How to Feel At Home – anywhere

Welcome Home!

‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive at where we started
And know the place for the first time.’
–   T. S. Eliot,  Little Gidding  

Six years ago on July 15th 2009 I flew to Barcelona and, without really intending to, left home.

Within two weeks I met my partner while dancing in the Pyranees and the next year I moved into his home in a town 30km from Catalunya’s capital city.

From then on I skipped between Catalunya and Cornwall, trying to manage two very different homes.

Trying to feel at Home

I sent over furniture, books, favourite pictures and familiar crockery.  I thought that my own things would make me feel at home.

My two dogs Bonnie and Blue came to live with us.  Home had to be where my dogs were.

I rented out my Cornish cottage,  and arranged for other people to take care of the land.  I was letting go while holding on.

We did our best to create a family home in Granollers where we lived with my partner’s adolescent son. The quirky old family house carried a lot of history. We painted and decorated, took holidays, ate meals, entertained visitors, worked side by side on various projects.  We tried hard but it still wasn’t my home.  I didn’t know why.  I blamed myself a lot of the time.

New things were coming in and old things were disappearing. I was no longer working in my profession as an acupuncturist, I was learning both Catalan and Spanish, teaching English, not dancing tango. The struggle to create a positive relationship with my step-son left me feeling like a failure much of the time.  It is hard to describe how you can be both happy and unhappy at the same time – that’s why I wrote this blog.

The Catalan Way helped me  make sense of all the changes in my life.

‘The impulse for much writing is homesickness.  You are trying to get back home, and in your writing you are invoking that home, so you are assuaging the homesickness.’
–   Joan Didion   

There have been so many beautiful days

Hundreds of wonderful new experiences like camping on the Delta d’Ebre, swimming in hot mineral waters, walking the ancient tracks and lanes of Minorca.

I loved learning about a new culture and meeting so many warm and kind people who opened their hearts to me.  I was lucky to find a kindred spirit in Granollers. Her new baby also provided me with a sense of family and someone small to care for. Last year,walking through the streets holding her sleeping in my arms, I realised that I had never before been left to care for a young baby.   My heart was often singing.

I felt very alive in Catalunya – awake and present.

But there were difficult times too

I felt ungrounded, awkward with people who didn’t understand my faltering Catalan, tired of always being the strange one,  guilty for taking my beloved dogs into a home with no garden and a resident spaniel who attacked Bonnie.  I had to learn about step-families and gradually realised that the tension and arguments were totally normal and nothing to do with my own personal failure.

People expect women to magically mother those who don’t want it.  I always longed for a child but daily rejection when you have no happy baby memories to call on is a bitter experience. Bonding with a step-child is very difficult and too often women are left alone to fail again and again.

What makes a house into a home?

‘If the day ever comes when they know who
They are, they may know better where they are.’
–   Robert Frost, 
A Cabin in the Clearing   

Five things that help us feel at home anywhere

We don’t need all of them, all the time but some of them, most of the time, helps us feel truly at home.

1. Safety – home is a retreat from the outside world and we need to feel safe at home. So we can let down our defenses and relax.

2. Friendship – whether we live alone or with other people, we cannot feel at home if there is too much tension or constant emotional distance. Be your own friend and live with people who wish you well.

3. Creativity – home is a place to be creative and express ourselves. If there is restriction on your creativity, a house won’t feel like home.

4. Solitude – sometimes we need to be alone at home, knowing you won’t be disturbed, so you can relax completely into being who you are.

5. Peace – life is often noisy and disturbing. Living with other people also means noise and disruption and sometimes this is wonderful. But if  you live with unwanted noise and intrusion that you can’t escape from, then it is hard to feel at home.

On the Camino I felt at home on the road, and at home in myself.  All five of the above requirements were met. In Granollers, in the house, far too often, it was hard to get more than one.

Now, back in Cornwall, I have all five again and as I understand better now what is needed, I hope I can help make this a home for us both.

In case you are wondering, my stepson is going to live with his mother, also going home in one way.

What do you need to feel at home?  Have you ever lived in a place where your peace and tranquility were disturbed so much that you wanted to leave?

Being here

You don’t need to go anywhere so long as you are totally present where you are.  Being here is so much        


being alive
Being here is so much

Living in another country is a strange experience. It gives and it takes away.

There is always a balance between what is wonderful here and what I am missing over there.

Some days this bothers me a lot, and other days it doesn’t.

I try to imagine how I would feel if I had never left home….the security, the familiarity, the sense of deep roots connecting me and holding me fast.

All I know is that somehow this experience of being ‘somewhere ever so slightly alien’ makes me feel awake, even when sometimes I would rather be sleeping.

This evening, walking at dusk through the natural reserve at the Aiguamolls, worrying slightly that we might not reach the car-park before dark, the colours of the sunset made me stop thinking for a long moment. Suddenly here too it felt like home – ‘planet earth’ home – ‘the amazingness of being alive’ home.

being alive
stairway to heaven

I don’t know where home is and I don’t even know what it means to be alive but in those moments when nature is outstandingly beautiful, dreamy, magical, I almost catch a sense of what it’s all about.

Do you know what I mean?

The migration of birds helps me understand my life

Starlings over Marazion Marshes

I promised myself I would write here today and although it is late at night I want to keep to that promise.

Now that I have this brand new beautiful blog I feel shy about writing unless it is worthwhile, interesting, wonderful and perfect.

