HOME PRIDE

Over the course of my fifty-one years and eight months of life so far (on this planet, so far), I’ve lived in around forty different places.

Some of them I was in for mere weeks. I count and include the unsuccessful month or so I stayed in an annexe at my Dad’s house in the early 1990s, the month of sofa-surfing when I returned to my home town following mid-1990s drinking and studies in Sheffield, and the month-and-a-half during which I lodged with a family before moving in to my own maison in the south of France a decade ago.

One or two of the other places I was in for a relatively short span I have undying affection for. A certainty that they were ‘home’.

Some places I lived in for years at a stretch but never settled, and have all but dismissed from memory.

One unfortunate place (or, rather, a place in which I was unfortunate) was burgled twice in just six months. By a neighbour first and then by the prostitute next door’s pimp, who was intent on recompense for the earnings she had spent on drugs and drink. She had nothing left to give, so he smashed her. And then he smashed my door and took what was mine.

A couple of places were greatly reduced. Cold. Damp. Dark. Lonely. Hungry. On psychological faultlines for sure, but somehow tapped into a rich seam creatively. Songs – a hundred or more, some good, a handful of them very good – were written and sung and recorded. The words crafted as if my very life depended on it. And it did.

“A house is a machine for living in” said Le Corbusier. But the problem with machines is that they need constant maintenance and so where then is the axis between slave and master? Other places have subsumed me into someone else’s willing servitude and numbed me to a half-life, a sort of domestic living death.

In almost all of the places I have been, I’ve managed to develop an aesthetic and maintain an ambience. A welcoming and comfortable air, I would hope. Our current house is no different. Those little details which conspire to ‘make a home’ seem to be something I am naturally “very good at” (according to my wife).

Some of the objects which detail this current house – the little bits and pieces – are deliberate references to my childhood. And, for that reason, they offer me conscious and subconscious comfort and security and confidence.

I think what I may also be doing by accumulating them is trying to create some of that sense of safety for when our child arrives. And I don’t doubt that I am also paying respects. Trying to keep close and include the people of importance from my life in my child’s life (as well as in the rest of my life).

For instance, this butter dish here in the kitchen which belonged to my Mum and Dad. It’s treasure. My Dad’s ancient glass bottles (which I talked about here). They too are treasure. This ornate Parisian lamp in the dining room, a gift from my Mum many years ago. It’s treasure. This wooden cat, curled up and asleep, which belonged to my Mum’s parents. It’s also treasure. Several other things…

Back in the 1960s and 1970s the British flour company Homepride promoted their wares with a cheerful character called Fred. Mum was quite a fan of this charming marketing ploy with his simple form and friendly nature. Once when she was ill my Dad – in love with her – made my Mum a ‘get well soon’ card with a graphic of Fred which he had cut out from a flour packet and stuck to the front. She still has the card, somewhere. Treasure.

I remember that a plastic flour shaker, around nine inches tall and in the shape of Fred, lived on the side in our kitchen when I was little. The ‘actual’ one has long been lost to time, of course. But I managed to find exactly the same version on EBay recently, and I bought him and he arrived here this morning.

As I sit here writing this and Fred sits in his new favoured spot on the breakfast bar next to me, I find myself wondering whether he and Frida Kahlo (the vase of flowers in the living room) will get along?

Yes, of course they will. This is a happy place.

Home.