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.