Home is near the coffee shop
Now, it’s been nearly 18 months living on my own, and I am experiencing ‘place’ like I never have before. I feel content with walking in the same triangle most days, listening to the radio that kept me company in lockdown as I go. From home, to coffee, to town, to the park, to home (ok, that’s me walking in a square isn’t it really, but allow me the metaphor). My favourite hub of connectivity has to be my local coffee shop. (It’s called Wacka, which I would recommend saying to yourself in the mirror and watching what shapes your face makes as a result.)
In lockdown it went from wintry queues outside, two by two as if we were embarking on the Ark, to slowly opening up and being able to realise the full potential of this little caffeinated hotspot. It revealed its cosiness even with the restrictions that it had to follow for our safety. I now work outside this coffee shop with my laptop most days, having become a regular of sorts. It’s a cosy feeling, finding a place to put down roots. Whatever I’m feeling, or whatever day I’ve had, I can decamp to my seat outside Wacka and feel comfortable in the familiarity.
Staying balanced by staying local
My sense of home has changed in the best way possible. I feel tethered to this community and this space. Not in a way that feels tight or restrictive, but in a way that feels warm. I thought recently about relocating and genuinely didn’t want to move too far away from the coffee shop and its friendly milk wizards. I know it may feel reductive, but ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
Living in a fast-paced world, in a fast-paced way of work surrounded by constant news and energy, it can feel like we have to uproot ourselves every year just so that we can be seen by others to be on the move. We don’t want to be seen as stagnant. But for me, I feel at ease being able to appreciate that home is comfortable and friendly, and if I’ve found that in my leafy green suburb with my cosy baristas and lines of trees, then I don’t need to leave. I deserve calmness and warmth, and it’s ok to remain within that. Never say never, though! If I do get the old boxes out again and start packing up my life, I’ll make sure that I take my new neighbourhood out for a test drive first. See if it gives me that warmth. See whether it feels the same as walking home with a cup of tea in the sunny September chill. Whether or not I fancy the local barista. Whether or not I can lose myself in the smiles of the neighbours and feel snug knowing that this could be my new home. It’s all about being in touch with myself and my feelings. If I like it, and it feels like it could be home, then there’s only one way to find out if I’m right.
I had once lived thinking that staying home and staying local meant you were boring or dull. Why would you want to stay in your local area when there’s a whole city to explore? But what the past year has taught me is that if you can’t keep it local and keep it within your own neighbourhood and feel connected, whole and happy, then where can you feel connected? I realised I don’t need the hustle and bustle of Soho or Brick Lane all the time to feel connected to my city. Sometimes all it takes is a ten-minute walk to pick up a coffee and a slice of cake on a Saturday afternoon, with the radio on in my ears and the knowledge that I’m not fearful of fitting in anymore. I have found my lane, my people, my coffee shops, my annoying dogs, my local buskers, my familiar waves and awkward glances. My community of like-minded people, all just wanting to fit in.
Photos by Jamie Windust (self-portraits)