Saturday, April 29, 2006

Home Sweet Home

IT'S FUNNY how we take certain things for granted- simple little things like turning out the light in the evening, climbing into bed, resting our heads on our pillows and drifting off to sleep under a comfy duvet.

We all too often take for granted the ability to walk through our own front doors, take residence on our own sofas or shower in our very own bathrooms.
That said, I do love my house- it is my retreat and my sanctuary. When it is clean and tidy it is my favourite place on earth- when it is messy I spend my time generally cursing the very foundations it stands on. With a two year old son and 34 year old husband (also a man therefore also a mess magnet) you can imagine I spend more time cursing than relaxing these days. It's hard to sometimes see the good point beneath the clutter and dust.
Recently we gave the old homestead an overhaul. With a freshly decorated master bedroom, some new wooden blinds, a proper big boy single bed and laminate flooring in the wee man's room and new coat of paint on our crumbling exterior I am, I have to admit, happier with Chez Allan than I have been in a long time. (Now if I could transform my pokey back yard into a luxurious bijoux city garden I would be in seventh heaven).
But it hasn't been this overhaul that has made me start to look on my little house with new eyes. Surfing through the internet on Tuesday, looking for inspiration for this very column (Joseph not having done anything remarkably hilarious this week) I came across a BBC News Report on the Wandering Scribe.
The Wandering Scribe is an anonymous woman who writes a Blog (an internet based diary for those not au fait with nerdy media technology like me). She lives in her car in a laneway somewhere in London. She writes her Blog at a local library. She showers and washes her clothes in the laundries of a local hospital, she sleeps, night in and night out, in the front seat of her car.
She has lived this way since losing her job and suffering a mental breakdown in August of last year and she writes about her experiences with the searing honesty that only anonymity can allow.
The thing that strikes me most about her story is not her guile in managing to get staff discounts in the hospital canteen, or her ability to store all her life's possessions in the back of her car (my clutter would need the fancy new double decker bus that runs on the Slievemore route these days)- more it is her desire to lie down.

Stretch out
It sounds so simple doesn't it? I mean we all do it. We all climb into bed and lie down at least once a day. We all like to stretch out and I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only person in world who often sighs with pleasure as I snuggle down and let the soft duvet envelop me.
But this woman has not had a lie down in eight months. She sleeps sitting in her car, wrapped in a damp sleeping bag, struggling to get comfortable.
She longs to be able to lie down, on a bench, on the grass, on the floor- but doesn't want to draw attention to herself because while the Wandering Scribe is homeless, anyone meeting her would not realise. She is an expert at keeping up appearances- right down to washing her hair every day and finding ingenious ways to iron her jeans.
Being a self-confessed bed-aholic, who likes nothing more than a Tuesday night amid my copious pillows and cushions reading a good book or watching Desperate Housewives on RTE 2, I cannot imagine how it would feel not to have that most basic of luxuries.
It was that one notion that made me look at Chez Allan in a whole new light. I mean, yes I would kill for an electric shower and a bath which did not have a habit of leaking so that we get delightful water stains on the kitchen ceiling. I would love our back living room to look organised- not a crazy mixture of a living room/ study/ branch of Smyths and yes, it would make my heart glad to get some new flooring for our bedroom too- but those are all window dressings.
They are the things we are expected to have now, whereby in years gone by a house was a home first and a stylish place to live second. Thinking about the house I grew up in, in Leenan Gardens, I realised how far we have come in a few short years.
We didn't have central heating- no one did. I remember being stupidly excited at the thought of spending a month in a mobile home at the top of the street while they did the work, not realising in my childish innocence that grown ups saw this as pure hell. (In the end, we moved before they did the work and I never got my sojourn in the Wanderly Wagon).
We had carpets my mother now tells me were threadbare and our furniture was an eclectic mix of new and very, very old.
It didn't matter though, because it was home. It was a place that felt safe and when I climbed into bed (to lie down) at the end of the day I felt happy. (Even if, for a short time, I had to share my room with a boy).
I'm sure the Wandering Scribe wouldn't be bothered with water stains on the ceiling or threadbare carpets. I'm sure she wouldn't spend an inordinate amount of time coveting a power shower, when a bog standard one is available to her in the privacy of her own home.
Her bravery and honesty has taught me a powerful lesson about being happy with what I have and I hope that, sooner rather than later, she finds a comfortable bed to lie down on.
(You can visit the Wandering Scribe at )

1 comment:

Anya Peters said...

Why no mention of the alternative version at ?

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