Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

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In Search of Home: A Journey Through Memory & Place.

Where we are born – does it shape us, or is it just a point on a map? Recently, working on Charles Dickens’s former house in his birthplace, I’ve been reflecting on this. Cities often celebrate their famous sons and daughters, but is there deeper significance in where we first enter the world? This question has led me to ponder the concept of feeling at ‘home’ and what it truly means.

Born in Basingstoke, 161 years after Dickens, my own connection there feels distant, almost nonexistent. The hospital where I took my first breath was replaced by a dual carriageway, erasing my earliest physical footprint.

Places carry meanings we assign to them. My grandmother’s Camden Passage birthplace in Islington is rich with family stories. I grew up wishing I had been born in Barnet, where my family’s roots are. As a child, I even claimed Barnet was my birthplace, not out of shame for Basingstoke but because North London felt more like home.

After Basingstoke, we moved to Winchester, then to Verwood, Dorset – a village that rapidly grew into a bustling town. Verwood is a missed opportunity, a blank canvas with untapped potential, much like Portsmouth with its unique geography. I could go off on a tangent here about the missed opportunity that is Portsmouth, but that’s another article. Maybe next week. I’ll try not to rant.

The concept of home is complex. In the early 2000s, Muswell Hill greeted me with its charming Edwardian terraces and panoramic views of London, offering a sense of belonging that was as immediate as it was profound. It was a place I explored as a teenager and where my daughter was born, linking our family to this vibrant town. My past and present converged in Muswell Hill, creating a true sense of home.

Leaving Muswell Hill in 2003 was a decision that weighed heavily on my heart. It felt like leaving behind a part of myself, a chapter of my life that I wasn’t ready to close. It is not just a geographic location; it’s a feeling, a part of my identity, a place that will always feel like home no matter where I go.

The lockdown steered me back to Dorset’s lush, green embrace, a comforting return to familiar landscapes and family roots. I was surprised that this return felt like coming home. I observed the local landowner, bound by duty to his ancestral estate, and admired the simplicity of having a predetermined path.

Yet, once again, I faced the heartbreak of leaving a place I loved. Moving away from this potential lifetime home left a deep sense of loss, a missed opportunity to provide a stable base for future generations.

Throughout these moves, it’s crystal clear that the place of birth is not as significant as where we find our sense of belonging. Muswell Hill and Dorset offered glimpses of what home is for me – a place of connection, shared history, and familial roots. Yet, life’s circumstances led me away from these havens.

I should mention Portsmouth and Southsea. I came to Polytechnic at eighteen and have spent more time here than anywhere. It holds many significant life events, yet I’ve generally felt like an outsider in the city. It’s a funny old place. I like living here. Southsea is certainly a hidden gem, and since moving back last autumn, I have enjoyed it more than ever. I have found peace and belonging.

In this journey, I’ve learned that home is more than a physical location. It’s where we feel connected, where our stories intertwine with those of others, where we feel at peace, and where we belong, regardless of geography. For me, it has been a path from Basingstoke to Muswell Hill, through the verdant landscapes of Dorset, to the unique character of Southsea. Each place, with its own story, has contributed a thread to the fabric of my identity.

But what about you? Where does your heart feel most at home? Is it the place you were born, a city you chose, or somewhere you still yearn to find? Perhaps you’ve discovered, like me, that ‘home’ is not just a place but a feeling, a moment in time, or the people surrounding you. I invite you to share your own journey of finding ‘home’ – the places that have shaped you, the memories that anchor you, and the feelings that guide you back, no matter where you roam.

As we continue to navigate our paths, may we all find that sense of belonging, whether in a physical location or within the stories we carry with us. Ultimately, our search for a home is a search for ourselves, a quest as unique as our stories.

This week’s web links include a printed letterpress, some travel destinations, a charcuterie board, and an article on the carnivore diet.

Feel free to let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. You will always find me at carl@carlarchitect.co.uk.

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This Week’s Links:

I’ve flip-flopped from veganism and started a carnivore diet this week out of curiosity. I’d kill for a pint of Sierra Nevada and a mince pie – both of which are in my cupboards!

The rich history of the Tilley Printing letterpress.

How to Assemble a Showstopping Charcuterie Board.

Four great places to go, including Capri, which I have just decided is on this year’s world tour schedule.

With the summer in mind, these chairs are expensive but would last a lifetime. That’s the ideal way to buy stuff.

I don’t think you can beat UniQlo.

I like this house in Denmark.

Main image credit: A view from Muswell Hill to London by DALL-E

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