Sunday, April 27, 2008


Lots of my favourite blog-people live a long way from where they grew up. A different state, a different country – even a different continent.

I live about six miles from where I grew up, in the same city. I’m very attached to my home territory. It's not that I'm particularly a city lover, but if I go away on holiday for two weeks, I’m thinking longingly of home about half-way through the second week. I love it when we’re driving up from England and we see the familiar shape of Arthur’s Seat, the biggest hill in our city, on the skyline. I love getting back to my garden and seeing what’s grown, and being back in my house, which looks to me, like the rest of Edinburgh, familiarly strange, strangely familiar.

I occasionally wonder if I’d feel the same about home if I’d grown up somewhere less pleasant. Edinburgh, as cities go, is a good place to live. It’s not very big – you could walk from the centre to any place on the outskirts in an hour or so – and yet it has most of the things you need in a city: shops, theatres, cinemas, parks, hills (I think you need hills in a city), art galleries, museums. It has its ugly bits like anywhere but also some lovely bits; it’s historic; it has quiet areas; and it’s got the sea on one side. The weather – well, it depends what you like, but I don’t like hot weather and it’s seldom either very hot or very cold. It has short days in winter but this is easily offset, in my opinion, by long days in summer.

Would I feel less attached to home if I lived in an industrial area full of tower blocks? A huge city like London? Or somewhere with an extreme climate? I don’t know.

I’m always amazed when people emigrate. Apart from leaving the place, I wouldn’t want to leave friends and family. I just can’t imagine why anyone would – of course I exclude victims of war and famine for whom home has become intolerable. And I realise that sometimes you have to move for work. But people who just tootle off from somewhere nice to somewhere else nice – clearly they have much more of a sense of adventure than I do. (Not that this would be hard.)

The only reason that we might move far away would be if our children did. They’re more important than anything.

Ah well. We’re all different; and other such original conclusions.


  1. What a huge concept 'home' is.

    I'm not Welsh but love the Welsh notion of 'hireath'- that longing, craving, homesickness and yearning for the place one calls home. Such a powerful thought.

  2. I think fi one lived in a place such as Edinburgh, which essentially stayed the same, you could develop that attachment.

    I feel that places alter so wildly in just a few years that the concept of home does not exist, the place changes with time and only exists in the memory. The lanscape changes here so quickly.

    If I travel outside of sydney, i often feel strangely homesick. I feel anxious in small australian towns, but when I travel FAR away, I do not. I have peculiar attachments to strange faraway places.

    Sometimes people emigrate for the reason there is just not enough to sustain them where they are: like work, or other things.

    I always missed having people know who I was when I lived overseas. No one to say hello as you went by.

  3. You have pinpointed one of the things I like about Edinburgh: it is a manageable city. I can comprehend it, end to end, in my head. There are hardly any areas of the city that I don't know at all and I doubt I could be seriously lost here for more than a few minutes before finding my bearings (those hills help!) Really big cities like London, New York and so on freak me out a little - they are just too big. This might explain why I like Halifax, Nova Scotia as a city - it's about the same size as Edinburgh!

  4. I love Edinburgh. It is such a beautiful city, and given my family has a history there, I do feel a tiny sense of belonging when I visit.

    I think there are two types of people, wanderers and stayers. Our family are mostly wanderers. And for all of us, the reasons for taking the first steps were to take advantage of opportunities to widen our horizons.

    Of course, once you've left 'home' it becomes very hard to return and if you do, it is never the same.

    I like to think I have a number of places I call 'home'.

  5. I am slightly envious of the sense of belonging that you so obviously feel. I am a wanderer, my father moved with his job - 5 times, then college, then 8 moves since I married.Three moves in Cornwall but to different parts of this elongated county. Edinbiurgh is such a lovely place to feel part of.

  6. Oh Isabelle! How envious I am of your life -- especially in such a beautiful city. For us, we have to go where the job takes us -- there are only a few places we can live, and none of them particularly attractive (especially when compared to a place so lovely as Edinburgh) -- makes me wish we'd picked different, more versatile careers. I do hope your children will end up living close to you -- we didn't, so my parents moved to be close to us but it's been hard on them. As I suspect it would be very hard on you to move -- even if it would put you closer to your children.

  7. Edinburgh sounds a perfect place to live in all ways - small enough not to be too crowded, but large enough to have everyone you need without going further afield.
    So you would follow your children if they moved far away? What can I do to persuade them to live in Australia? LOL LOL LOL

  8. I loved Edinburgh and can see why you do to.

    My before I went overseas 'home' was Wellington, I still love visitng there and enjouying the atmosphere. Sadly for me now though, no fmaily or friends there. So home is in a city not anywhere near appealing as Wellington (in fact John Cleese called it Suicide City!) but to me really home is where family are.

    Have just caught up on your entries, so sad about your old friend.

  9. As one who "tootled off" overseas, i'd have to say I was young and foolish and someone should have stopped me! but that might have made me more determined to go....Ireland was too boring. My! how wise I have grown....Someday I'll get to Edinburgh.....My son tells me it's a beautiful city.

  10. I escaped home to live 2000 miles away for ten years, but the longing for family drove me back to my home state. Tim and I often express to each other our mutual wish that our children will settle in California...or Arizona...or Texas...or Florida...or anywhere without snow!

  11. Ah and you have History too. Something we are a bit short on way over here.

  12. My niece went to art college in Edinburgh about 10 years ago and stayed. Though she's a real wanderer, she likes to come back there.

    I wandered for a long time, not very constructively or conclusively, but coming here was a bridge burning exercise, and we've had to commit ourselves and become stayers, which I don't regret. But it's home really mostly because of the work and effort it's taken to make it so, and because it's where my dear ones are.

  13. Your post resonated with me. Edinburgh sounds like a good place. I prize the place I live for some very similar reasons, although of course it doesn't have Edinburgh's history and it does sprawl a bit.

    I grew up someplace considerably less pleasant. Despite that fact, the residents were extremely prideful about it, even defensive. Why on earth would one want to travel elsewhere, much less move? I didn't really have much to compare to, so I didn't question that philosophy much until years later.

    I wish I could pretend that I knew a great deal about the Bay Area before moving and that it drove my decision to move here. However, I didn't. There was school and work and I ended up staying. I was fortunate that it was more to my taste than the place I'd come from. As for the relatives, I think most of them were glad to see me go. I hope the situation will be different when my son's turn to leave the nest comes. I'm already starting to dread the idea.

  14. My Dad was a wanderer, always looking for some better place for himself and the family. I tend to be a bit like that, but have now found a home I love and will stay here. However, that said, having visited UK three times now, I recognize in myself my British heritage and wish I could live in the English/Scottish/Welsh countryside part of the year and still have "home" here.

  15. Ahh I miss Edinburgh like crazy. I wasn't a wanderer I was a homebody and for that reason I went to Uni all the way up north in Scotland rather than my home town in Sussex because I thought it was my only chance to "see the world" before settling back down south.

    I didn't bargain for Edinburgh's alluring power and ended up staying there for 13 years. While there I met my aussie hubby and tootled off to be with him so I now live right over the other side of the world.

    I love Edinburgh and I love how much the folk that live there tend to love Edinburgh just as you describe. Every city I visit now has to be benchmarked against Edinburgh for me and while New York does well for crazy excitement no where yet has fully matched Edinburgh.