I’ve been talking to people about ‘home’, or the idea of home. Since moving to Glasgow and struggling to feel settled, a feeling which seemingly came a lot more easily when I moved to Leicester, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes you feel things about places; positive and negative. Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot about it before now, but I feel like it’s been more at the centre of my thoughts in going into the fieldwork stage. I’ve found moving to Glasgow hard. The conditions in which I moved to Leicester and Glasgow were so different, and I couldn’t know in advance how they would impact on my everyday life here. When we move somewhere, we are always taking a risk. That we won’t feel like we belong, that we’ll struggle to meet people, that we won’t be welcomed warmly. We can only employ the tools we have at our disposal to try and make a place feel like home.
I moved to Glasgow with a ready-made group of friends. I thought flippantly that this would make me feel instantly ‘at home’, but instead, in living alone, a choice which suited me down to the ground in Leicester, this has actually made me feel more isolated. The fact that I loved it in Leicester was of no consequence to how I would take to it or not in Glasgow. I’m in a relationship now, and I got used to sharing my space with him in Leicester, but now that we’re long-distance, my own space is frustratingly un-shared with him. I just need to have lots of people over for tea-! (which I did last night and it was lovely)
Everything affects how we feel in a place; the height of our home from the ground, the size, the temperature, the height of the ceilings (Glasgow’s tenement flats are notoriously roomy in the ceiling department), the proximity to a high street, friends, places of daily activity. When we leave networks behind, we can be left feeling uprooted, displaced, lonely. We have to start again building new networks, for support, for information, for healthcare, for leisure. It’s a lot of effort, especially if these aren’t facilitated for you. Up until now, in every city I have lived in my networks have been facilitated for me by education, where you have to go to something every week and so you get to know people and forge groups of friends (or not, I suppose, even in this setup some find it easier than others). When I left Leicester I left behind the PhD support group of not only friends but also people who were in the exact same position as me in work, and who could get together regularly and support each other as we each move forward (or feel like we’re not-!) with our work.
All this has made me think long and hard about the experiences of people who’ve moved from even further afield, left people behind on the other side of the world and moved to Glasgow perhaps hoping to find refuge, friendship, work, a home. I’m speculating here, but from my knowledge of what we need / want / dream and hope for when we move to a new place. For me, I know I am only definitely in this city for a year, for a clearly defined task, and then might and can move to back to Leicester, and from there, who knows. But if you’re moving, maybe with family, maybe on your own (and I’m complaining about finding it hard-! I have great friends here and a regular income to allow me to securely live in a pretty nice flat…what am I finding hard??) from somewhere much further than Leicester (It’s 5 and a half hours by train to Glasgow by the way, so far but not that far), how do you begin to go about making a home? Maybe distance isn’t what makes it so hard, there are so many layers to it, I’m sure that’s something I will talk to people about.
That’s why I’m doing this research. I want to understand how people go about understanding, constructing and developing this idea of ‘home’ and how they go about creating one for themselves. Considering the ideas of identity and heritage as not being inherently fixed and bound to place, but rather more mobile and dynamic than perhaps was initially thought.
Anyway – my point is, when we move somewhere, what we can and choose to access in the city has a huge effect on how we come to get to know it, interact with it, and eventually feel at home (or not). Also, thinking aloud here, I remember reading some accounts of women from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan who described coming to Glasgow and spending a lot of time at home as their English wasn’t so good (let alone their grasp of English spoken with a strong Glaswegian accent-!) amongst other things, and how this time at home led to feelings of isolation. I too feel this when I spend too much time in my flat on my own. Perhaps this feeling ‘at home’ hopes to encompass the city more broadly, although as many urban theorists write, cities are riddled with boundaries and borders which grant or deny access to many different groups. This will be interesting to talk about, where people do and don’t go and why – and is a huge part of perpetuating myths about certain parts of the city – an issue which is certainly visible in every city I’ve lived in.
This all comes back to the idea of everyday participation. How do the places we go to or avoid in our daily lives and the things we do shape the way we come to understand a city and be a part of it? How can our individual stories be recognised as part of the whole story that is Glasgow? Will my story of my time here shape the city in some tiny, tiny way? I guess only time will tell.