Violet columnist Kate Collins reflects on what the word ‘home’ really means

Kate Collins

A beautiful sunset in the WirralKate Collins

I’ve been thinking about home a lot recently. Don’t know why. I’ve been told that I have a bit of an obsessive personality, hence I get stuck on certain ideas. I spent a while thinking about the fact that I don’t know nearly enough people called Brian. It seems that, lately, that particular mammoth of a philosophical issue has been taken over by ‘home’.

Home is where the heart is, where you hang your hat (provided you have a hat. Note to self: wear more hats), where you live, where you come from… home is increasingly hard to pin down. Growing up, you learn that home isn’t just one place. Home for me is the Wirral, where my parents live, where I went to school and first got pissed. (Should that be, ‘where I went to school [comma] and first got pissed?’ Not sure, but I reckon we should revel in the ambiguity). Home is also Manchester, where I was born, where I discovered theatre and writing and gigs. As I write this, I’m sat in the great hall of the Royal Exchange Theatre, a building which I consider to be home in that I spent one evening every week there for three years meeting playwrights and thinking ‘I am excited by this. This is an actual proper thing I could actually properly do.’ And, I suppose, home is increasingly becoming Cambridge - where I live when I’m pretending to know anything about Middle English. Where I’ve met the kind of people that make you go ‘Christ, I sure love people, I sure love the way they don’t make sense and make your heart go a bit wobbly.’

"I am hugely privileged to have a roof over my head, somewhere safe with running water and privacy"

The way people talk about home is fascinating. Sometimes it’s as if it’s a bad smell, something that clings to you, as though running away from home has never been and never will be a possibility. I feel that whenever I get a little bit of a glottal stop on the word ‘like,’ as if a latent Scouser is cooking away, Alien-esque, in my stomach. (Gross, but how cool would that be? Okay – new idea, and just blue-skying here guys, but Alien crossed with Blood Brothers?) Some people might just view home as their address, but that’s hard to do when a particular address can come with a lot of baggage. Embracing home means accepting everything about it, right? I can be proud of Liverpool as my closest city, the place I mean when I say I’m going to ‘town,’ the place that welcomes people from all over, a place that’s loud and proud, a place that might just about be sick of hearing about the bloody Beatles by now. But Liverpool’s past is also tied up in the slave trade. Home has history. It can be shared, stolen and forced.

I should have learned sooner that home is both a right and a privilege. The number of rough sleepers and other (less visible) forms of homelessness are on the rise in the UK. Add to that the displacement of people due to war, humanitarian crises and natural disasters, and the concept of home becomes increasingly complicated. Sitting in this building now, I feel somewhere between fiercely proud and intensely lucky. There’s a community choir singing behind me, and a cast in rehearsal for Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, which opens tonight. I can hear an accent that makes me feel safe. There’s history in an immense board mounted high on the wall from when this building was a centre for cotton trade in the Second World War.


Mountain View

That Sinking Feeling

When I step out the doors I’ll be met with a busy shopping street in central Manchester. There will be people going to countless places, speaking many, many languages. I will get on a train to Lime Street Station, where there are always people watching the arrivals board and hugging and arguing, and being late, and competing for taxis. From there, I’ll head back to my house. When I get there I’ll make dinner, feed the cat, ring my parents, and reassure them that I definitely haven’t burnt the house down in their absence. I find it tricky to pinpoint exactly where home is amongst all this, and it feels wanky to say it’s more of a feeling than an actual thing, especially when I am hugely privileged to have a roof over my head, somewhere safe with running water and privacy.

Home is a right and a privilege.

Home is not being lost. I am thankful for it