When I took this photo of a rather average sunset from Hurlstone Point in England on June 23rd 2016, I didn’t know the sun was setting on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. The results of the ‘Brexit’ referendum weren’t in yet. I couldn’t vote, as I’d lived outside the United Kingdom for more than fifteen years, but I had friends and family voting on both sides of the issue. Things should change, things shouldn’t change—there were so many conflicting opinions. On June 24th, we heard the vote was to leave the EU. And so, a new chapter begins with big changes expected in my homeland.
But for me, regardless of whether the vote had been to remain or leave, England has already changed. Of course it’s changed! It’s been nearly thirty years since I lived there. It’s the little things: not knowing the phone calling codes, a new coin, higher prices, a road where I used to play in a wood, and celebrity names I don’t recognize anymore. And then there are the big changes: demographics, government rulings, banking laws, residency requirements. The list goes on and on. The thought of returning permanently can be daunting. Do I really know my homeland at all?
And does my homeland know me? The 1980s ‘Me’ doesn’t exist either. The child, the teenager, the early twenties, the horse rider, the carefree, mortgage-free, child-free, hireth-free ‘Me’ is as far from me now as 2016 England is to 1980s England. Hireth, a Cornish word meaning a longing to return to a place that may not exist anymore, is a universal concept felt by many who live away from home for extended periods. It also has meaning for those who have never left home. They, too, can long for a time when life was simpler in their own hometown, a time that may never really have existed.
Writing Dunster’s Calling has helped me explore both my nostalgia and my present reality, wrapped in humor, ponies, foreign adventures, and clotted cream. I wasn’t Exmoor born and breed. I never owned an Exmoor pony. But, like Samantha in the book, I did marry a man from a foreign land, never planning to be an émigré. And, like Samantha, my soul does seem to crave one particular place on the planet. Don’t ask me why. It’s not logical or rational, having spent many more years away than I ever spent at ‘home.’ But as I listen to others discussing Dunster’s Calling, I realize many have lived this story, though maybe without the crazy goats, the cake disasters, the running away from home, and the politics of small town living. But they’ve lived a split life: past in one place, present in another, future in flux. I’m not alone.
So enough about the hireth, what about the hooray? Well, from hireth comes a new world for me. A world as a writer, which feels like home. A fixer-upper, maybe, but home nevertheless. Hireth led to the opportunity to make others laugh and cry, to assess their own choices, and, maybe, given current events I couldn’t possibly have imagined when I began writing, the opportunity to look at others from other places in a new light. Maybe Dunster’s Calling will make you realize you’re searching for home yourself. Or make you realize you’ve been home all along. Either way, you’re not alone.
4 thoughts on “Hireth and Hooray”
Tracey, I have just finished Dunster’s Calling, thank you for a lovely story which made me laugh and cry! Your empathy with your character Sam is beautifully portrayed. I could identify with so much of the narrative, not from the perspective of an emigre but as someone who grew up as a pony mad child in the fifties. I brought up my large family of five in the South East of England, discovering Exmoor in my early twenties.
They say everyone has a spiritual home, Exmoor became mine from then on.
I spent my life in between holidays on Exmoor working towards my ultimate goal, living on Exmoor. in 1999 the dream became reality, despite losing my husband of 43 years in 2006, I have never felt happier or more at peace.
As a young teenager I desperately longed to train at Porlock Vale, sadly funds wouldn’t allow and I had to settle for a lesser known establishment! Horses have been an important part of my life. I pinch myself everyday as I still cannot believe I live on Exmoor! Now in my seventies, I walk my dogs daily in my heaven on Earth! Being so familiar with the locations in your story, I know your research has been meticulous, congratulations on your achievement I look forward to reading your next novel. Thank you for donating to the welfare of our beautiful “Dunster’s” too!
Hi Linda! Thank you for your kind words about “Dunster’s Calling”. Writing it was truly a labor of love for me as I got to relive my years on Exmoor with horses. As to the research, I took it very seriously. I consumed cream teas and ice cream everywhere within a ten mile radius of Porlock, rode over the moors (despite having been out of the saddle for a decade!), and tested every bench with a view I could find. I also got to hang out with a lot of fabulous Exmoor ponies. I have never enjoyed a task more!
And thank you equally as much for sharing your connection to Exmoor. It certainly sounds as though Sam’s story is very much ‘Your Story’ too! I think you so rightly point out that you don’t have to have lived abroad to relate to the quest to find home. You personally felt something in your soul when you met Exmoor. I always write ‘met’ Exmoor, as that part of the world has a connection to me that cannot be explained in hills and views and livestock and clotted cream alone. It connects very deeply, as though it’s a special person. It sounds as though you understand that. I’m sure many others do too, whether to Exmoor or to their own special place.
Once again, Many thanks for your kind support. It is a honour to donate to the “beautiful Dunsters” out there!
Dunster’s calling is a wonderful read on so many levels. It delves into the complexities, pain and joy of our relationships with those around us, both human and animal. Beautiful observation and detail bring the characters and landscape to life. You will be left with a longing to return to Exmoor or a desire to discover it for the first time. Wonderful humour is sprinkled throughout the pages but it still has the ability to be deeply moving. This book will resonate with all those who have experienced the acute or chronic stages of that longing to be elsewhere. Displacement is ever present and whether by choice or necessity so many will see themselves in these pages.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful observations on “Dunster’s Calling.” It certainly sounds like you’ve longed for elsewhere at some point in your life. When I started writing, I thought hireth was a rather obscure concept, maybe just in my mind. I now realize it’s a global phenomenon! We’re all searching for something, somewhere, or someone to call home. Once again, thank you so much for sharing your comments. They touched me deeply.