They say you can never go home again. But last weekend I did. After moving out of the Accidental flatshare three months ago I have not returned, despite keeping in touch and meeting up with the Accidental (ex)housemates. When the unseasonable rain ruined a birthday picnic on Saturday, the party was relocated to my old flat in Putney, and I stepped across the threshold once more. Banging on the door and waiting to be let in, rather than whipping out my keys felt a little odd, but I was saved from an awkward moment by the arrival of another guest.
Once I climbed the same stairs I must have climbed a thousand times, I emerged to be greeted by endless familiar faces, and they all had one question to ask; "Does it feel weird being back here?". My answer was honest and exactly the same each time; "No, not at all." And truly it didn't. Being back in that flat felt familiar and comfortable, but I never once felt that I still lived there, or should be living there once more.
Some people describe a feeling of deep connection to a single place; their "spiritual home". A wise and much loved Accidental great-aunt once told me that everyone eventually finds a place they call home, but it may not actually be a childhood house or even their first place they buy or live in by themselves. Such a place need not even be a dwelling place. It could be a city, a wilderness, a particular building. One will never find this place by searching but will just realise one day, probably when you are far away, that that place is where you belong.
Until I went to university my parents' house, the only one I had ever lived in excepting term-times spent at boarding school (where home was once a room shared intimately with 12 others), was certainly the place I called home. This home is still where my family lives, and will thus always be a type of home for me - a home for family occasions and holidays, a constant refuge where I can always escape frantic, frustrating everyday life. Loved ones make a house a home, wherever that house may be. Someone in love once told me that his home had been where his parents lived until he met his girlfriend - then it was wherever she was.
London as a city is not my true home; as cities go, I feel far more at home in New York, for some inexplicable reason. Maybe a future house or flat here in London could be though. In my current transient state however, living in someone else's flat, not knowing when I will be in my first owned property, home means something else. It is not bricks and mortar, nor is it somewhere which belongs to me legally. Right now home is where I leave from to go to work, and return to after a hard day at work to collapse in front of the TV. Home is where I do my laundry, where I bake; where I release my inner domestic goddess (she doesn't get out much!) Home is where I recharge my iPod, my constant companion in the city, and home is where I sleep off the horrid days and wake up ready to face the new ones. Maybe that is why you can never go home - because home comes with you just when you think you are leaving it.