Ben Winch

Light Traveller

Going Home

You will never go to the same river twice

December 27th 2017

How do I say this without it being a downer? I don’t much want to go home. There are family problems waiting for me, housing problems too I suspect, and the place – the region – which I refer to as “home” is only so by default, because my wife and her kids live there, and my dad, brother and sister live not far away. It’s a nice place, but it’s not my place. Of course I don’t really have a place – I haven’t had for 25 years now – but given that I don’t, I’d just as soon be somewhere more exotic, or novel, or educational, or better yet somewhere a step closer to what I could one day conceive of as my place. But I begin to see the mistake in this. I can make any place my place, surely, at least to some degree. And I’m tired – tired of searching, of goodbyes.

A few months back I wrote here the words “once in a lifetime”. It’s a happy phrase, generally, describing, as it usually does, unique and unrepeatable joy. But it’s sad too, I realise. A week in Iceland with my family showed me that, because what are the chances of my ever returning to Iceland? It could happen, but as I flew out of Keflavik (alone, after less than 90 minutes sleep, at six in the morning) I felt damn near sure of it, to the point that I considered learning Icelandic in preparation for my inevitable return. But yesterday, barely three days later, as I prepared to farewell friends in Brussels whom I will not likely see again for many years (but whom, failing unforeseen major accidents, I do expect to see eventually), I realised how precarious are all plans, let alone the hare-brained ones; and how “way leads to way”; and that, really, in order to survive and flourish in the coming years I must put down roots – roots which may preclude my spending much time, if any, in Iceland, for eg, let alone countless other places equally as worthy.

(Not to mention London. How I had to struggle not to weep over London today, again on about 90 minutes sleep, in a tacky café watched by tourists in Geneva Airport en route to New York City. Yet London I will surely, failing disaster, return to. It’s just that I’d started to feel at home there, and free of so much I dread returning to in Australia.)

The point? It’s all (as I wrote here a few months back) “once in a lifetime”. “You will never go to the same river twice.” Maybe I will never want to travel so much again, or feel so justified in doing so. I wanted to see how it’s done – life is lived, cities are managed – in places further evolved than Australia, at least in some ways. Iceland, for us, was the place where they fired the bankers, narrowed the gender pay-gap, and elected the world’s first young, Green, woman prime minister. I wanted to see – in Denmark, Germany, Japan – sophistication, so I could, with luck, bring it back, even just a touch of it, to semi-rural Australia. I wasn’t disappointed. But now that I’ve reminded myself of life outside Australia maybe the best thing I can do is try to improve life within Australia.

Our trip is not over, but yesterday is over, today is almost over, this second is over, and this one, and this. I’m old enough now to know: there are friends you make and places you love which you may never see again. Moving around for 25 years, inevitably, causes heartbreak. Maybe – probably – I couldn’t keep moving indefinitely even if I wanted to.

Meantime, over the past few months my online writing slowed to a crawl while I wrote a new book of fiction at The London Library. The first draft of that book (eight stories and approx 60-70,000 words) is finished, albeit confined to some tatty notebooks which I’ve since posted to Australia. Consequently, for now, this is all I have to show:

Hand Drawn Heart

Book reviews

Music reviews

Porufoss Iceland

Þórufoss, Iceland

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