Impossible expectations of myself only freeze my creativity.

So here I am writing just an ordinary post, hoping at least to capture something of the moment that I am living through right now.

I am back in Cornwall yet again.

I arrived about three weeks ago and tomorrow night I leave Penzance on the sleeper train to London. On Saturday I will fly to Barcelona and then travel on by train to Granollers.

It is the first time in years that I have been back in Cornwall in November and  I have loved it.  The weather has been pretty good and I’ve been able to walk along the deserted coast path and on the empty beaches. The winter birds have arrived and the summer tourists have gone.

The roads are quiet and the streets of Penzance have been returned to the locals.

Starlings going home to roost

But I found myself aware that I am no longer a local.   I am not a tourist but am definitely a visitor. Some people in my village of Lamorna didn’t recognise me.  Others are surprised to see me at this time of year and every day someone is asking,  ” How long are you here this time?”  and  “When do you go off again?”         It is perfectly natural for people to want to know these things.  There is something disturbing about someone who comes and goes, someone who used to live here and be part of the fabric of life but who suddenly upped and went off to live in Spain.  I hear an element of accusation in the questions, a hint of annoyance as if I decided to go because Cornwall wasn’t good enough for me.

Being a migrant means I am expected at certain times of the year and am seen as a strange occurance at others.  As if I have flown off course.

This makes me sad and makes me long to settle down and stay again, to be a year round resident.

And yet…..

I feel the call of the south.   I want to go  where the sun shines with more warmth.  There is something – and  someone who is calling me.  And in the spring I will start to dream of Cornish cliffs and of my country cabin.

I don’t like feeling like a transient visitor when I come to Cornwall but somehow this is now my reality.

I have always felt drawn to birds and known a link between their lives and mine.

It helps me understand my life now when I think about migration


Arrival in Scotland

The Catalan Way is on the road for the next couple of months.

I am travelling around the UK visiting family and friends before arriving in Cornwall and celebrating The Feast of Saint John in Penzance. Otherwise known as Golowan!  Midsummer is  a big celebration in Catalunya too and also centres on the  feast day of Sant Joan but I thought it would be lovely this year to have it in the UK. And there will be several Catalans coming over too. But more on that later!

I have slipped behind with posting – not from lack of ideas but time has suddenly speeded up and I don’t like the feeling of trying to catch up so I am going to just start where I am, right now.

Which, today is Glasgow

 I arrived yesterday at Prestwick airport and as always was surprised by the emotional impact of landing in Scotland. I haven’t lived here since 1980 – 34 years – but I still get a feeling of fullness in my chest when I arrive whether by train, car or plane.  I worked in the airport cafe when I was 16 but it is totally unrecognisable now.  I like this feeling of things changing – when you stay in one place it happens slowly but as soon as you move away it seems to speed up.  I say I like it but sometimes I am not so sure – change means excitement but also loss and I need to feel the balance is right between change and stability otherwise I start to lose my footing.  This visit there will be a lot of change to take in – including storm damage in Penzance, my friends new home in Norfolk and my Cornish cabin with no animals beside me

There is always a feeling of coming home when I arrive in Scotland.

Home.  What does that mean?   There are so many off pat answers but I am still exploring it.  Wouldn’t it be nice to really feel that home is wherever you put your hat?  

I always enjoy the first moments of speaking English and not having to think before I open my mouth. When the man at the sweetie counter said “See you later” I felt something different than when people call out “Hasta luego”  but I don’t really understand why.

Troon station with its new translation into Gaelic which seems odd as noone there speaks it. We are not in the Highlands – it’s Ayrshire!

 Glasgow Central station is impressive as always.  A metallic palace.  Opened in 1879 and now a listed building.

You don’t see so many women wearing headscarves as you used to when I was young

These tiles are a little reminder of Barcelona, as you walk out of the station

There was a chill wind out on the street while I waited for my sister to come and pick me up. Weather and where to live – that is yet another interesting line of thought.   How much does the weather really matter and why was it fine for me when I lived here and now I seem to be all soft and weak and want sunshine? 

I am in the afterweek of my birthday and as always it makes me think too much about age, time and change

Add to that the strong sensations of returning to my birth country and also that I am to travel for a month and you will see that I need perhaps a large whisky, a hot curry and an evening of playing cards with my niece. which is exactly what I have to look forward to this evening! 

See you later!

Autumn Sun on the Costa Brava

I am spending a week at Sant Nicolau with some of my family from the UK
It is lovely to sing together in the church

The weather this October is warm and clear and although the nights are drawing in, it is still comfortable to swim in the warm clear water of the Costa Brava.

Estartit is a seaside town which was originally a traditional fishing village but now is lost within the usual sprawling developments of the 1960’s. However it  is saved by the presence of the Mides Islands which dominate the bay and the hilltop 13th century castle which overlooks the area.

On the way down to Estartit you pass through the beautiful Torroella de Montgri which makes a much better place to stop for lunch.

On Saturday we ate in a tapas restaurant in a quiet square – it’s easy to find

When we returned on Wednesday the kitchen was closed but the waitress recognised me from before and asked the cook if he would prepare us lunch anyway.  Which he did with a smile!
Lovely food and incredibly welcoming service in a very pleasant town

I could imagine living there.
But also, I can’t.
Strangely the longer I live here the more I understand the Catalan way of staying close to home. Granollers is not my home but for now it is the closest thing I have to that mythical place.