Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home. Too many homes spoil the broth.
We have a lot of sayings about home, don’t we? There’s another good one that says “An Englishman’s home is his castle”. I think this is reflected in what I see – people, particularly in England, love their home. They invest in it, they spend time in it, they practically worship it, let’s be honest.
For us, home is becoming more of an abstract thing. I own some bricks and mortar in Bristol (I say “own”, that’s a great lie in itself, isn’t it – believing we ever own our homes? The banks owns it, yes). There are some bricks and mortar that I currently owe the bank hundreds of thousands of pounds for. But I have no real sense of attachment to this place. It’s not really home.
But – England. And Bristol specifically. That’s still my home. And it was to this land that I headed back last week.
I was looking forward to coming back to Bristol. Given that we’re heading off to Asia in a few weeks, my boss and I figured we should meet up in person one more time before that becomes logistically a lot tougher. Plus we’ve just hired a couple of new guys, and this is the first chance I’d get to meet them.
It’s only been 6 months since we left the UK, so I’m still not exactly missing Bristol yet. I’ve been in pretty regular touch with my closest friends whilst I’ve been away, so I don’t feel lonely. Nevertheless, as the day approached I was eager to come “home”. I made plans to see people on each day, and really make the most of it.
So last Monday I packed a bag and set off. I had to fly via Amsterdam to get all the way to Bristol airport (I didn’t fancy the 2-3 hour drive from somewhere in London) but luckily my boss agreed to it, even though it cost more. I was excited. The only thing I was a bit concerned about was that October in Bristol probably doesn’t feel the same as October in Athens. I’ve been wearing t-shirt and shorts every day up until very recently. I have one pair of jeans and a light anorak for a coat.
I arrived Monday night after a pretty non-eventful journey, and got a taxi to Clifton, where I was staying at our friends Hui King and Ai Seok’s house while they went on holiday to Madrid.
Vegetarian with bacon
I arose fairly early the next day and strode into the centre of Bristol for my first day of work. No rain, which was a relief. I felt the cold but actually the crisp morning air and the bright sunshine reminded me how beautiful Bristol is in Autumn. That’s the thing about England, you really get to experience every season in its glory.
I got to the office and met my colleagues Dan and Rich for the first time. The other Dan (yes, our little company is three quarters Dan. It’s a name you can trust) arrived and our first port of call was Source cafe in St Nicholas market. Now I’m a seasoned traveller I can say without doubt that Source does the best English breakfast, not only in Bristol, but the world. And they let you have the vegetarian option (so you get double poached eggs) with bacon. Gurt lush.
It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of being in the office, planning for the next year (and reviewing the last year). I realised that yes, I really did miss working in an office environment with the same people day in, day out. It’s so good to be able to chew decisions over together. It’s possible to do this on Skype, but it will never be the same as face to face in the same room.
Too much dill spoils the broth
I took Tuesday night off to recover (I’m an introvert, after all) before my appointments came thick and fast. First off, Wednesday night I saw Kalun and Lloyd for a curry (apparently Bristol’s best?) and we got to discussing the theology of death (as you do). Don’t worry, we also talked about how Kalun smashed up a chair.
On Thursday I had lunch with Dil, and in the evening I surprised everyone by turning up at the Hour of Power (HOP. If you want to know what this is, ask me in the comments). Then Sam Cav came over and we caught up, which was great.
Friday, I treated Russ to lunch for his birthday, which was an honour. And then in the evening I went to the fortnightly football session I used to go to when I lived in Bristol. It was so, so good to play football again. I really do miss that (and HOP).
On Saturday I saw Dil for the third day running, by which time we both agreed that was probably more than enough of each other.
And on Sunday I got along to our church in Henbury, and managed to catch up with Sim and the others, albeit briefly. Then over to the Crebers’ for the afternoon to chill out with them and the Trevs. Pete and Hannah always make a roast dinner when we’re together at theirs, which made me feel right at home, like being with family.
Can you tell me what that powder is, sir?
And that was that. Early Monday morning and I had to get back on a plane, and leave Bristol all over again. At the last minute I chickened out of taking the unmarked, unsealed bag of cacao powder that Dil had given me as a present. Probably not worth the hassle of trying to get that through airport security. The trip home was long but uneventful.
It was a great week. I loved being part of the team again in the office. I loved catching up with my closest friends. I loved not having to do exercise by myself. I loved being able to have the food that I missed.
Several times people asked me: “So are you coming back?”. I had to be honest and say that our journey still feels like it’s just beginning. But yes, Bristol is still home, of that I have no doubt.
I have a cold.
One short week in England and I get a stinking cold.
I’m definitely not coming back now.
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