[The photo shows part of a wrought iron gate in the garden of my grandparent's house in Essex]
Driving back to Wales from Essex, I took a bit of a nostalgic detour for the first part of my journey. From Maldon, Woodham Mortimer, through Danbury (where I first laid eyes on T when he was best man at Kevin and Ann's wedding), on to Great Baddow, where T and I first lived together. From there via Galleywood (where my cousin still lives) I cut across the common to Margaretting, down Maldon Road where my grandparents lived when I was young, past Margaretting school where my father went as a child and on to Ingatestone where I and my siblings went to school. From Ingatestone to Mountnessing with its distinctive windmill and so many childhood memories, before finally joining the A12, M25, M4 and back to Wales.
From weatherboard, pargetting and thatch houses to stone and slate cottages. From flat open fields and the big skies that inspired the likes of John Constable, to hills, valleys, waterfalls. From meandering lazy willow-lined rivers to tumbling trout streams. From a land of flint and clay to one of slate and clay.
I now call Wales home, but really, is it? I have lived here now for eight years and in that time I've made a conscious effort to really put down roots. Roots are very important to us home-loving Cancerians! But I sometimes wonder if I really have roots anywhere.
I was born and raised in Essex, as were my parents. But every one of my grandparents had come to Essex from elsewhere, their families originally from London, Somerset, Wales, Scotland, France. So I'm only second-generation Essex. Compare this with my neighbour from a farm just up the road from Halfway-Up-A-Hill. His family have lived on and farmed that same piece of land for eight hundred years. Eight. Hundred. Years. I find that continuity extraordinary. And I have been here in Wales only eight years! How can I possibly call it home?
I also lived in Australia for eighteen months, where I made a conscious effort not to put down roots as I knew we wouldn't be staying (very hard as rooting seems to be my default setting), yet it was still a place I came to love. I feel connections still to Melbourne, to Essex, and now to Wales.
So where is home? They say that home is where the heart is, but I find my heart scattered all over the place. I have dear ones in Essex, in London, in Kent, in Somerset, in Wales, in Australia, in America. They all have pieces of my heart... And now T has gone, is my heart still here at Halfway-Up-A-Hill?
Actually, it is becoming clear that whatever happens, I will have to move on from Halfway-Up-A-Hill. Without T, in the long run I will not be able to manage here on my own, either financially or practically. Sure, there will be a divorce settlement and T will provide for me financially, but it will not be practical to stay here. And perhaps a new start, new surroundings would be healthy. But where should I go? I think I shall probably stay in Wales, given that I have begun to feel part of the community here. But actually, in some respects, the world is my oyster. I could settle in Wales, or decide to explore Costa Rica. I could dig in for the long haul or pack a few belongings in a knapsack and follow my feet to wherever. Do I in fact, even need roots in one place?
As with most of my life at the moment, there seem to be more questions than answers. But at least that means that there are also choices, and opportunities, and the chance to start over. Which can't be bad.