by the winds, and I came back to my home. Which also feels like my home. Never let it be said that I’m not fickle.
The truth is, that I am happier, and more confident in myself now than I have ever been. The older I get, the less I give a shit about pretending to be someone or something that I’m not, just to please people, or to fit in. Sure, I’m argumentative, I’m opinionated, I cannot hide what I think (my face gives me away every time), but I’m finally pretty cool with that. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about our incredibly ‘old-school’ set up, whereby Mr R is the main breadwinner, and – now I’ve sold my business – I haven’t entirely got a role, and when people ask me what I do, I am embarrassed to say ‘I’m not currently working’, but once I can reconcile that with myself (and it’s me that judges me the most) things actually work pretty well at the moment. I cannot wait for my next work based adventure (I’m currently running a Young Enterprise group, and turns out I quite like doing that), but I think once the kids are a year or two older, I have an idea what I’m going to do.
So whilst I found myself pining for the bright lights, and the constant noise of the City, yesterday I spent the day stacking logs (I know, I know), clearing the garden, and planting in palm trees and hydrangeas (let me tell you, not having to contend with the clay soil of my hometown is a revelation… gardening is actually quite a nice process when you can dig a hole and put a plant in, without wanting to reach for a JCB/give up and have a cup of tea). Today, we had lunch overlooking a beach, and came back to do some more gardening and watch the rugby. My face hasn’t seen make-up all weekend. I’ve not found myself shopping on Asos, or fervently trying to fill the time. For the first time in years, I’ve simply been. Which is a very strange thing indeed. Currently Mr R is watching the rugby, the kids are somewhere in the garden playing gymnasts (having already planted all their seeds yesterday in the greenhouse… unsupervised we now have 10 trays of planted seeds. With no idea whether a tray contains heritage tomatoes, sweet peas, or sunflowers… but we’ll find out).
I don’t know whether here is forever. I don’t know whether I’ll ever go back to where I’m from (other than to visit), but I do know that I need to be happy about the past, and be here now a bit more. Not looking back, not looking forwards, not worrying about what I’ve done or am yet to do, but being here now.