Now I know where/when home is

I had a few responses, on here, in person, and on facebook, to the Home is where…? post.

Barry, for one, would like to clarify that when he says he is going home to Northern Ireland, he means the country, but when he’s coming back here, home means our house specifically.

My friend Bryonie, who recently moved to Australia, said she’s not sure where home is now.  But she also introduced me to an expression I hadn’t heard before: you can be homesick for a time, not a place.  I kind of like this because it’s true, but it’s also sad because it’s not something you can ever get back.  Perhaps the fact that I’d like to return to Howden, where my heart is, is just me longing for my childhood.

Home is where…?

According to the adage, home is where the heart is. But can your heart be in more than one place at once?

I was born in Aldershot, but only have hazy memories of the place. After moving around the area for a few years (my parents had various pubs), we moved to Howden for good when I was five. Howden’s a village in East Yorkshire where my mum grew up and my maternal grandparents still live. Although we moved to the neighbouring town of Goole on my tenth birthday, my heart stayed in Howden, and it’s always where I tell people I’m originally from.

Barry’s from Northern Ireland, and if we’re going back there, he says he’s going home (but then he also says we’re going home on the way back!).

Does it have something to do with the house in which you grew up? I was studying abroad when my parents sold the house in Goole, and felt untethered since then really: it’s no longer my home. I suppose when you have children, you truly make a home of your own and hope that they always regard it as such.

Now we live in a village in the suburbs of Bradford, but if we’re abroad we say “near Leeds”. Naughty, I know, but we’re between the two cities so I think we get away with it. I took this photo of Bradford city hall last week, and it actually looks great.

But is it where my heart is? I can’t imagine growing old here. If work wasn’t an issue (i.e., if we won the lottery), I’d move straight back to East Yorkshire – Howden if possible! Barry can come too, if he wants.

A brief history of abodes

Today marks our fifth wedding anniversary – happy anniversary, honey!

We’ve actually been together more than ten years, since university, when our only source of decoration in the halls was books (his, sciences, mine, languages), posters (his, the tennis player with her bum out, mine, more embarrassingly, the Backstreet Boys) and interesting rugs (his, ratty strips of woven cloth, mine, a fluffy pink heart made of a wandering fibre that ended up on everything I owned).

We then moved to a shared house, where we had the whole top floor which had recently been renovated. Again, we had no power over what it looked like and function and utility reigned over beauty. The only painting Barry did was the bathroom ceiling, in a paint that just wouldn’t stick and turned out to have sand in it for some reason. It all peeled off.

In our third year, he worked in Peterborough while I lived in Spain and France. Spain was your typical apartment with tiled floors and airless rooms (pictured). My entire flat in France was smaller than our current bedroom. In the fourth year, we returned to (fancier) halls, in which I don’t think we even had posters or rugs.


At the end of that year, finally, we rented a house together just outside of the city which had a bit of character. The living room was on the third floor – very topsy turvy! The kitchen worktop had to be oiled regularly – I think Barry’s looking forward to doing that again. The bathroom was a horrendous aquamarine when we moved in, but we asked if we could paint it white and we were allowed.

The first house we bought was another magnolia kingdom. The couple we bought it from had lived in it for a few years and never done anything with it. Ha! we thought. Lazy buggers! We ended up painting this strip in the lounge a purply-chocolate colour, one wall in our bedroom green, a wall in our spare bedroom red, and the bathroom pink. Thus endeth our decorating of the first house.

Our current house is our second, and we nagged Barratt’s to death to get a cheaper price for it. It can be done! All of a sudden, the market will crash, and they won’t be able to give you it fast enough. That’s what happened to us, anyway. We ended up getting it for £25k less than next door, whose house is a mirror image of ours.

We fell in love immediately with the top floor when we saw the show home. It consists of our bedroom, a dressing room/nursery and ensuite. Light streams from opposite sides of the house and it feels huge and airy. The whole of the show home was very black and silver, but it did give us some excellent ideas, even if it’s taking until now to implement them (like black walls up the stairs).

As I’ve mentioned before, we’d love to have built in wardrobes, but they cost an arm and a leg. In fact, I’m not sure my arm and leg would cover the cost.

I was talking to Jules about house blindness (after the carpet discussion), and we’ve decided that once you’ve been in for a while, you just don’t see “it” any more. “It” can be the bland walls you see past, the nail pops you choose to ignore, the hideous (sorry, vintage) carpet you no longer look at. We’d been “planning” to decorate for some time before we actually started this January, but it took a shock this Christmas to actually make us get up and do something, because we needed a project to keep our minds off things.

As my friend Michelle says (and no, I’m not talking about myself in the third person), you always need a project.

Winchester Mystery House

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Right. I’m aware this is going to make me sound like a geek, and a bit off-topic, but I really like listening to the Stuff I Missed in History Class podcasts. I was listening to a few of the oldies the other day while painting and found one that was actually about DIY! While I was doing DIY!

Sarah Winchester, wife of William Wirt Winchester (of Winchester guns) went a bit mad (well, she did!) when her child and husband died, and was apparently informed by some spirits that if she ever stopped building, she’d die. So, day and night, she had contractors adding bits onto her house, until the day she died. What was even stranger was that she had them build things like stairs that went up to the ceiling, and outdoor windows inside the house, to trick the ghosts so they couldn’t get her. Check it out, it’s called Ghosts of history: Winchester Mystery House.

Imagine having building works in your house until you die, 38 years after construction began! It did make me think how important it is to have a beginning and an end to a DIY job. The planning and pricing, choosing colours and designs, can all be very enjoyable, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as when you can lean back and look at your completed work. That’s when you know you can have a house party, let everyone look at your fantastic space and what you’ve done with it!

Barry’s been sanding all weekend and he’s started taking the old kitchen out. The new kitchen comes tomorrow! Then we can paint the walls and get the new one in. I’ve even managed to order the Next curtains that I wanted in the sale. It’s like Christmas Eve…