Something Old, Something New

travel-on Pixabay

When you live far from home, you tend to spend your holidays going … well, home. There’s Mum to see, and Dad to see, and sisters and cousins and friends to see. You want your children to live the other half of their heritage and your non-British spouse to understand your weird jokes about cricket and suet pudding. You want to be part of weddings and funerals and family reunions. So, you go home as often as you can. Your friends in your adopted country think it’s exotic, asking, ‘Are you off to Paris/London/Timbuktu? Lucky you.’

Well, yes and no. A funeral, anywhere in the world, is definitely not exotic. That family reunion? Comes with the same baggage, whether it’s across the planet or down the road. Uncle Albert’s just as you remember him—unfortunately. But you need to be there, so you go. Then, one day, your children look at you and ask, ‘Do we have to go to Paris/London/Timbuktu again?’ And you wonder. Do we? Should we? Have the same lucky forces that made our children dual citizens and/or frequent flyers restricted them in the variety of places they go?

As spoiled as it may sound, as ‘First World Problem’ as it is, when you start recognizing the flight crews, you feel maybe it’s time to reassess your destination. When was the last time you scrolled through the TripAdvisor website looking for a new world to explore? French Polynesia looks so cool!  But what excuse will you come up with when you tell Dad your holiday won’t be spent at home? Of course, your family won’t make a fuss. They’ll understand.

But then it hits you. One day your children will be finding excuses not to visit you. You have a decision to make …

‘Hi, Jackie. Yes, we’re going home again. Looks like a full flight today. How are your kids? Captain Mike okay? Good. Yes, we’ll have the chicken. Same as last time.’

 (Image: Pixabay)

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Hireth-Tinted Glasses

Rose tinted glasses Derek Gavey

I’ve just returned from a visit to England. I wore different glasses on this trip. Not rose-tinted—or is that hireth-tinted?—glasses, but realistic, magnifying, research glasses. I was on a mission to find answers to some important questions: Is Exmoor really the place my husband and I can live? Permanently? With purpose? In harmony with both the natives and each other? All very different questions to the ones I’ve asked over the last few decades: Can we have a great time on holiday? Can the children ride a pony? What time does the tea shop open? Tee shirts or raincoats for the hike?

I began this visit by looking at the area through the lens of a Californian. My husband’s birthplace offers the Pacific Ocean and endless sunshine. Exmoor offers the Severn Estuary and no one’s idea of a perfect climate. I worry he’ll notice. But he’ll also notice the sparkly clear skies and the scent of heather that leave his smoggy air and car fumy smells in the dust.

Big issue: he doesn’t like clotted cream. How could I have missed such a basic character flaw? But will that flaw grow into a major fault line when he lands in this creamy mecca? Will it turn into nights on the couch? Marriage counselling? And is there even a marriage counsellor in Porlock? The organist at our Porlock wedding years ago was the local milkman. Is the counsellor the post lady? I think I need to do more research …

But enough about husbands. What about me?

All I used to need from Exmoor was a horse—make that multiple horses—a place to dance and the occasional train ride to London for more exciting options in entertainment and shopping. Look at me now: a former horse-riding expat, who’s grown used to robust water pressure in showers and twenty-four-hour pharmacies and grocery stores. Dancing? Unless it starts at four in the afternoon, the volume is turned way down low and there’s a selection of fruit teas at the bar, you’re not going to find me in any nightclub. Is Mr. B’s nightclub even still open in Minehead? If I asked a local youngster, he’d probably look at me like I was a visiting professor of prehistoric history. Hey, kiddo, I used to get up at five in the morning, show horses all day, then dance until two the following morning, often repeating the process that same weekend. Oh, and I danced at Studio 54 in New York, by the way. What? No, I don’t need help crossing the road. Clear off! Cheeky blighter.

But seriously, before packing the shipping container with all our worldly goods, we must look long and hard through multiple lenses at our lives. What do my husband and I need to feel settled now? Does Exmoor check new boxes that weren’t even the tiniest consideration decades ago? Like a small community that knows us: check. Opportunities to volunteer, with both local and national endeavours close to our hearts: check. (The National Trust and endangered Exmoor ponies are top of a very long list.)

