Before I go into complete Christmas overdrive, I wanted to take some time out to write this post. Homelessness is growing in the UK and more and more people are finding it a struggle to keep theirs. Home means many things to many people, and without a doubt, having a home is one of the most important things in our lives. Each year, as Christmas nears, my thoughts always drift towards those less fortunate, those not fortunate enough to have a home to gather and celebrate in, and it makes me very grateful that I do have one. Particularly this year, when the world seems to have gone especially mad.
I'll start with this short piece on what home means to me...
I have been ‘home making’ from a very early age – I remember being around eleven when my parents gave me free reign to decorate my bedroom – and I went crazy! I painted it pink and grey and even (unsuccessfully!) attempted making my own window blinds.
I’ve always wondered why I’ve had this obsession with making a home from such an early age, I didn’t think it was normal! But I think this is why.
My grandparents, parents, and I, experienced apartheid South Africa. It ended when I was thirteen. My parents grew up in Cape Town, entirely under apartheid, and my grandparents were there at the start in 1948, when black and mixed race people, like we are (although labelled 'coloured' by the establishment), were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to other allocated areas. I knew this from a young age – there was no way for my parents to hide this reality from me – it was clear everywhere I looked that because we looked like we did, we had to live somewhere else, somewhere not nearly as nice as some people got to live.
But we had a home, and my grandparents had homes, and everyone I knew was proud of theirs.
I clearly remember my maternal grandmother’s house, it was not fancy by any means, but I have a clear vision of how extremely tidy and clean it was! My own parents continually bettered our home – there was always seemed to be a project on the go, extensions, painting and kitchen makeovers. I have memories of my father, who I sadly lost to cancer way too young, frantically painting the house (in the wrong shade of paint) before checking in with the ‘boss’ – my mother – the main instigator of these works! This must be where I got it all from!
I have moved house so many, many, times now, thirteen times in my adult life, including a move from the very south of the planet to the northern hemisphere, and I have somehow managed to keep my sense of home, in fact, the more I move, the stronger it seems to become!
I've found that my obsession grew even more when I moved to London... the property shows... the variety of homeware stores that we just didn't have in South Africa, I was loving it! We all love buying things for our homes and making it beautiful and comfortable. Why do we do this? I guess we see our home as a member of our family – we want to protect and care for it, in the same way it protects us. And we want it to be a reflection of ourselves.
It is a magical thing - it is where we all want to be, especially at Christmas. A home is so much more than just a residence. It’s that special place that we can call our own, be alone, or be with family or friends, where we can just be ourselves... but most importantly, home is where the Netflix, the sofa and the prosecco are!
On a much more serious note though, this Christmas, 120,000 UK children will be homeless and I'd like to help in a small way; to coincide with this blog post, I have set up a Just Giving page for Shelter, called 'What does home mean to you?' Please donate even just a small amount this Christmas, if you are able to.
Shelter works to alleviate the distress caused by homelessness and bad housing. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all. Our work won’t stop until there’s a home for everyone.
What does home mean to you?
If you have a story to tell or even just a short note about what makes your home yours, please leave me a comment below – I'd love to hear it!