In the streets outside this house I once lived in I see images from my childhood, of tennis matches played on the road and I hear the laughter that only children caught up in a fantasy world of play can make. I walk in the front door to be flooded with memories.
There’s a hallway where we hung our coats and kicked off our shoes, but now I see only unfamiliar footwear and coats that I would never wear.
The kitchen is in the same place it always was but it has been revamped and smells of food I never ate.
The living room, albeit with a different shade on the walls and a new carpet, bears a resemblance to the room we occupied as a young family, gathered around the TV or chatting about our day.
And yes, the bathroom is almost the same, looking just a little grubbier and more worn than it once did, and there are toiletries littered on the shelves that I do not use.
The garden brings back fond memories of English summers, BBQ’s with friends and lazy afternoons on the lawn. However, my parents never planted that row of conifers, and roses blossom where we used to keep patio chairs. The shed we kept our bikes in has gone completely.
I know it is a house I have lived in, it breeds familiarity, but someone came in and redecorated. Somebody rearranged the furniture, planted new shrubs and flowers and erased the little touches that made it my place. I know my way around but it is clear I don’t live there anymore. It’s not my home. It’s been a long time since it has been my home.
When we drive through the rolling English countryside I realise I miss hills and a landscape that provides variety. When I am pushing my trolley around the one-stop supermarket, it reinforces my yearning to shop every week surrounded by such choice and variety, surrounded by foodstuffs I grew up with. When we pass a traditional English pub, tucked back on a country road tempting the passer-by with Sunday roast dinners, I cannot deny happy memories flood back, and the desire to have such a stop-off on my doorstep again is overwhelming.
Yet the overwhelming truth is this, when I am back in England I feel like a visitor. It is no longer my home. People I love live there but I no longer have a base there. When we get into our car and make our way back to Dover to catch the Eurotunnel back over to mainland Europe, or head to Harwich to get the ferry back to Hoek van Holland I know I am heading home.