41. Long walk home


One day I know
We’ll find a place of hope
Just hold on to me
Just hold on to me
Walk tight, one line
You’re wanted this time
There’s no one to blame
Just hold on to me

I never really appreciated the beauty of the word home. And, when I think about it, I really should have because I was raised among transplanted people. My mother’s family were ten-pound migrants from the UK and I was the first (of many) to be born in Australia. Growing up, they all talked about “back home” constantly, but I guess I was probably five or six before I realised they were talking about England.

My life had been all about the sun-drenched beaches, parklands, and bays of Sydney. I don’t have a single memory involving rain until my family moved back to England in 1970. Of course, it did rain in Sydney, it rains there a lot. I just can’t pull up a memory of it from my childhood.

7 yo me-02
Seven years old in Sydney.

After we had moved to England, the word home began to have real significance for me. I missed the blue skies of Sydney – a lot. We’d arrived in London in the middle of winter and my abiding memory of the place is of darkness and fog. The whole family was living in a three-bedroom house; eleven of us. And all the adults were working, including my mother.

She would tell the story in later years of how she could only walk us part of the way to school in the mornings – just as far as the stop where she needed to catch the bus that would get her to work – and how she would cry every day as she watched my five-year-old brother and I holding hands as we disappeared into the foggy gloom of the early morning. The rest of the walk, about a mile, we did alone. That was just how it was, she had no choice. I was seven at the time.

It would be dark again by the time we were leaving school at three. That was my whole world at that time; living like vampires away from the sun. Australia seemed like a paradise compared to that cold, damp city. At night, I would lie in my bed and try to will myself home, but it was to be another eighteen months before that day actually came.

Oddly, in my teen years, I began to miss the UK the way I’d once missed Australia, so much so, in fact, that I moved back there when I was not yet twenty. It would seem I’d inherited my family’s gypsy gene. Again, however, I only lasted a short while (about a year) before returning to the place where I felt a real sense of belonging.

And there I figured I’d probably stay. I’d come to realise that Australia was actually one of the best countries in the world to make a life. It was time to stop yearning for the greener pastures across the sea. It was time to embrace the idea of home.

I moved to Melbourne, a truly great city, and there I stayed for many, many years. My son is Melbourne born and I am proud of that fact. Melbourne has been a generous and forgiving city in which to grow as a man and build a life. I am happy my son will have the benefit of being a Melbournian.

And so it seemed I had found my place. I was comfortable, making my way, and free of the wanderlust that had been so much a part of my youth. For all intents and purposes, I had found that elusive home.

Why then did I feel so incomplete?

The answer, I now see, was very simple. Home is people, not a place. Until you find the one who lets you be you, home is just what you call the place where you happen to live.

The moment she entered my life I knew, without a doubt, that I’d found my true home. Everything changed; became real. Life up till then had been a kind of dream punctuated by moments of reality. Some things (my son for instance) had felt very real. Other things, the things I most often lied to myself about, were just movies I ran in my head. And like all movies, they were mere diversions – distractions from the truth of my life – that in most of the ways that counted, I was still disconnected.

Jersey girl changed all that. She made me see that, with her, I was not some astronaut drifting on a broken tether high above the world. I was the world, verdant with life and rich complexities, orbiting an equally complex star called home.



We drift here alone

With nothin’ to do

Until one of us makes the other one come true.


The images used in this post are mine.



3 thoughts on “41. Long walk home

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