Repatriation. You’d have thought that this would be the easy part, except that it isn’t. Having made sure that the first couple of weeks back in the UK were packed with things to do and people to see we have now arrived at the horrid realization that we have no home, none of our belongings, none of our clothes. Everything is the same, but everything is different too.
We have only been away for eleven months and so nothing looks, sounds or smells dramatically different to how it was a year ago. But.
I feel as if the view through my rose tinted spectacles have become squiffy, that I’m at that stage in proceedings where I’m debating if it’s a good idea to pour that third glass of wine, whether the hangover really would be worth it. I thought that ‘coming home’ would be similar to putting on a favourite pair of jeans after they’ve been washed. You know what I mean, initially a little stiff which soon relaxes into a comforting cocoon. It is a bit like that, but it appears I have added a few kilos and so the resultant fit isn’t so much comfy as, oh what’s the phrase? Oh yes, as though I’m trussed up like a chicken.
Don’t misunderstand me, not everything is negative. Driving on the right side of the road (that’s the left) is a delight. I know all the rules and no longer live in fear of being stopped by the armed Swiss Guard. I can create a healthy, tasty meal for the family without having to frequent four different supermarkets – and get change from a £10 note. The children are revelling in living with Grandma and Grandad, and are delighted to spend time with old friends with whom they appear to have picked up exactly where they left off.
However, we have been away long enough to have settled into the Swiss bubble and could fully appreciate the finer points of the expat lifestyle. Small things, like not understanding the language had surprising benefits. For example I didn’t have to dive for the volume control every time a news bulletin steamrollered through the airways. Terrorist attacks, bombings, child abuse cases, none of them were part of the children’s daily soundtrack yet sadly they now appear to be. The Swiss tan is starting to fade along with the memories of balmy summer evenings. Yes, I know that I complained about 32 degrees being too hot, but perhaps I was a little hasty in my negativity. For the past week we have been lucky to experience anything higher than 17 degrees with plenty of mizzle, yet here we are in high summer. Where the rolling hills of Somerset used to give me comfort and fill my heart with a spiritual high I now find myself longing for the magnificence of the mountain panoramas. I am debating a trip to Snowdonia to combat the withdrawal from this new addiction! Strangest of all though, I am missing the solitude of expat life. I am suddenly surrounded by people, everywhere. Conversation surrounds me, it assaults my senses, breaking my personal bubble as I struggle to process it all and filter out the surplus information. I have come to realise that the UK is an overcrowded island. Where is the space to breathe, to gain perspective, to just Be?
It might only have been eleven months that we actually spent in Switzerland, but it feels like we have returned after eleven years.