Home: A Kind of Carol

‘Carol’ from the French, circa 1300: ‘to dance in a ring.’

I am sitting in the car, notebook up against the steering wheel. I have spent hours like this, these last months, in service stations, or the car parks of supermarkets, hotels, inns. Because I have an electric car, and while we are in temporary accommodation, I don’t have a charging point of my own but am reliant on public points, in far flung car parks. Twice there has been no charge at the hotel – no room at the inn- and I have had to summon up a company of rescuing angels – the RAC- to tow me. Except I was so tired that on the phone I told my husband I had called out the RSC, and he had a vision of a truck full of actors coming to quote Shakespeare at me and my stranded eco-vehicle. He says, that while I may be trying to do my bit to save the earth, it isn’t doing much for our marriage, since I have to spend more time with the car, than with him. But we are hanging on. We are driving home for Christmas. We are so nearly there now,


It’s where you feel you should be at Christmas. 

Are glad to be. Or sad to be. Or guilty that it’s hard to be. 

Or lonely and scared because you haven’t got one anymore – a home. 

It’s where your parents live. Or lived. It’s where your children are. Or were. It’s where your partner is. Or was. Where your cat is. Or was. Where your stuff is. Or was. The full place or the empty space – both can be 


Where you live. Where you love. Where you leave. Where you long for, feel sick for. Where everything has a place. Where many things get misplaced. 

Somewhere, down between the floorboards of the house in which I grew up is a gold watch of my mother’s. 

Somewhere in the house which my husband and I have just sold in London is a volcano, from a Top Trumps pack – Mount Cotopaxi. Status: active. Top Trumps Rating: 89.

And then there are the flakes of skin. Filaments of the self. Drifting about the house. The one in which I was born. The one in which I gave birth to my daughter, while my mother and son ordered Brio train-sets upstairs. 

Homes that I have left some of myself in. Homes that I carry with me, as we move on to the next


It’s where you sleep.

It’s the view when you wake – the string of white lights, up already, on the house across the way. The two oaks trees, bare, beyond. 

It’s what you hear from within.

The groan of planes overhead, in the house on the flight path.

The owls at dusk, in the house in the woods. 

The rain on the roof – a sound my son now plays on my phone, wherever we are, to help himself settle. Noises from the outside that reassure us that we are the lucky ones – on the inside. Let us know there’s a layer of something – slate, canvas, metal, wood- between us and out. Whatever it is that’s out there – owl, rain, wind, wolf, the drunk who frightens us, who may not have an in- no inn to stay in. No shelter but a bottle – the thing you stick a message in, when you are stranded, far from 


A place you put your hat. 

A hearth. The warm place. 

Or the cold one, made colder – all the more chilling – because of the wish for, hope for, warmth. 

 The place where the fights break out. Where the hitting happens, in hiding.

The place about which fights break out. Wars, waging. Then it’s called a territory – the word for where one home ends and another starts, for who is allowed inside and who must be kept out, driven out, bombed out, shipped out, flown out. Of the house, city, country, continent, of this world.

E.T. wanted to go back to his. The rich are wondering about escape to other planets too once we have finally, fully trashed this one, once there is no shelter left upon the earth, no stable, nothing stable, once it is not, or can’t be, any more a


We – my family – haven’t had one for a year now. Though we’ve been the most privileged kind of homeless. Never without a roof. Only between homes, while we try to buy a new one. The children open advent calendar windows, counting down the days till Christmas, while my husband and I count the days till we can open a new front door. Ten, nine, eight, seven days to go now. 

It has taken its toll – this year of being in limbo, and given what a comfortable version of homeless we have been, I am even more keenly aware than usual, as Christmas approaches, of the hard, bleak mid-winter kinds – on streets, across cities, overseas, in Palestine, Rwanda, and right here, nearby, in the county to which we are moving – Kent – the one at which people arrive, seeking refuge, when they have had to flee their


It is why we are moving there. To Kent. 

To make a home – one for our creative work. 

Because, so far, the work itself has been our home. The practice – of improvising, of stepping on a stage, of sitting in a circle in a rehearsal room, of writing. The practice of dreaming. The rigour of not knowing. The art of getting lost, so deeply that you find yourself, again. 

We have never tethered these things to a place. Home, as in a set of practices, has never been linked to home, as in a landscape. But we want to do this now. To make a haven for a certain way of being in the world – one that embraces the ephemeral, ineffable, emergent, the things that are most hard to house. Most difficult to pin down to a place, as they are un-pin-down-able. But we hope to make a space for them to show up, when they will, to slip across the lintel, of our


An abstract noun, full of tangible things: 

The blue duvet 

The kitchen table 

The little gingerbread heart, that my father bought one Valentine’s day, and that hung, for years, still in its cellophane, still with its white icing intact, on the hook by the back door, next to the key. 

These things. And actions. 

The way my father paced around the table. The way my son now does the same. The way my mother hums – two notes, low to high, between pressed lips- as if snatched from a song she has never quite dared sing. 

All these things make me think of, feel at,


That my mother lost at eight years old, when her parents died, and that she has spent her life trying to recreate, keeping goats, chickens, making bedrooms up in attics, under the eaves, with ceilings that slope down to where roof meets floor.


That my father had taken from him at fifteen, by the Nazis, and that he spent his life trying to escape, disavow, erase.

No wonder, home, for me, hasn’t been a geography till now so much as an ache, a fear of loss. I am at home- in the sense of familiar with – these things.

Which is why, although I don’t call myself a Christian, I like the Christmas story. Because it is so much about being far from home – vulnerable, exposed, caught out – but finding a roof anyway. So much about the animals, straw, stars, shepherds, angels, and at the centre of all these different kinds of shelter- a mother, herself a shelter, for a baby.

Which is also why, to quote Tracy Thorn, in her sad song called Joy, the carols make me cry, and I feel a longing for


So, I hope you have one, as the nights grow long.

Or that you can fashion one as best you can out of a house, cottage, tent, flat, boat, yurt, castle, car, stable, manger. 

I hope that it is safe. 
I hope that you can laugh there. Cry there.

Swear. Eat. Play. Sleep. Dream. Sing.

Dance in a ring. 

Be yourself. Make yourself feel at


I hope it shelters you 

and those people 

and things 

and ways 

that you hold most dear. 

At this end of 

the year.

And I hope one day, not too far away now, we can welcome you 

into our new


HOME: A KIND OF CAROL is available to listen to on Soundcloud https://on.soundcloud.com/TnEdm

Artwork by Xavier Singer-Kingsmith https://www.instagram.com/xotuski/?hl=en


  1. Katie

    Thank you matilda. A moving, aching inside forms a shape of what home means to me, created with gratitude at this time of long, dark nights.

    • matildaleyser

      Sending blessings through the dark, towards your home, with all its resonances. xxx

  2. Mufrida

    Stunning and evocative writing as always ! Particularly poignant for me as I enter living in limbo for another year xxx

    • matildaleyser

      Ah, sending love for the limbo. I hope there are some positive reasons for that in-between-ness to help see you through xxx


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