Two hearts.

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.

Emmi 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.

Lucy took pictures of us. She is a genius.

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.

Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Written By Clare
38 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted May 14, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    3 things about this:
    2 – I can’t decide if the writing or the photographs are more beautiful. I feel spoiled by both!
    3 – I can’t believe I haven’t met you! (or Aisling either yet)

    • Clare
      Posted May 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      I KNOW Amy – we need to change this asap! xx

  2. Posted May 14, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Oh this made me cry. I’m currently wrapped up in a duvet at my parents house, listening to the rain lash the windows. Southern California is in the middle of a heatwave, but I’m even romanticising the Scottish weather. I love LA, it’s where we want to stay long term, but it’s hard to remember why when belly-laughing with old friends or having chats on the bed with my darling mummy.

    Thanks for reminding me it’s ok for your heart to belong in two places. x

  3. Lara Blue
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    All of this is wonderful but the picture of Emmi hugging the goat melted my heart and made me wonder just *how* weird it would be to frame a picture of someone else’s child hugging an animal???

    Keep writing and keep taking photos xxx

    • Sharon
      Posted May 14, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Lara, I love that photo too, its a beaut.

  4. Posted May 14, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Awww sobbing here for the life I too left behind, although no where near as far distance as you (and Lorna) but I so get the two hearts belonging in two places. I call Scotland my home now, I’ve been here 7 years but Ireland is my ‘home home’ the place that shaped me and I miss it, I miss my family but I love my life here now and never regret leaving to come here (with a stop over of 7 years in the Isle of Man) Wow 14 years away from home!

    Thank you too for reminding me its fine to have two homes and sharing pictures of hug a goat!!! How blooming cute is she?!?!

  5. Posted May 14, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    This is such a beautiful post. And to have two homes, while occasionally meaning you are homesick, is a lucky thing.

    P.s. Emmi is so stylish! And clearly a girl who enjoys all the fun offered to her!

  6. Posted May 14, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Oh my days. All of this is just rediculously gorgeous.

    I really want to stroke a lamb. Look at it’s little face…

    I can’t wait for the day when I meet you all ..and can’t believe I didn’t know about AOW last time I went to KL. I feel like I missed out!


  7. Posted May 14, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    You are so right about the “two hearts”, it’s exactly how it feels. Or more like your heart grows bigger and bigger because you incorporate new friends, new traditions, new ways of life, and at the same time, the home where you grew up, the friends of your childhood, high school, family… will always be there.

    I want to be at the next GIAT it sounds like so much fun (also, cat dress for baby girls :) , career, books and fashion advice… is what I call an education :)

    The other day I read an article that described well the feelings you are talking about:

    “So you look at your life, and the two countries that hold it, and realize that you are now two distinct people. As much as your countries represent and fulfill different parts of you and what you enjoy about life, as much as you have formed unbreakable bonds with people you love in both places, as much as you feel truly at home in either one, so you are divided in two. For the rest of your life, or at least it feels this way, you will spend your time in one naggingly longing for the other, and waiting until you can get back for at least a few weeks and dive back into the person you were back there…”

    • Posted May 14, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      That quote absolutely nails it! Think I’ll have to print it out. It perfectly sums up the thoughts that race around my head when I think longingly of the place that was once my home (albeit temporarily).

    • Clare
      Posted May 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Amanda that quote is wonderful! It absolutely and completely sums up how I feel. Thank you for sharing it xx

    • Gwen
      Posted May 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      The quote sums it up for me too – I love Edinburgh and my home here, but I miss Yorkshire so much it hurts a bit sometimes. I don’t know why, it’s not exactly far away, but there are people and places there that I would like to see more but logistically can’t. It’s almost an aching to be in a place that I know, that I recognise, without having to google or ask around to find an equivilent locally, even after 5 years in Edinburgh, there are still things that I can’t find an equivilent of!

      My dad bought me a mug for christmas that says “Ye can take the lass out of Yorkshire, but ye cannie take the Yorkshire out the lass”. The mug is right!

  8. Posted May 14, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I like Amanda’s idea of your heart expanding rather than dividing. And I always think with far-away-friends that it just makes it extra special when you do get to see them. It’s never easy to say goodbye though.

