If the cliche is true, if home really is where the heart is, then I currently have two homes. Or two hearts. Or something. That sounded more eloquent in my head than it looks typed here.
My home is here in KL. It’s where I live my life, it’s where I am settled. It makes me happy being here. The weather is beautiful. Not some of the time, not once or twice a year, but Every. Single. Day. Life is easy. We have amazing friends here who I know we’ll be friends with forever. We (and I know this), are insanely lucky to have the opportunity to live in a place like this.
I thought that life here was *so* good, that we are *so* happy here, that I couldn’t possible miss England.
I was wrong.
Because I’ve realised that home is also in England. In Cheltenham. Home is where I grew up. It’s where the scenery, and sounds, and smells are so familiar that I barely even notice them, but sometimes am jolted by the sound of pigeon cooing in the morning, or the smell of rain on cut grass, and forcibly reminded that this, *this* is home. Did you know, that when you haven’t seen it for so long, the brake lights of a traffic jam glowing in the grey, dull early morning light that is unmistakeably English, can actually be really beautiful?
England is where I played in puddles, went to school, started my first job, and built my career. It’s where I went on every first date I’ve ever been on. It’s where I learnt pretty much every life lesson that I have learnt to date. It’s where the friends are that have known me forever. Who were there when I learnt those life lessons. England is where my history is. It would take a lot to trump that.
I didn’t realise that, until I came back to visit this time. It hit me hard. We had a really wonderful time. I know that it maybe wasn’t reality, because England has been grey, and cold, and rainy for months, but somehow, we had the most amazing British weather we could have asked for. It was sunny, and blue-skied, and warm enough for barbecues and evening walks by the river. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, because you were all there, but I don’t think I ever got my head around the fact that I was in the same time-zone and same weather as you all for those couple of weeks.
Wonderful weather meant we basically lived outside for most of the trip. We went to parks, and farms, and forests. Emmi met lambs. She met LAMBS people. And goats, horses and donkeys. She hugged them all.
We spent amazing times with friends. We had sunny Saturday afternoon barbecues, and play time at the park. So. Many Parks. There is not a swing in the wider Gloucestershire area that Emmi has not had to be forcibly removed from.
Emmi played in beautiful beer gardens and we drank orange juice and lemonade whilst we caught up with old friends who we’d not seen for years, and hadn’t even really realised we’d missed, but it turns out, should never have lost touch with, because they are wonderful people, who we need in our lives. We fed ducks, and chased pigeons around parks. We spent evenings with great friends, where routine went out of the window and we let the kids stay up late and sing songs while our friend played crazy old folk songs on his guitar.
played in ate mud, and had her first runny nose, and looked dirty ALL the time. She loved it. She walked hand in hand with her grandparents (or any boy who happened to be around) at any given opportunity, and made Uncle Will read the same story over and over and over again.
And then. THEN. GIAT happened. For the uninitiated, GIAT is ‘Gin In A Teacup’, and it is what we call it when Anna, Aisling, and Lucy Stendall and I spend a weekend with each other; eating, and drinking and talking and talking and talking. No gin has ever been drunk, let alone from a teacup, on one of these weekends, so the name may be slightly misleading.
Gorgeous Stella came to her first ever GIAT meet up – she was pretty chilled about the whole thing.
But yes, GIAT happened. And I remembered why Anna, and Aisling, and L-Sten are still some of the most important people in my life, despite always being awake when I’m asleep, or vice versa, and 10,000 miles away from me 99% of the time. We only ever have conversations via Whatsapp,and I’ve not seen them since the first Any Other Party weekend, over 18 months ago and yet, they walked in to my place, and Anna flipped on the kettle, Lucy put her ‘only-in-the-house’ leggings and slippers on, and put her feet up on the sofa, and Aisling had us cackling with stories of Anna and ex-boyfriends within minutes, no, seconds, of being in. It felt right, and easy, and, like I was at home. We ate the best lemon drizzle cake you have ever tasted (Lucy made it. You need the recipe), and actually, we just ate. More than is good for you, but boy was it good for the soul.
We were too busy talking and eating and talking and eating to remember that Lucy was going to take a picture for our new profile picture until Aisling had almost left. We literally had to flag down her car and haul her out of her car to get this.
These are people I want Emmi to know forever. To have in her life as her mum’s crazy friends. Together, they have all of life’s issues covered. Whilst Anna was making the tea, she was also teaching Emmi about book-keeping and filing. Aisling let Emmi play with Stella, and taught her how to be the best older sister for if and when the time comes. When Emmi was having a tantrum about not being able to do something, Lucy told Emmi that if she worked hard, she could achieve anything. Lucy also bought her the most amazing dress which had CATS on. Fashion AND career advice…what more could an 18 month old need?
Aisling had to go home early, because Stella has been having some rough nights, so Lucy, Anna and I ate All Of The Food and spent the evening discussing careers, and politics, and friendships, and families, and marriage. It was like AOW, but in real life. And with pizza. You’d think I must be making it up, but I’m really not. We discovered that we had more in common than we had even realised, and it was one of those nights that you just feel has been good for you. When you talk about things that you didn’t even realise you needed to talk about, but then you did talk about, and you realise how much you really did need to talk about. Still following?
The next day we went on the swings (Emmi), drank too much coffee (Anna and I), and tried out the public conveniences of Cheltenham (Lucy). And too soon, it was time for them to go home. I don’t know when I’m going to see them again, and that makes me immeasurably sad.
I’ve been back in KL a week now, and since I’ve been back, I’ve found out that four of my very best friends, and three of Emmi’s best chums here, are moving on in the next couple of months. Such is the nature of expat life, but it doesn’t make it easier, and I think that’s been one of the reasons I’ve struggled coming back this time. I have begun to reconnect with my life here though. I’ve begun to realise that being here, we’re creating our own, new, history. One day I will reminisce about our life here, like I do about my life in the UK. I’ve met up with my brilliant friends here, who *aren’t* going. Friends who I will create new history with, and who one day I’ll only be able to see once a year, and also be immeasurably sad about. I know that I do love it here. I know that I am happy here. I have never regretted our choice to live here.
For now though, you’ll have to allow me a moment of sadness about my alternate life in the UK that I could be living, where you are all in the same time-zone as me, where I drink tea instead of iced coffee, and where there are three pairs of wellies by the front door, rather than three pairs of flip-flops.