Home and community

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of creating a home and becoming part of a community recently.

Just after my 30th birthday I felt a need to build a home for my family. No, I didn’t retrain as a hod carrier and get busy with bricks and cement! I’ve lived in plenty of ‘places’ over the years but none of them has really been a home. I still refer to my parents’ house as my home in conversation and I haven’t lived there since I was 19. Since I left home I’ve lived in (deep breath) four different halls of residence, two different shared student houses, a one bed flat, a two bed house and now a three bed house. Until our current house, they all felt quite transitory. I knew that at some point we’d be moving on again. That hasn’t necessarily changed with this house but I feel differently about it.

I didn’t ever care that much about furniture and decoration – things like CDs, books, clothes and DVDs mattered hugely, but the big grown-up stuff didn’t really bother me. In the nesting phase of my pregnancy I used to take the Ikea catalogue to bed with me every night. I still get quite giddy at the thought of ‘storage solutions’. It’s not the ‘stuff’ that makes a home though. It’s the feel of the place. As the girls get older they are marking their territory (not literally, thankfully) and we now have certain things because they’re here: toys, picture books, teddies and more kiddie kit than I can possibly list here.

People that know me well were quite shocked when we started accumulating pets recently. To them I didn’t seem like a pet person. However, I think they help to make our house a home and Maisy, Eddie, Charlie and Lola are already part of our extended family. I was saying to my Mum the other day that I’d happily have a house and garden full of pets. This is a huge shift for me. I think I’m going soft in my old age…

An extension of that is my new-found interest in our local community. I’m a passionate advocate for my area of London and if I hear of anyone that’s thinking of moving to our patch I practically put them in a headlock and tell them how wonderful it is until they agree with me. The girls’ nursery is in the process of setting up a PTA/committee and I want to be involved in it. Through R and G we’ve developed a local network of like-minded parents who have become friends. My Dad asked me who would look after the piggies if we went on holiday. I think he was reassured by the list of names I reeled off!

We’ve lived in this area for nearly four years now and we’re now on nodding terms with lots of people, including those that work in the local shops. It freaks me out no end when I pop out to buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread and someone random (but clearly not a stranger) asks me where I’ve left the girls. It’s a level of recognition I quite like. I couldn’t quite cope with everyone in the vicinity knowing what I had for breakfast before I’d even eaten it.

While I don’t quite see myself as a Midsomer Murders-style local busybody yet (give me time) I now realise the importance of making connections with the local community and becoming part of something. Londoners are notorious for not speaking to their neighbours but owning a. children and b. pets changes that. You have to build relationships or you would go mad. That, or start baiting people on online forums and I really, really don’t recommend that to anyone.

I think I can attribute this sea-change in attitude to R and G – another thing to be grateful to them for! Dh and I had a lovely time together before they were born but we led quite a solitary life, in our own loved-up bubble. Thanks to R and G we now connect with the world beyond our very happy, and very loving, home.

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