Last Monday, travelling on the ferry to my parents’ house for Christmas, I was violently, horribly seasick. As it turns out, the stormy weather meant the ferry we were on would be the last one to run for a day or so, and I’m not at all surprised. It was the worst crossing I’d been on since the age of about 11 and I was absolutely not the only person with their nose in a sickbag for the last hour or so of the trip.
A shout out here for the elderly sea dogs who were sat by us, absolutely fine for the whole journey and loudly discussing a 15-hour crossing to Norway that was, apparently, undertaken in far worse conditions than the ones they were experiencing just then. I want to be 80 and able to sit calmly on a boat while people’s belongings fly past my ears, feeling fine and able to balance my cup of tea with no spillage. I hated them a bit for their lack of suffering, but they were classy.
I survived most of it by plugging into the Be Good Tanyas and trying to sleep. Their style is appropriately soothing, so as to make the big waves seem relaxing rather than leaving me to feel stuck on a horrible fairground ride that just wouldn’t stop. It was the last hour that got me. CM laid his head on the table and tried to sleep as well. He made the trip without being sick, but it was close.
Apart from the ferry ride, it’s been an amazing week. I’m pleased and grateful that we made it over, and that we got to spend Christmas here rather than in the ferry terminal – which is more than many people were able to do. There have been no family arguments. I’ve spent time with old friends; borrowed my parents’ dogs and taken them and CM to get lost in the glens and fields around the village where I grew up; hung out with nephews old(er) and new; chatted with my parents and my sisters. There have been no family arguments, and Christmas day was the sort of happy chaos that you see in films, except utterly real and exhausting.
I was worried, when I booked the tickets, that a week was too long (on the not-that-often occasions I make the trip, I’m usually ready to go home within four days), but that’s absolutely not been the case this time round. I can’t believe it’s time to go back to England already.
And today I realised that, although I have been dreading the return journey a bit, it’s not seasickness that’s going to be the problem – it’s the lingering, persistent homesickness.
I sometimes do get nostalgic for the island, and I miss my family, but I don’t often get flat-out homesick for the beaches and the people and the towns and fields and pubs of my teenage years. It feels odd to even use the word ‘homesick’ for a place that I moved away from about 13 years ago. London is home now. It has been for six years.
And I’ve got a terrible long-term memory – there are months of my life that are just blank. When I’m chatting to (or just listening to – I’m better at listening to group conversations than I am at joining in) old friends, I can usually remember maybe 30% of the things they’re talking about and everything else I was either oblivious to at the time, or I really have to pummel my memory to come up with anything and even then the details are hazy. I can’t remember any of the cycling or walking routes that I used to know like the back of my hand (on both this trip and the last one I got me and CM lost while walking the dogs). Getting to what was my old usual pub by myself as an adventure, from figuring which side of the road I needed to catch the bus from, to walking through the remarkably empty (to me) town.
AND, in fairness, every year we spend a couple of weeks up North and discuss the logistics of moving there. Mid-winter I get very sick of London and its rain and our leaky (no more, hopefully) flat and I miss having more space and less people, and then by March everything is getting greener and warmer and I love it again. It’s a standard cycle that’s probably part of the whole ‘Aah, a New Year! What will I do with my life?!’ thing, but yeesh, it’s going to be bad this time.
Today, the last day of the trip, CM and I visited my older sister and the new baby (again). We went for a walk around the farm with baby in his tractor-wheeled pram, wheeling through bogs and across fields, lifting him over the worst parts; checking out the druid tree; hanging out with the sheep; saying hi to the cows; admiring the views; and then settling in for a cup of tea and a chinwag with her and her husband, snuggling the baby while the two kittens stole ornaments off the tree and the friendliest sheep dog dangled her head through the window.
It was all so damned idyllic. I suddenly realised that it is going to be very, very difficult to go back to the city.
Realistically, this was a holiday. An actual move would be very different and most of the friends I’ve seen this trip wouldn’t be here because only a couple actually live here these days. And the cons of moving out of London far outweigh the pros for the time being. Intellectually I know all this. But I’m relieved we’ve got some time in not-London-but-not-the-island to make the transition a little less of a shock.