Home Sweet Home

When we got married and moved into our police flat I knew I never wanted to be without my own home again. We didn’t own it, but home only needs to be where you are settled safely, not necessarily owned. Home also fans out to your own street, town and country, but our own tiny spot in the world is unique for most of us who rent or own only one home. An Englishman’s home truly is his castle and you don’t have to be English to want your own castle. In the five years previous to our wedding I had lived with grandparents, aunt and uncle, been a lodger with two very different families, stayed in a motel and experienced institutional living. Now a few days after my 24th birthday ( which seems very young now ) I had my own kitchen and window box – oh and not forgetting a new husband as well!

In the natural order of things, in times of peace, houses outlive their owners. The new house my grandfather bought in the 1930’s for his young family is still standing, extended and improved like most suburban houses and home to other families over the years. With the death of my uncle that first family are all gone. Google reveals that the Victorian terrace I was born in is still standing and looking much the same from the outside. My parents rented the top half and when they said we were going to buy our own house, when I was six, I couldn’t understand it as we already had a home. The house they bought is also still standing. If you come from landed gentry or royalty your home may well have stood for many centuries and may stand for centuries to come.

When we see whole towns wiped out by fire, flood or hurricane we may see survivors and be glad for them that they still have their families. But it is still devastating to lose everything, your home and your town. If we lose loved ones our home is still more than bricks and mortar, it is a sanctuary and a place full of memories.

Watching the terrible invasion and attacks on Ukraine, millions of us felt a connection because they were people who had ordinary lives like us and in the space of a few days lost their homes or had to leave them. The fact that millions of people in the world are homeless or live in slums and refugee camps does not make the suffering of the Ukrainians less. Rightly or wrongly there seems to be a real possibility to help them until they can return that we can’t realistically do for the whole wide world. Close neighbours such as Poland have come up trumps with their welcome while in the United Kingdom we are hampered by post Brexit bureaucracy.

Whatever obstacles are put in the way doesn’t alter the fact that many people in Britain have volunteered to take people into their own homes and that is a gift far greater than money. To share your home with distant relatives and strangers for an unknown amount of time is not a decision to take lightly. Supposing they never leave, don’t speak any English, don’t fit in with your routine… Many of us will applaud others while being secretly relieved we can’t because we only have one bathroom, have a full house already, need space when family come to stay…

When we were first married  a friend of ours, mainly through his own fault, was jobless and homeless and came to stay with us for a few days… yes you guessed, we thought he would never leave and in the end lied that relatives from Australia were coming to stay! We have had Australian relatives living with us without problems and my son and daughter-in-law are well on track to buying their own house and moving out soon. Would I have some Ukrainians or any homeless once I’m on my own? Well there is the question of only one bathroom and family needing to stay when they visit…

Have you ever taken in strangers to your home?

40 thoughts on “Home Sweet Home

  1. Husband and I were already used to lodgers in our homes before we even met, as we’d both been divorced and unable to manage financially without them. After we got together we needed lodgers again to finance our home and student offspring. I think the Ukrainian refugees will only want to stay as long as they need to be safe and once they are able to return it’s all they will want to do. Offering sanctuary when we have rooms [and spare bathrooms] is the very least that we can do. But we’re getting no help with contacting them!

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  2. I haven’t, but I would consider it, given the right circumstances. The only material thing I’ve ever wanted was a nice house to call home.

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  3. Hi Janet, I already have both my parents living on the same property albeit in a separate dwelling. I’ve had two of my three sisters live in my home for extended periods when they have needed somewhere to live. I am not very sociable and would not take strangers into my home. I feel I do my bit already and could not do more on that front. I do a lot of charity work and that has to suffice now.

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    1. I agree Robbie, it is good having your parents and regular charity work is vital, the unseen help that does not get the same attention the dramatic people rescues do! I have enough room for my son and daughter-in-law to have their own space and me too! We always have dinner together and have our routines for showers and washing machine etc. But I don’t think it would be so easy with strangers.

