Friday Fun: A Place We Once Called Home

This is something I wrote a long time ago, on a very different blog.

My whole life seems to consist of being really happy in some wonderful places – and then having to tear myself away from them.   I love exploring new places but I also like settling in, making those places my own, getting that intimate connection with them that can only come from repetition and routine.  When it’s time to move on, I am excited about the new adventures I will have, but I am also sad to leave a certain part of myself behind.  With each encounter with a different country and culture, I become richer in experience, but somehow also poorer when I leave. 

It’s difficult to explain – but it’s like my soul has been bereft to a certain extent.  I keep the experience locked up somewhere tight within and remember it with such delight from time to time.  But the experience is unrepeatable.  Even if I go back to that country, it will never feel the same again.  If you go back as a tourist to a country where you were once resident, it can be exhilarating as long as you don’t think about it too closely.  Or you can feel shut out, a stranger once more.  It will certainly never again feel like home.

Last week, I had the opportunity to return to our village in France and took some pictures to try and describe the charm of the location (bearing in mind that these pictures do not cover all the seasons, only a sunny day in February).

Our home in France for 4 1/2 years.
Our home in France for 4 1/2 years, complete with climbing tree for Zoe cat.
Our close from the main road.
Our close from the main road.
The field we passed on our walk to school, often full of ponys grazing.
The field we passed on our walk to school, often full of ponys grazing.
The orchard where we could pick plums, apples, pears and quince.
The orchard where we could pick plums, apples, pears and quince.
'We live in the countryside,' my boys used to tell visitors, 'You will smell a lot of natural fertiliser.'
‘We live in the countryside,’ my boys used to tell visitors, ‘You will smell a lot of natural fertiliser.’
The view facing the other way, towards the Alps.
The view facing the other way, towards the Alps.

23 thoughts on “Friday Fun: A Place We Once Called Home”

  1. Know what you mean.
    Born in UK
    Spent 15 happy years in France.
    Somehow it just felt time to move. A change of culture
    So now in Sweden.
    Getting harder to move around now, more and more governments putting up burocratic barriers, including here. A real shame.
    A united Europe was a great dream just seems far away now.

    1. Yes, I grew up in Europe divided by Cold War and was so starry-eyed about unity and being allowed to love and settle in other places. I always felt European more than belonging to any nation state. It will be sad for future generations.

  2. What a lovely set of ‘photos, Marina Sofia. Thanks for sharing them, and your story. I love the way you’ve captured that bittersweet feeling of getting ready to move on. I’m like you; I like to settle in where I am. So I know what you mean about wanting to establish yourself. Lucky you to have the chance to go back for a visit.

  3. I guess it’s more Friday Bittersweet than Friday Fun. When we live somewhere we never think of taking a picture of the place we are in and see constantly. It’s nice to be able to keep these memories, and to be able to return. Due to circumstances, I left Hong Kong in a rush without properly saying goodbye to the places I lived in, and I have always missed it and never had the opportunity to return. *Hugs*

    1. Ah, shame about Hong Kong… that happens very often with expats, I find. I know a few who left Geneva in a rush! At least I took lots and lots of pictures, simply because everything was so photogenic and I knew it wasn’t going to be forever.

    1. I suppose I should just thank my lucky stars that I was there for quite a few years. It’s funny how the conversations there were equally weather-obsessed as here in England, but more around ‘Will there be snow this winter, will the resorts do all right?’ and ‘Is Mont Blanc going to be visible today?’

  4. My parents were both born within a few miles of each other in Norfolk and then lived in Oxford for years before coming back to Norfolk to retire. All I ever wanted to do was move to London. Dad spent a lot of time in London and would bring back The Evening Standard and I’d look at the small ads and imagine living there. It wasn’t all plain sailing when I first moved here but there was something about the energy of a big city I craved. I still love it – the diversity, the creative energy … I’m extremely bad at moving on. I envy people who have lived in lots of different countries, even people who can move easily between homes. Beautiful photos.

    1. I love big cities – even more so when I was younger. Now I quite enjoyed the relative rural peace of Pays de Gex. But I have to admit, it is brilliant to be living within a short commuting distance of London and have access to all the museums, theatres, events…

  5. What a beautiful place. Your words about ‘home’ set me thinking. Have you ever connected with a place almost instantaneously, Marina? Have you found some places resonate more easily, more deeply, more permanently than others? Your perspective would interest me – given your experiences of having lived in such a variety of countries and called many places ‘home’. I’ve never connected anywhere in the way that I did when we moved here. It’s fair to say that all other moves have been accompanied by work and children – this time I have time to spare, but I feel very strongly that I would have connected more deeply here regardless of when in my life I’d washed up on these Cornish shores.

    1. Yes, I do think that is very possible and even likely. I have loved some places more than others, but I have always grown to love the places I’ve been in, even if I was initially sceptical about them. I just got under their skin (or allowed them to get under mine). For instance, I did not much like Washington DC, especially the first time I lived there, but then I found some nooks to call my own, established a few rituals, burrowed in. There was also a place in Germany where I did my fieldwork which I really loathed to start off with, but which got better in time. Still, I haven’t been back there since, so perhaps that says something…

      1. Yes, that makes sense. Sometimes time and a deepening of local knowledge is needed before we begin to find our own position within a new location. And sometimes – as for me here – it’s almost a soul-to-soul recognition: deep and intangible 🙂

  6. I don’t mind moving and meeting new people and new places, but there is something so comforting in feeling settled in. I don’t mean having friends and maybe family close by, I mean the more casual encounters, where you suddenly meet the woman who used to cut your hair in the supermarket. It’s probably similar to walking past a field and remembering how the kids remarked on the smell of it. Weirdly enough, it is these nonsensical moments that I miss most when I move. It’s fairly easy to keep in touch with people nowadays, but it’s hard to keep in touch with visceral memories.

    1. Perfectly put – it’s those visceral memories which are so powerful. I’ve hardly ever had family and friends close by, but those memories are nevertheless very precious.

    1. Yes, serenity is the word I conjure up whenever I think of this place, even though I’ve been depressed, anxious and profoundly unhappy there. But the surroundings made up for all that.

  7. What a wrench it must have been to leave there, MS. All my sympathies. I’m glad you’re finding compensations to living in Lunnun, though!

  8. So true going back is never the same, because… we have moved on. Nice photos, you’ve reminded me my next visit to family and friends in the region is long overdue 🙂

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