    Emmi looks like she’s faith healing that lamb.


    • Clare
      Posted May 14, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Pensky I’d not noticed that, but it really does! Emmi the Faith Healer….now there’s a scary prospect! xx

  9. Vivienne
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Sniff. Sniff. You are all so beautiful, big people and babies.

  10. Posted May 14, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I hate saying goodbye too, it gives me a knots in my stomach. I have the same feeling when I’m in an airport or train station even if it’s not to say goodbye to someone but just to go on a day trip or short journey. I think it goes back to when Tom and I were first going out but living in separate cities and we had that Sunday night feeling all too soon into our weekends together.

    But the good news is that I feel like meeting up with you three, all together, recharges my batteries enough to keep me going until the next time. However long it might be.

  11. Posted May 14, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    May I point out, I was only teaching Emmi about filing because she crept round the corner, got hold of my handbag, opened it, retrieved my walled, opened it, and I found her sat on the floor surrounded by all my receipts.

    So we played a new game. ‘What goes in the shredding pile?’ Everything, according to Emmi. Including travel cards worth £1,740. It’s lucky she’s cute.

    • Clare
      Posted May 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      I’ll give you that. She did start the lesson by stealing your wallet! xx

  12. Posted May 14, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Firstly: OMG you’re from Cheltenham?! So am I! (Cue me now going back to look at your wedding reports etc to see where you got married and generally be nosey). I don’t live there any more but grew up there and my parents (and the parents of all my schoolfriends – see my Friends That Made Me Me) still live there. It is fabulous for parks, I agree – Pittville’s my favourite.

    Secondly: this piece of writing is beautiful. I’ve never lived in a different timezone from friends and family – I’m not sure how I’d cope and I like being within a couple of hours’ drive/train journey from everyone. This made me realise I would miss the tiny things like the smell of the air, as well as the people.

    K x

    • Clare
      Posted May 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      No way Katy! I got married in Bibury Court, just outside of Cirencester!


      • Becca
        Posted May 14, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        My friend looked at Bilbury Court!

  13. Posted May 14, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    This is beautiful writing. I’ve never really felt like I had a place that truly felt like home until the last four years or so, so the idea of moving never scared me until now. It is a lot to think about.

    Your photos are beautiful. Emmi hugging the goat is just …

  14. Posted May 14, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    My parents moved around when I was a child and I spent a while in Hong Kong. Because of this I’ve never wanted to move abroad as an adult – it’s like it has skipped a generation! I missed the rest of my family, seasons, English countryside, people speaking my language… I wouldn’t choose to do it if I could possibly help it. Maybe that means I’m limiting myself…

    Also, Emmi and Stella are amazing. And you are all unbelievably gorgeous. And I want some gin.

  15. Alex
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this! Having moved to Dubai about 1 year ago, I feel the same way. Thanks for reminding me that it’s OK to miss one thing when living in another country and vice versa.
    And Amanda, that quote rocks!

  16. Posted May 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Totally gorgeous post. The only thing cuter than the goat hug is Emmi’s ruffled bottom! x

  17. Rowan
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    That sounds like the best trip home! I’ve been missing that gorgeous smell of England in the spring/early summer and the lovely clear, fresh air these last couple of weeks. I’m relatively new to the expat life and still finding everything baffling/fascinating/exhausting/amazing in turns. We’re realising how much effort we need to make to really keep in touch with friends’ lives elsewhere when we’re barely on top of our own and no skype call can ever replicate that wonderful relaxedness of hanging out at the pub with a group of friends you’ve known forever – exciting though our new lives are, I do miss that.

  18. Clare
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you everyone! Emmi and the goat thank you for all of the compliments! And to everyone who’s in the same boat as me, I hope this post helped you, as much as it helped me to write it! xx

  19. Posted May 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    A beautiful piece of writing Clare, that is so close to my own heart. I can’t believe I’ve been here in Dubai for six years, and that we talk about the next possible place we may go, before going “Home”. But, I have three homes (greedy hey).