Montacute Gardens Geograph

We need a place the children will want to visit: check. They’ll be back often—maybe too often. (We stupidly offered to pay airfares.) A place to write: heck yes on that one. And stately homes and beautiful gardens and stone walls and bluebells and cottages and teapots and no one thinking I have an accent and … and … a connection to my heritage. Check, check, and check again.

Oh, and one more thing: peace. We can find that on Exmoor in spades.

My research from this trip tells me Exmoor will work. Unless my husband’s clotted cream issues interfere. I need to go and talk to the post lady. Wish me luck.  

If you want to help the endangered Exmoor pony, visit  http://www.exmoorponycentre.org.uk/. Tell them Dunster sent you.

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Images: Rose-tinted glasses by Derek Gavey, Montacute Gardens by Geograph, Exmoor pony by author

Coddiwomple, Meet Hireth

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I haven’t been this moved by a newly-discovered word in … well, forever.

When “coddiwomple” first came across my Facebook feed, I burst out laughing. How could I not? How could anyone not? Just say the word several times. Experiment with accents, like Downton Abbey posh, Scottish Highlander, Texan, Australian. See? You have to laugh.

I’ve taken to wondering around the house saying “coddiwomple” with a Yorkshire accent. Yorkshire is the birthplace of my father. The word becomes a grand substitute for “nonsense”: “Coddiwomple! I don’t believe a word ya saying.” Or maybe it’s a Yorkshire delicacy. I can hear my Great Uncle Dennis now: “Would ya like coddiwomple wi’ that, chuck?”

Why, yes. Yes, I would. (I grew up in Hertfordshire so can’t produce “chuck” with any kind of authenticity. Out of respect for my ancestors, I won’t even try.)

I now find myself using “coddiwomple” multiple times a day. When you work from home, the dogs are the only ones listening, so it doesn’t matter. They understand. But the inevitable happens: I accidentally say “coddiwomple” to the FedEx delivery driver.

“No, no.” I assure him. “It’s not rude. It just means …”

And that’s when the laughing stops. For me, anyway.

Coddiwomple: “To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague, or as-yet-unknown, destination.” It’s now a serious word, a word to contemplate, a trigger for soul-searching. My eyes look to the horizon.

Is that what I’m doing? Am I traveling in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination? Is this another hireth moment?

I am a coddiwompler. I am coddiwompling. Because hireth says I must coddiwomple. I’m striding purposefully towards my vague destination.

Latitude N 51° 12′ 32″ Longitude W 03° 35′ 37″. Porlock. Somerset. United Kingdom.

That’s a bit specific for a vague or unknown destination, surely? True. But not true.

When I really think about it, my destination is unknown, or at best, vague. Do the latitude and longitude for Porlock match the Porlock in my head? The Porlock from thirty years ago? How old will I be when I get back there to live? Will I regret the move? Will friends and family regret my move? Will I fit in?

So many unknowns. So much vagueness. Like taking a familiar path into thick fog.

But, you know what? One serious word is enough. If I want to get all homesicky, I’ll stick with hireth. I’ll save coddiwomple for good laughs. Maybe I’ll start a coddiwompling club. We’ll coddiwomple free, like the Wombles of Wimbledon Common.

“Underground, over ground, coddiwompling free

The Coddiwomples of Withypool Common are we …”

For non-Brits, or those under a certain age, The Wombles was a children’s TV show about a band of furry characters who cleaned up the rubbish on Wimbledon Common. Great theme song! https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=wombles+theme+song&view=detail&mid=F63DC279D804930E3591F63DC279D804930E3591&FORM=VIRE

Pathway into fog image used with permission: Stuart Warstat. For more stunning images of Exmoor, visit http://www.stuartwarstatphotography.co.uk/

Once Upon a Hireth

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As I look back on my first full year of authoring, who’d have thought the feelings of discontent that precipitated my transition could lead to such fulfilment? Wishing to be somewhere else led me here, to this place. But it’s not the place I thought I was looking for, as I haven’t returned to England yet. The place turned out to be an occupation.

