The French Diaries!

The French Diaries: Part 11 “Finding Home.”

The last time I released a blog I had just bought a ticket to England.

I’m feeling a whole maze of emotions right now as I sit by the fire and type. I feel contentment and yet I am not content. I feel peaceful and yet restless. I’m searching still but it’s different this time.

It’s important that I go back home. It’s important that I go back to my roots and see my friends and family- be reminded on who I was and who I am now.

A lot has happened and Delos has changed me beyond anything I could have imagined. When I returned to England, I was starkly reminded on how I used to be. Things that had been important to me then were no longer so. I could hear the same things I would have said on other people’s tongues. Could see my old facial expressions on other people’s features.

I was different. Weathered, grown, older- dare I say smarter?

Let’s skip that one.

This would be the second time I would say goodbye to Edouard- but this time I knew for sure I would see him again.

Flashes of seeing him sail away on his French boat Malin, sprung to my mind as I waved goodbye to him outside of the airport. I’m still astounded at how we met. I know I mention it every time. But I’m so grateful for what the past year has brought me.

What Delos has brought me.

I’m missing my crew mates a lot at the moment. I’m missing Brian and us picking on each other, licking each other’s foreheads (it’s too long to explain) and having a whiskey with him at night with a movie. I’m missing Karin and her kooky ways, her warmth and her smile as you know you can tell her absolute anything. I’m missing Alex and her ‘yes attitude’ to anything. To her voice and crop tops and her ridiculously pert backside bobbing away as she dances in the kitchen. I’m missing Mr Brady and how much of a brother he was to me. The way he dresses like an 80’s pirate and his loud snoring. I’m missing Lisa and our long chats at night sitting on the backstep of Delos with a glass of wine and a cigarette. I’m missing her holding my hand as she said a prayer for whatever I was sad about, even though I didn’t know where my beliefs were. Because she believed enough for the both of us.

But I know that the future has great things ahead of us. The Delos Story will be released and we’ll be together again for the book tour.

There’s so many possibilities and opportunities ahead that I don’t know which way to turn. Edouard and I are excited about a lot of different projects, some including travel, and some including living on a farm in the country somewhere. We really want to find a small plot to build something wonderful and ecological. I’m a huge fan of history and it’s suddenly a stark realisation that we’ve lost the knowledge and skills how to build our own homes.

The norm now seems to be to get a mortgage for a house you can’t afford and stay in an area you don’t like for ten years until you can get a bigger mortgage for somewhere slightly better.

That was what I was always encouraged to do as I grew up. I think my granddad was the only one who said:

“Lizzybef, when you can- buy some land and build a house. You can live in a caravan while you do. Just buy some land.”

Despite all of his health problems and forgetfulness, he was the only one who made sense in my family.

So that’s what I want to do. And one thing that I’ve learned from Delos is that if you want to do something you should do it. Take that leap of faith.

I’m craving those big wide open spaces of green. Marseille is a wonderful town, but Edouard and I have quickly realised we were never built to stay within concrete walls. I love to be outside, but the craziness of the traffic, the police sirens, the klaxons from angry drivers’ horns and the general pollution of the city has me holed up in our apartment, cradling either my paints or laptop as I create.

Outside has become a scary place.

Which is why going to England felt more important than ever. I needed to go to a place where I knew. Where I had belonged to. For a time.

To be honest I’m not quite sure where I belong now. On the ocean, or on land? In the city or the countryside? France, England or somewhere else? Maybe Edouard and I should go travelling together? Maybe we should stay somewhere else in France. Maybe we should explore Europe. Maybe we should go to Australia.

Who knows?

All of these ifs, buts and maybes made me jump on that plane, anxious to find out the answers.

The flight was well organised and straight forward- a simple journey from Marseille to Brussels and then from Brussels to Birmingham.

As I stepped off the plane, I realised that this would be the first time I had seen my sister in a year.

