On Leaving Home, by Kevin, Aged 10½

"Homesick`, a. Pining for home; in a nostalgic condition" - Webster's Unabridged
"There was a smell of homesickness. Chalk and dust and boy's farts." - Kevin Weedon

They made me come here where I have to sleep with other boys and they didn't let me bring my Teddy because they said that the other boys would laugh at me. I said that if the other boys laughed at me they'd be laughing at themselves because I think they miss their teddies too. I miss my teddy already, and I miss my Mum and Dad.

The school is big and it's cold and there are lots of boys and it smells of dust and the big hall has an organ in it like church, and that's where Mum and Dad said goodbye and went out and got in the car. I was standing with other boys and I tried to talk to some of them but some of them were crying, and then I realised that I was crying too. I have to sleep in a dormitory and wear a nuniform with a cap, which is red and I hate it already because it makes my head itch. I want to wear my own clothes but the masters say I have to wear the same as the other boys.

At an age when most kids are living at home, I was thrust into this new world, one unfamiliar and hard. Imagine this, at the age of ten - the well-loved comforts of home are no longer there, you have to bathe and sleep and eat and live with strange people and their different ways. The beds are uncomfortable, the food is different. Your time is no longer your own, your toys are miles away and it's going to be many weeks until you see your family again. That was the reality for me then, and sometimes that's the reality now.

Knossington Grange Preparatory School was not like home. Everything was more ordered - bedtime was such-and-such a time, rising time was fixed, and worse yet, I had to wash with these other, dirty boys and have my bed made before trailing down to a breakfast of lumpy porridge and cold, leathery toast. Yes, I made friends, I made them quickly. But there were no bedtime kisses and hugs from my parents, no comforting cocoa, nothing to cuddle except my cold pillow and there was hollow loneliness where once was familial cheer.

Of course, I got better. Homesickness is rarely permanent, almost never fatal, and "time heals all wounds", so there came a time when it was fine to be away from home, and indeed, the nature of home changed, too. I came to feel comfortable in the social nature of prep school, and even the itchy of the school cap came to be as familiar as my favourite pillow. My new toys came to be cricket bat and rugger boots, and the sickness was a thing of the past, dimly remembered amidst the pines and grassy slopes of Knossington.

Forty years later homesickness once again came and found me, this time in California. The things I missed were, of course very different. My teddy had been lost or mislaid in one of my frequent moves, my toys were very different, but the same feeling could still engulf me. I still miss aspects of England. The pub, with all that entails. Pork pies and good Cornish pasties. I missed familiar products in the supermarkets, fish and chips and faggots with gravy. I occasionally miss proper English accents, I missed the rain (believe it or not), and old, winding country roads. I don't miss the crowded city streets, the smell of damp and massed umbrella armies at all, or so I claim.

Now, California seems like home, and whilst there is always something that will be ever unfamiliar, this is home now, even without the spinneys and lanes of my youth. I can miss you, England, but it's not fatal.