This occupation, this writer’s life, allows me to live wherever I want, even if it’s only in my imagination, and that has made living where I reside so much easier. Rather than seeing where I am as second best, I can focus on the joy of writing from wherever I am. The thrill and the freedom of putting visions of home on the page have been liberating. So, though hireth is still present, it’s not present in a stifling way, a distracting way, an I’m-wasting-my-life-somewhere-I-shouldn’t-be way. Hireth is now productive and useful and stimulating. It’s marvellous.

Marvellous.

A word I haven’t used in a long time.  One doesn’t talk about marvellous SUVs, or marvellous weather, or marvellous baseball games in the United States. These things are awesome, not marvellous. Marvellous is a good British sentiment. I catch more and more British words and sayings flowing from my mouth and keyboard now; buried deep for almost thirty years but becoming familiar again. I feel more native, relishing the opportunity to reconnect with my homeland, both linguistically and emotionally. Hireth leads home. Old connections rise to the surface. But not in a desperate way anymore.

I feared at the beginning of this journey, I may just be chasing old feelings, friends, lifestyles, and dreams. That maybe I’d be disappointed as I peered through the scratches and dents of thirty-year-old rose-tinted glasses and realised the need for a new prescription. Turns out my sense of loss and longing, of hireth, hasn’t led just to a search for the past. The real highlight of this first full year authoring has been establishing a new future.

Feedback from readers tells me I’ve tapped into their world in some way. So we are now connected in this new future.This future includes writers, fellow ex pats, Anglophiles, pony lovers, Exmoor lovers, and people who didn’t know they loved ponies or Exmoor, but discovered a new passion in “Dunster’s Calling.” And it definitely includes my fellow hireth sufferers, many of whom have told me they didn’t know the word for their feelings but fully understand the word now. I didn’t know I would find all these kindred spirits. I live each day with every inhabitant of this new world, with great relish and much appreciation. I owe hireth so much.

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I would have missed it all if hireth hadn’t pushed me into this new reality. I’d have missed playing with ponies on Exmoor and talking with Sylvia in Scotland about the North Berwick Ponies. I’d have missed the fabulous Exmoor pony community as a whole. They have embraced Dunster as one of their own.

I’d have missed Natalie in Spain, the first to like a photo or add a comment to my Facebook postings, which begs the question: when does she sleep as there’s a huge time difference between Wisconsin and Spain? I’d have missed June in Seattle, a British ex pat living the American dream, but wondering if she made the right decision. And Rodney, a fellow author, who shared his story about moving back to England after fifty years in the US in my August blog. He keeps me grounded with realistic expectations as I plan my own repatriation. I’d have missed Kelly in Alice Springs, a second cousin I lost track of decades ago, who popped up again thanks to the miracle of social media and a love of reading all things English. I’d have missed so many of you.

I’d also have missed the reviews of “Dunster’s Calling” on Amazon and Goodreads. All of them encourage and validate my efforts. Many are complete strangers to me, such as the reader in Australia, known only by her review name, Caroline. I marvel at how Caroline found me in this sea of books and authors, struggling to swim against the tidal wave of new publications. It is incredibly difficult to get reviews. I’m thrilled with each one. That a stranger so far away took the time to comment on my work is marvellous. Movingly marvellous.

I’d have missed out on the professional development too: my writing group, Tuesdays with Story, the editors and book cover designers, and formatters and conference speakers and website designers who have all contributed to my joy in this new world.

I hear from people who didn’t know they had hireth, but now understand their condition. I hear from people who’ve never heard of Exmoor but who now feel a connection strong enough to plan visits. I hear from people who are planning to return home, wherever that is for them, and those who’ve found new homes that speak to them more deeply than their birthplace. Sharing our stories makes me feel like I’m home. With family. With friends. With kindred spirits.

So, is home a published novel, a website, and an author Facebook page? If you’ve never felt the need to write, that notion will seem trite. And I know my pull towards England won’t abate. But for one who felt something was missing for so long, this new “writer’s home” is … marvellous.

Happy New Year.