I emerged out of the airport, the skies above my head fat and morbidly grey, the air instantly coating my face in a veil of moisture.

“Ahhh, England.”

And suddenly, I realised that I could understand people.

“Bloody hell, love, you need to let the dog out, she’ll have had her legs crossed all day!”

“I know, an’ I said to him- you listening? I said to him, you ain’t gonna do owt o’ the sort, you hear me?”

“Come on, sweetheart, let’s get us home and have a nice cuppa tea.”

“Maam! I’m hungry!”

British people with British accents saying British things.

There was no silence. I was no longer a ghost. I was a part of the noise as they were. A part inside myself sighed in relief and ran up the road to where my sister had told me to go.

I looked up and saw a figure walking down with a small child.

Grinning, I ran the rest of the way to my sister and gave her a huge hug, tears streaming down my face as her familiar voice filled my ears.

And suddenly, I was home.

All of this unknowing in places, situations and times didn’t seem to matter. I was with my sister.

I cuddled my nephew and told him I loved him about a hundred times, holding his hand as we walked back to the car.

My lungs released a breath I didn’t know they were holding.

Family would always be home.

Over the next few days, I stayed between my sister’s home and my old house mate Steve’s place. The boys were keen to spend some time together, so my sister’s didn’t seem like the appropriate place to waddle in drunk at all hours.

You may remember one of my friends that I spoke about in one of the early Delos Diaries- Tommy. Our friend Jack had died and Tommy had gone through it alone. It was important for me to spend as much time as possible with him.

He picked me up outside of my sister’s house, his Mohawk touching the inside roof of the car as I jumped in and gave him a huge hug, making a strange sound between sobbing and hysterical laughter.

“I’m so happy to see you!” I cried.

He laughed, patted me on the back and turned up the volume of our favourite punk music.

“Missed you too, goose!”

Tommy and I had been best mates since we were fifteen years old. And as we’re both turning the big 30 next year, that’s nearly 15 years of friendship.

Good maths, Liz.

It felt so good to be in the car driving down the familiar streets, listening to the music I had always loved, knowing that there was a rum waiting for me at Steve’s house.

Steve’s place is the meet up for all of our friends. We’re very lucky with our circle. We always make an effort to see each other, knowing that life is too short and precious to take each other for granted. With a couple of our friends passing away over the past couple of years, it’s been a stark reminder how delicate life is. So we would always see each other at least once a week, and as I lived with Steve, I would pretty much see Tommy every day. His work was always flexible and he would pop in for a cup of tea or for us to jam on the guitars together or giggle like children watching the Simpsons.

I had spent so many mornings getting ready for work and finding him asleep on the sofa. I’d try to creep past and not wake him, but never quite succeeded.

“Oh yes, I’d love a cup of tea, thank you!”

That man could sense it even if you put a fingertip on the kettle.

“Right O!”

Steve was waiting for me as I came in, giving me a huge hug straight away. I was so happy, I was overwhelmed. This was the house I knew. These were the people I knew and loved.

Wow, it was so good to be home.

“Drink?”

“Of course!”

Steve had a bar in his house, (what respectable Englishman didn’t?) and upon it glittered all of the spirits and liquors you could ever want on a cold Winter’s night.

Of course, I went for the rum. I found my old Captain Morgan tankard and smiled as I filled it up, the clinking of the glass and the shutting of the fridge familiar sounds and motions. Soon we were sitting altogether with a rum or beer in hand and the guitars playing, our voices singing as we rejoiced in just being together.

Liz is back! Liz is back! Liz is back with the lads!”

Yes I’m back! Yes I’m back! Yes I’m back with the lads!”

We sang on and on, went out, celebrated, drank to our heart’s content and staggered on back home to fry some bacon and eggs.

This was home.

I was realising then that the sensation of home wasn’t where you were. It was with who you were with. I am home when I am with Delos. I am home when I am with Edouard. With my sister. With my friends.

Home is where the heart is.

 

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