Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homesick and Hiraeth...


The Welsh language has it's very own word for homesickness.

It's a word that has no literal translation into English, but the best way to try to describe it as a grief and longing for the homeland. The word is Hiraeth. And I have it bad.

I am pining for my mates, Sainsburys, shitty weather, Primark, Coronation Street, Roath Park by my house and irony. For some inexplicable reason my Hiraeth has also manifested itself in a deep desire to once again see the concrete monolith that is the Gabalfa roundabout in Cardiff.

I haven't added my Mother to the list because she has a special way of making me feel like she's in the same room as me when she nags me transatlantically. It's quite the unique talent. It has nothing what so ever to do with the fact she didn't buy me a flight home this summer when I was skint. That would make me spoiled and entitled. But can I just point out that Bank of Mum is only supposed refuse withdrawals if the child works in a stable industry, which clearly doesn't include the media. Instead of a flight, she sent me anIlovestheDiff t-shirt.


I loves the 'Diff t-shirt posing by classic NY fire escape. It's raining, so it feels at home.

In my Mother's defence she'd already stumped up a load of cash up for The Teenager to go home in July. For a few months of the summer return flights were starting at $1000. I have never seen prices that high. Was there a fuel crisis that had passed me buy as I no longer own a car?

I know there are worse places to be stranded than NYC, so I tried to see the positives of being in sweltering, rubbish stenched 100 degree heat for the summer.


I mostly focused on the Teenager going home and the resulting break from Motherhood-having been hard at it for 16 years without parole. I was really looking forward to being an adult life free of responsibilities- ready to go out banging pills of Meow Meow and sleeping with hot hipsters in nightclub toilets. Then I remembered I am not only 35, but married. Seems there is always someone to spoil the fun.

I was determined not to remain in NY. for the whole summer. So there was Plan B to have our long awaited honeymoon to California. Until The American's new job put an end to that.

"Hooonnneeeeee. What can I do?" says the American.

"Nothing. I just hate New York right now. I just want to home and reset."

"I feeeeeel bad." he says.

"It's not your fault." I say and look up at him with an expression that says: Really it is your fault cos you're American and the collective you is responsible for most of the crap in the word, especially the stuff that involves fuel prices.

It gets me a little depressed. For at least a few days. Which is a lot for me, as usually the only things that make me moody are hormones and The American eating my stash of British chocolate.

I begin to wonder will I always feel like this this? Sort of...displaced? Will being away from what I still call home forever feel like I'm escaping something? Even though there is nothing I want to run from in Cardiff? Quite the opposite in fact, I would quite like to put on my trainers and do a Forest Gump and sprint all the way back to Arran Street.


Like other expats, I've started to create my own little Welsh Alien corner of home in New York. Brit friends coupled with an inability to make any American mates, two Brit shops and a Chip shop within walking distance, an ongoing mission to hack the BBC iplayer and my small but perfectly formed NYC Bluebirds supporters club. New York home is still not home though.

After days of wallowing in my Hiraeth I stagger out onto my street and into the late afternoon sunshine to head for the coffee shop around the corner.


I buy a large iced caffeine boost and sit on the bench outside next to a strange looking, slightly Albino woman. Turns out she is just Scandinavian, I can't be more specific as I wasn't really listening at first, after initially judging her to be a nutter. After 10 minutes the conversation turns to the subject of freckles, of which she had a lot, as do I. Except hers are red and pretty much blend into one big splodge.

"Frickles arrre so pre-tea!" she says

"I think so too!" I say

"Ven I vos lidl girl in school, a boy say to me sumting lovely bout de frickles"

"What did he say?"

"He say dat a girl vivout frickles is like a sky vivout da stars."

The weird albino nordic woman smiles at me and I smile back.

New York always does this. Just when I am feeling like I don't want to be here anymore, like I love her less-she throws me a scrap. Just something small like this, a moment. And she knows that I am fickle, just like the city. She knows that this moment, this one moment will mean that I will love her again.

I say goodbye and walk down 7th Avenue, sip my coffee and check my Hiraeth.

It's still there, but not so much...

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