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  4. We saved for years to get our first home that we owned, before that we were in tied accommodation. Then we had to move away and couln’t afford the new area so we were back in a rented house until we retired.Now we have been in our own bungalow for over 20 years. It is very small but enough for us to manage. However, if we have guests we have to cram into the little office and give up our bedroom. Thre is no room to take in lodgers. Luckily the dog sleeps in the living room. My father taught me that a home of one’s own is something to aspire to and when I read of the struggles people have to pay rent I am so grateful he did.

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  5. On several occasions during the latw 1970s, we took a French student into our Wimbledon house for periods of 3-4 weeks at a time. Our main motive was the money, (£40 a week, quite a lot at the time) paid through the language school, but as I could also speak acceptable French, it made life easier. We did make an effort to socialise with them though. Took them into Central London, introduced them to friends and family, and mostly enjoyed the experience.
    Now in retirement in Beetley, our 8X8 spare bedroroom has two small child beds to accommodate our grandchildren if they visit. There is only one small family bathroom too. We are not on a good bus route, or near any shops. Taking in any refugees, Ukrainian or otherwise, would not be a practical proposition, even at £350 a month.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  6. Taking in students is very popular around here with language schools. quite a responsibility if you have young students. I think Ukrainians will only be put in towns or places with good transport links and homes with reasonable space and privacy.

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  7. I’d love to help but at the same time I need my own space (which sounds exceedingly selfish.) If a lodger doesn’t work out for whatever reason, you could give them a month’s notice. If a refugee family didn’t work out for whatever reason, what could you do? Chuck them out on the street after everything they’d been through? No way. It’s a terrible situation. I don’t know the answer.

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  8. I think it is so admirable if anyone can open their home to others. I am sadly not one of those people, I get angsty if friends and family visit me for longer than 2 hours – that is my limit. I could not have people staying. It’s happened a few times and it just makes me crazy, I just don’t like people in my space.

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  9. That made me laugh Ari, the best part of having visitors is when they go! I am always amused when there is a news item about a family losing their home to a fire or other emergency circumstances and the report says they are staying with relatives. Poor relatives! Yes we certainly must admire those who share their sacred personal space.

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  10. Mostly we have taken in family. We had my nephew’s family of four for two months. And then my youngest son moved in with his family of five for five years. Our grandson is still here four years after the others moved out. A new hire at work and his wife were waiting for their house to be built and I told them they could stay at our house while we were gone for a long trip. I was real nervous because they were total strangers. We never saw them again but it worked out fine. My wife wanted to volunteer to take in a troubled teenager when our three sons were younger and I had to feel guilty being the bad guy because I said no.

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    1. You deserve a medal Geoff, sounds like you have done more than your fair share. Taking in troubled teenagers is very worthy, but you have to think of your own family first and I don’t blame you for saying no.

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  11. while I was away at college, my parents took in three young men from Europe who were traveling the world. Their car had broken down at the end of our street, and my dad told them they were welcome to stay until their car got fixed. They ended up staying for a month, using our house as their home base for day trips. My parents kept in touch with the three of them for close to 15 years…

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  12. You touch a sore spot here, Janet. I treasure my privacy and find it an ordeal to have friends visit for more than a few days. I would rather help in other ways.
    Somehow I missed this post when you published it, but at least it wasn’t because of the WP “unfollow” bug.

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  13. Janet, unfortunately, anyone wanting to stay here would need to go on the roof racks as there really is no room at the inn with the four of us in a 3 bedroom house and three dogs and don’t ask me how many books. We get the occasional teenager sleeping on our sofa bed in the lounge but only for a night.
    It’s hard to know quite who to support atm. Here in NSW we’ve had the city of Lismore decimated by floods and many people have lost everything. It’s not a patch on what’s going on in the Ukraine but still tough. I should do more to help but getting through the day and keeping up with my kids is challenging. Ironically, our house suffers from too much, not too little and I am trying to move it on.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

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  14. Yes Rowena I can well imagine, we used to sleep on the floor if we had visitors and give them our bed when the children were young. Australia has had more than its fair share of devastating fire and flood and of course so have other countries; all events pushed into the background since Ukraine.

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