Mobile Home

Lately I’ve been thinking about home, where it is, what it means. Although I live in the UK, I was born in America and there are people there I miss – friends, family, former professors, the lovely strangers on the train to Philadelphia. But, I don’t feel at home there.

When I am away from Doylestown, the small historic suburb where I grew up, I don’t miss it. I don’t want to be walking those streets or sipping tea in those cafes. Yet, when I am away from Wales, it digs at me, pulls me back. I long to be in this place. There is no comfort like crossing the Severn Bridge after a long holiday.

Friends here have jokingly told me that I’ve got the ‘hireath’ – that untranslatable Welsh word which represents a mix of longing, love, nostalgia or earnest desire often, specifically, for Wales. When I’m not here, I have this. I miss the sea, the rain, the hills, the magpies, the way everything smells. I miss my local pubs, the Valleys accents, the bilingual signs. I miss my Victorian house with its slate floors and stained glass. Wales is where I belong, where I feel most myself.

Yet despite my love and longing and feeling of being at home here, people remind me everyday that this is not where I’m from – that I’m away from the place they consider to be my home. I sound American, very American, and when I speak this sound others me. There’s no lilt, no gentleness. It’s abrasive, loud, obvious. So, because of this, I live across two homes everyday: the home where I was born and the home I have found and fallen in love with.

It was with these thoughts swirling around in my head that I decided to create the Mobile Home project for this year’s Made in Spring festival.

Two weeks ago this project transformed the Milkfloat Caravan into a comfortable space where people could come in and share stories about their homes. Whether they lived in Roath or further afield, passerbys could come inside and write a few lines, a poem, a piece of prose, or more about what home meant to them.

The response was amazing. In just one day the Mobile Home volunteers and I collected 55 poems, stories, quotes, anecdotes and even drawings about what home means. It gave us time to think too about what it takes to build a home, find a home, share a home and appreciate home. It was brilliant.

I am so grateful to everyone who stopped in to share their thoughts about home and to the wonderful volunteers who helped make this project happen: Sean, Lisa, and Terri. I would also love to thank locals, Rachel and Bethan, for loaning us a pillow, chair and gorgeous rug to make the caravan truly feel like home. Finally, a very special thanks also goes out to Gail Howard who not only entrusted me with her amazing caravan but also loaned me some wonderful bits and bobs which brought it all together.

I truly loved all of Made in Spring this year, including the Red Route which Dai ( the new Made in Roath blogger) wrote about here, but this project was certainly a highlight for me. I’ve included a selection of words and photographs from the Mobile Home below and will post the rest, which include drawings, poems or special fonts, as photographs on the Made in Roath blog shortly. Enjoy:

Home is where your books live.

Home is what I carry inside me – memories, hopes, dreams, ambitions, loves and losses. It’s transportable but I’m always rooted in what I can imagine, inspired by the places that surround me.

Home is now. It is a feeling. It is where my DIY family live. It is where I can be myself. It is where I can share my ideas. It is freedom, it is love, it is inspiration. It is somewhere with lots of trees and hugs and positivity and good places to go running.

Home is where you can breathe easily, where you can love, laugh, cry and grow.

Home is the place I visit in my mind – the place I see in my dreams, my waking hours. When I’m happy, when I’m sad, it’s there and it’s mine. Home is what I want it to be. Sometimes it’s physical, sometimes it’s not. Home is where I feel safe.

Home is where all my journeys begin…and end!

Home is where we play hide and seek and look for worms in the back garden and sing and dance to ‘The Jungle Book’.

Home is sun on the sand and salt in the air. Home is snow on the peaks and rain on the trees. Home is love in the room and laughter in the hall. Home is mine. Home is ours.

My first home in Cardiff was in Roath. A small first-floor bedsit in a quiet side street. There were 3 bedsits on the first floor. I met the person in the front room. He said not to knock on the hind door. That was where the judge came. The landlady use to trip up the fire escape from the garden to meet him. There were both married. But not to each other.

Home is where my family is. It’s where I feel safe and can be myself.

You may return after ten years to find the front repainted, guttering fixed and the tree you used to climb felled. When you knock on the door a stranger answers wearing slippers so as not to ruin the Persian rug in the middle of the room. Another family’s portrait hangs above the mantlepiece…but it’s still home.

Home is somewhere silent, relaxing and comfortable.

Home is sweet, hence the saying ‘Home Sweet Home’. Home can be a state of transit. Home for me is now in Cardiff and I’m totally fine with that!

Thirty five years ago I moved into my home in Roath, not expecting to stay for long. Behind my red door I’ve been busy, happy, anxious, angry, hurt, ill, desperate, fearful and finally, in love. And in the 35 years 40 other people have lived in my home, sharing, and making it theirs, temporarily.

Home is my ambition, where I give as much love to my loved ones as I can and keep them safe and well-fed.

Home is a place of special sunshine just for me. A heart of
strength, love and giving. Colours and fragrances of my soul.
Always welcoming me home.

Home is where I can please myself, eat when I want, get dressed or not when I want, drink tea all day and try to ignore the washing up, on a good day it’s safe, warm and has everything I need. I’m only thinking now of those days.

Home is where we…had to run!

Home is where my family are – it is every-growing!

Home is welcoming loved ones, putting the kettle on and listening. Home is shutting the door, shutting the world out, being quiet and alone. Home is turning up your favourite, most embarrassing music from forever ago.

To own your own space. This place is where you and God mix. A home and kingdom.

Home is everything you can imagine in life but the one thing that home is to me is a thing for life. (Shanai, age 9, nearly 10)

Home is what the tiles look like on the roof tops and the shape of the chimneys. It is the street lighting and the unevenness of the tarmac or the pavement.

Home is where I go to rest my soul. Home is where I plot my next move. Home is where I concentrate on my favourite things. Home is where I grow my family.

Home is other people.

For fear of fires and forest flames, for a life more tame without hurricanes to quake at the thought of breaking earth and a flight from natural predators. With need for real seasons, without floods or spit blood, or muck from mudslides, I pose this question: Why not Roath?

I got a house. It looks like a mouse.

Home is where you can feel alone and comfortable, where you can feel love in an empty room.

Home is where the heart is, where you can be yourself and no one judges. Home is where your loved ones are. It’s a warm and comforting place where you feel at ease.

Home is a space you can get to know. A place that is yours and that reflects you. The way you arrange the objects in your home, the  hanging pictures or your washing up left in a certain way, in the sink or in a pile, is an expression of you. Home should be a place you can relax. Homes come and go though, we leave and re-home ourselves. Homes can be claustrophobic too. But we always find them, somewhere.

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