It’s good to be back.
For the past five years we have been living in Australia, first in Melbourne above a famous ice cream shop, then on a vineyard in the Macedon Ranges. My partner is Australian so it was a logical step; from my perspective, I was in the mood for an adventure after graduating.
We met at university in St Andrews, and we always planned to return to the UK after a few years. Although Australia is an unbelievably beautiful country, I suffered from homesickness a lot. I think it’s difficult to articulate the logic of homesickness when you have everything you need except Jaffa Cakes and your mum and dad, but “everything you need” feels a lot less important in those moments than Jaffa Cakes or your mum and dad.
There is a huge amount of preparation and planning involved in moving a lot of books and several animals across the globe, but we finally set off in the wake of our pets and belongings at the end of October last year.
We’ve moved to a small town on the edge of Edinburgh, which is the city we always daydreamed about moving to. I used to pass through it all the time on the train and stay with friends there during the uni days; I lived in the city centre overlooking the castle for a month during the 2012 Fringe, when I was assistant director of a show.
If I start listing all the things I love about Edinburgh we could be here all day, but it’s the combination of the history, the arts and the way that even when you are in the heart of the city you never feel far from nature that does it for me. We can take a 25 minute bus to the city centre, or we can walk from our front door into some ancient woodlands.
I am so happy to finally be back on the same shores as [most of] my family. Living in a country as vast and as far-flung as Australia has given me some perspective on distance. Naturally my youngest brother decided to move down under six weeks before I left.
While I was overseas I qualified as a veterinary nurse and volunteered at a local wildlife shelter, so at this point I feel much more familiar with Australian wildlife than I ever have with my own. I’m working on that. Most of what I know about British birds I learned while researching my children’s book, which I worked on for two years in Australia. To me it feels like a homesick love letter to Cumbria, where I grew up.
There’s something to be said for moving to a new environment and noticing things – like birds – that you’d taken for granted before. Exposure to the noisy and colourful birds of Aus has really given me a new interest in and appreciation for the UK’s native birdlife. I saw a bullfinch today, which I was very excited to identify when I got home.
I’m basically sending out an open invitation to the wildlife of the area to come and make their homes in our garden, even if it is small and occasionally frequented by a dog and cat. Bird feeders, nest boxes and bee hotel are currently on offer and I’m working on a toad abode and hedgehog house. I’m also trying to plant with the pollinators in mind. Honestly I was never able to dig up much motivation for gardening until I started thinking of it as a way to bring in wildlife and help the insects.
I can smell frying onions so I think that’s my cue to get ready for dinner.
Until next time,