I love a cliché almost as much as I like taking them apart. Let’s start with ‘Home is where the heart is’, possibly the most romantic notion of them all, but what happens if, on a practical level, home is just where your kids are, and the dog, and all the cushions? Then there’s ‘Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home’, which is a gorgeous song but whose message is so impractical that not even the delicious Paul Young version can make it work for me. I’m down a sun hat at Stansted Airport, three woolly beanies on the Overground Line and I once left a beret I didn’t like, on purpose, on a coach from Swindon.
For me, home always seems to be a place I happen upon. When I first came to London aged 17, I was too timid to even leave the postcode area of my new ‘home’ in Earls Court. Eventually I latched onto a friend who was heading South of the River and so I moved to Battersea and a tiny rooftop flat, whose iron fire escape I can still see from the smeary windows of a train if I ever chug out of Waterloo. With growing confidence came a massive leap to Primrose Hill for a pitstop beyond my dreams and my wallet, which was followed by a sensible move to Dalston. Essentially I’m just an Oyster card in human form.
But I know I’ll never be able to leave London now. I love our relationship too much. We’ve been going strong for a while – 33 years. It might just be one of the best relationships I’ve ever had. Essentially it’s a very forgiving one. London forgives me for not doing the things I promise I will do (never been on a boat on The Thames, never been for a historical walk around the City, never been to Madame Tussauds) and I’m forgiving of it being noisy and filthy and a bit too much on a hot day.
I’d happily stay put for another ten years in Dalston – I’ve done twenty already – and then maybe make the massive move up the road to Victoria Park (all of 1.3 miles!) which I love in equal measure for its mystical sense of space on a dewy morning and the practical shopping opportunities close by. Nothing calls to a middle aged woman quite like a decent butchers, bakers and hairdresser on the same handy parade.
Oh look, I’m a bit of a cliché myself…