Today I woke up pondering that perfect crisp and green smell of 7 am on a bright, cloud free morning in the countryside after it’s been raining all through the night, yet it’s still too early for the sun to have dried everything up again, leaving that inimitable after-rain smell of vitality and awakening and the promise of a good day to come. It’s a very precise feeling.
This burst of nostalgia inspired me to put pen to paper (or in this case finger to keyboard) in an attempt to describe all those indescribable feelings, smells, sounds and moments that I associate with England and that come with that fleeting sense of déjà- vu, making me long for home more than anything.
Right now in Bogotá the weather does feel somewhat home-like. There’s that familiar cool breeze and the sky is looking particularly overcast. I never would’ve thought it possible to long quite so much for a grey, drizzly, rain-filled day, in which you’ve no option but to sit curled up on the sofa with a nice hot cuppa and a digestive biscuit, but, apparently, depriving an English person of this most mundane of situations for six months leads to its becoming all they could wish for, all the more so in climate-less Bogotá. A bit of variety is all I’m asking for.
Whenever I’ve thought of home over the last few months and what it is that I miss about it (other than the obvious; family, friends and Freddy) it’s always impossible to quite put my finger on it; a haphazard assortment of random, unrelated things that pop into my head…
I miss cycling full-speed in the pouring rain, reveling in the fact that getting absolutely bloody soaked is all but inevitable. I miss crumpets toasted on an open fire, dripping with (REAL) butter and mum’s home-made blackcurrant jam. I miss silly drinking games and the sickly-sweet, vomit-inducing aroma of a jesticle. I miss cheese. I miss the ritual of tea, and the shocking obstinacy with which some people (my mum) insist that their way is the best (only) way to make it. I miss the smell of green fields and farms. Some days there’s nothing I’d rather do than go and lie in a field (the farmer’s daughter in me had to come out eventually, right?) I miss the silence of the countryside.
I miss the silly in-jokes and made up words you share with the friends who’ve known you for years. I miss other people’s habits that previously annoyed me no end (i.e. the constant noise of living in a house full of singers) that I now look back on with a fond resentment and a little smile to myself. I miss staying in and putting the world to rights over a bottle of wine with one of the people I love best. I miss fish and chips at the seaside. I miss the inevitable Saturday routine of charity shopping with mum. I miss winding, narrow country lanes. I miss huddling around (or literally sitting on) the wood-burning stove in the depths of winter because it’s too cold to venture into the rest of the house. I miss that satisfying feeling of stepping on a day old cow pat (in wellies) or a particularly crunchy looking leaf.
I miss the perception of the humble cup of tea as a solution to all life’s problems, big or small (it really does work). I miss the frequent incomprehensibility of my grandfather’s accent. I miss recycling. I miss the smell of washing just brought in from the line on a particularly blustery day. I miss pretending that it’s warm enough and entirely feasible to have a BBQ in March. I miss spontaneous baking.
It’s amazing how being removed from a place for an extended period of time and having to get used to a very unfamiliar situation (i.e. the never-ending urban sprawl that is Bogotá) makes you able to perceive and fully appreciate the importance of those mundane and unremarkable concepts you have of the place you call home, that otherwise go wholly unnoticed.
It bears mentioning that, though it may appear otherwise in light of the above, I am NOT having a terrible time here in this crazy city. I’m sure that when I leave and wake up in rainy old England six months down the line, I will have many an uncapturable memory, indescribable smell or moment to ponder in nostalgic reminiscence.