    I grew up in West London, and although I am one of five, not one of us remains there. My sister is in Watford, not so far away from our childhood home, so we stay with her on our holidays back. (My other is in Qatar). This gives me the chance to visit and catch up with school friends, most of whom have moved out of the area we grew up in. London will always be home, I love it.

    When I was 26, and training to be a teacher, my parents decided to sell up and move to Ireland, taking my youngest brother with them. Their house is Home. Although I’ve never lived there, for longer than 3 weeks, it’s where we join together as family, it’s at the heart of all my family. Once we turn into the drive, I’m home. The surrounding area is where my parents grew up, my relations grew up, where I spent my childhood summers, yet that town will never feel like home. But, with horrendous student debts, I decided to take the huge leap of heading abroad alone…

    Which brings me onto my third home- Dubai. I have a love/hate relationship with the place. But I am happy. I too feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to lead the life I have. We have lifelong friends here, our apartment is where Gavin proposed, our home is filled with our treasures collected from the adventures that living here affords us- and the sun shines brightly.

    Phew! Sorry, didn’t mean to go on. I love your link Amanda. It sums up how how I feel perfectly.

    As for Emmi’s adventures, I loved following them on Instagram, and was very pleased that after the quest for a raincoat, you didn’t even need one! Adorable pictures of a beautiful girls. And yes, you AOW girls look gorgeous too.


  20. Amanda M
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Okay, reading this has made me homesick. And I LIVE at home – how does that work?!

    And if it helps, I’m sitting here with resolutely bare legs (because it’s ‘summer’) which are one big goosebump, listening to the rain monsoon. England was clearly showing off for you and has now stopped bothering!

  21. Rach M
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous piece. Utterly loved it, Emmi and the goat, the GIAT, you lovely lot catching up and knowing what it feels like to live in two places and love them both. Great stuff x

  22. Caroline
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Perfectly timed and wonderful post – I recently moved 80 whole miles from my home town and have been feeling a bit blue about having very little social life in the new town, and missing my friends a lot.
    Time to go see them and find ways to make new friends here!

  23. Frances
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Clare, thank you for writing this. I identify, and as others have said, not over quite such a distance! Thank you for writing this bit in particular:

    “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?”

    I follow. Completely.


  24. Posted May 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Oh! Oh! Emmi and Stella in one post! *explodes from cute*

    Cannot believe it has taken me all day to read this. It’s just… wonderful. Poignant and beautiful and littered with photos that make my heart sing.

    K x

    Ps: I have Anna K jacket envy. As well as my usual Emmi outfit envy.

  25. Sandie
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Oh Clare…I had a lump all the way through that!

    My family live a mere 200 miles from me. Despite the fact that it was my decision to move, my home is undoubtedly here in the north and the fact that they mostly drive me crazy, I cry my heart out every time I leave. I cannot even bring myself to think of having a family when my own mum is so far away, so I have nothing but admiration for you.

    Sending hugs x

  26. Liz Wan
    Posted May 15, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Awesome post (girlfriends rock!) and gorgeous pictures – but where’s Lucy in the pictures?!

    Can you post the lemon drizzle recipe too please? I love a bit of lemon drizzle…

  27. Posted May 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Lovely piece, I love those nights/weekends when everything is perfect and you just talk and eat and drink maybe?
    I was homesick just changing city never mind country, so don’t know how you do it. The wonderful weather and friends will help I guess :)

  28. Posted May 17, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I have only just discovered this and realised that Tuesday was so hectic that I didn’t get my daily AOW fix! What a great piece of writing though, Clare. It’s not something I have experienced but I know friends that have and I think you have hit the nail on the head. I think it is definitely possible for our hearts to be in two places at once though :) xx

  29. Laurie
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    My friend just sent me this link because this is actually (sans heartbreakingly adorable child) MY LIFE, and she has heard me express these exact sentiments so many times she couldn’t actually believe she’d found someone else saying the same thing on one of her favourite blogs. Which, by the way, I’m terribly glad I’ve found because it’s fab: how did I not know about it before. Anyway Clare – same goes, and if you’re about in KL any time soon, let’s go for a coffee and miss England together :)

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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