horrendously homesick

Life During my first year at undergraduate university, I was horrendously homesick for at least the first few months. This manifested itself in a collection of ways but mostly it involved moments alone, in the dark of my room in halls or a stairwell, when I’d simply sit and cry, trying to retch in such a way that I didn't make too much noise, not let people know how I was feeling. It was my first time away from home, alone, and I hadn’t quite managed to work out how to mix, how meet people, how to bond, and I thought the last thing I needed was for them to thing I was a crier, someone who couldn’t stand being alone.

Eventually the feelings largely subsided, after a parental visit and parcels began arriving from home with creature comforts, most of which I could have bought myself but were somehow tastier, comfier or funnier because I knew they’d been through home and the hands of the people there. This was the early nineties, before mobile phones were cheap enough for any student, and the only email available was in the library and so that was the only real contact I’d have apart from the odd phone call home from the expensive and smelly call booth on the ground floor.

Now and then, I still felt like I was alone and surrounded by people who didn’t understand me, even the friends I’d made, which is ironic, probably, since this was no doubt what everyone else was thinking. It didn’t help that there wasn’t anyone from my home town of Liverpool in the hall. No one to reminisce with. Two neighbouring blokes in a few doors away from me were from other ends of the same street for goodness sake, and had never met before. There were plenty of similar coincidences and geographical bunching, but as far as is went, I was the Merseyside contingent.

One morning I was in a particularly low mood for the first time in ages. I suspect it was because it was a Sunday, and I was hankering for the kind of morning bacon butty only my Dad can cook but when I’d gone down to the kitchen to do it myself, someone had stolen it from my bag in the fridge. Bastards. I remember opening the window to let the cold Autumn air into the room and imagine perhaps that I was looking out across a park or the Mersey. I shut my eyes and let the slight breeze flow across my cheeks. Then I heard a girl shout:

”Earyaa babes, pass-us me shooz…”

I don’t really have a scouse accent. It comes and goes, most often it comes across as generic northern. I’ve been told it’s because I don’t particularly appreciate the accent of my home town which might well be the case, but since, if you’re from the city and surrounds you know that there isn’t just one Liverpool accent but dozens depending upon where someone is from, it’s probably truer to say I don’t like some versions of it. But on that day I loved them all.

It was like music. It was like that scene in The Shawshank Redemption when Andy opens up the public address system in the prison and plays opera music to his fellow inmates. I sighed. It was just what I needed. I later found out her name was Stella and we became passing acquaintances since she’d become best friends with someone else in the hall. Throughout the rest of the year, whenever I was feeling homesick again, I’d somehow end up meeting her and she’d remind me of what home was like, what Liverpool was like, like.

[This is my submission to the Liverpool Echo’s Open Culture Benchmark.]

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