Impressions of ‘home’ after five years away from the UK

I feel like a tourist. Every brick home, red telephone box, pub, thatched cottage, red robin, squirrel and deciduous tree, turning with the autumn tide, make me want to grab for my camera. Holly bushes, berry laded bushes for the birds through the winter, acorns littering the garden – I am seeing autumn in England for the first time in five years.

Granddad and Alice at home in the garden kicking up the Autumn leaves

On Sunday afternoon, the day after we arrived in England, we stopped to feed the ducks at a quaint pond in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire – reminding me of visits there as a child – to a pond, frozen thick with ice, to feed the hungry ducks. Memories of Bonfire Night flooded back and swinging lanterns of fire being walked through the grand lines of Oak Trees to light the bonfire.

Thoughts of when my Dad ran his own business in an office there reminded me of how I’d pedal by bike from a neighboring town, where we lived, to his office to do some work for him on my school holidays. So many memories, and so much the same as it was – and has been – for hundreds of years – but so much, so new in the five years I’ve been away too. A quaint old pub had a chalk board sign saying, ‘Follow us on Twitter’ being the most striking of all.

I keep pinching myself that I’m really here. It feels so surreal. My parents live in the home I grew up in and lived in from the age of five. Walking into the family home was overwhelming on my emotions with so many memories in every corner, nook and cranny of the house. The afternoon we arrived the house was suddenly filled with noise and movement, like when my sister and I were young. The kitchen instantly became a busy hive of activity, play dough creating and smoothie making.

In the kitchen

My eyes flitted from one thing to another, photographs, ornaments, memorabilia from various family holidays. The dining table we’d sat around for so many family occasions…

Dining room

and the garden, where my sister and I – along with friends and cousins – had played in all weather over many years.

Sophie and Alice in the garden

Of course much had changed. The home was immaculate and not used to the chaos of little people. Granddad had built an outdoor marquee, with lights and a heater, for the children to play out in and freely make mess.

Opening up for business

It didn’t take long for the children to explore the house and insist on opening the marquee for business! Grandma was on art supervising duty and Granddad was happy kicking up the leaves with Alice and showing her the worms on the compost!

Art time

It’s wonderful being here, totally exhausting though, and emotionally overwhelming in so many rich ways. Walking the paths I used to walk as a child, with my own children. Kicking up the autumn leaves and remembering the cooler temperatures of the land I grew up in – and having to rein my ‘wild’ Kiwi children in from running on too far bare-foot!