He thought he was sick in his heart if you could be sick in that place.
James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Being homesick hits you at the most inopportune moments. It is the most obscure things that give you the twist in the stomach, the pull in the chest and the prickle behind the eyes. Most of the time it can be shaken off within a few minutes, but sometimes it stains the day with its desperation for familiarity and longing for belonging.
My homesickness has been triggered by a vast range of things: by me stalling the car whilst going anti-clockwise round a roundabout, by seeing a UK brand in the supermarket, seeing Scott Mills on Strictly Come Dancing, face timing the family during a celebration that we would have been at had we been at home, the Great British Bake Off (quick query, what is self raising flour in German?). The problem with homesickness is that we are meant to be on a Big Adventure and so the people back home, our nearest and dearest, don’t quite get it. When we call home they don’t detect that hint of melancholy that you do your best to cover up with a forced jollity. I find that the comments I get when I am at my most homesick are “Well, it sounds like you’re having a wonderful time” or “It sounds as if you’ve settled in really well.” That’s when you want to scream melodramatically down the line, “No. I hate it. I want to come home. I miss everything.”
The other problem is that everyone back home wants to believe that you can’t possibly have down days on this Big Adventure. After all aren’t we expats doing something that we all dream of doing? Going outside our comfort zones, experiencing a different culture, exploring this fascinating planet on which we exist, allowing our children’s childhood bubble to expand?
We are actually having a lovely time, but no matter how many trips we go on or beautiful scenes we view, it in no way compensates for that blow to the gut or twist in the chest. That sudden thought that pops into your train of thought: “I want to go home.”
They say that home is where the heart is and your heart can be left in the strangest of places. My heart has always been nestled in the rolling, green and pleasant land of Somerset, England. Whenever I have been away from it, I have always yearned to return. So, it is the same now. Here I am in one of the most spectacular countries in the world and yet seeing updates from Mr Bs Emporium, The Frome Independent, Glastonbury Festival or a photo from Carnival season in my Twitter feed is enough to send me running to the airport.
Yet, as we continue on our Big Adventure of being Englishmen in Switzerland, and as I have realised that my heart, always and forever, is with my children, even when they are not with me they are part of me, a continual presence and it is they that help to banish this emotional(?) sickness when it strikes. Their tiny hands in mine, a little arm round the neck in a hug or simply the beaming smile when they see me at the school gate. Home.