There is something about being in a home, even if it isn't your own, which is incredibly comforting, pleasant, and utterly unlike that of being in on-campus housing. I've been trying to pinpoint the cause of this difference, and I think a lot of it has to do with the separation between living and working which a home allows but a campus prevents. When you live in university, you're always at work, you always could, and probably should, be working. So anytime you aren't, there's a mild feeling of guilt about it. Also, everyone you live with is also working all the time, so even when you're taking a moment off there's probably someone else nearby doing work. You can never wholly escape from it. While in a home, you have physical separation from the workplace, and functional separation as well. A home is designed for living, while campus accomodations are designed around work. For instance, in my flat our rooms work fine for studying but are nearly impossible to hang out with a group of people in, and our common area has a dining table suitable for a quick meal, but not enough space for everyone to eat together, and horribly uncomfortable chairs clearly not intended for an evening's social gathering. Also, at home there are usually people (perhaps your parents, or younger siblings) who leave their work behind and are able to do as they please in the evenings, so even if you have homework there are other people in the house who are relaxing, so there's an overall atmosphere of peace rather than productivity.
Ok, forgive the ramble. I'm just trying to get a handle on why it was so relieving to get off campus for a weekend to stay with a family, and why I'm really glad I'm living in an off-campus house next year (although Trimble suites, with at least one sofa in the common area, were a bit better). But aside from the general benefits of homes in general, the one I visited last weekend--that of Debbie and Steve Isaac in Petersfield, Hampshire--was a particularly nice one to visit. They had three kids: the oldest girl, Carly, is 17, and the twins, Hannah and Fraser, are 14. They were all incredibly welcoming, friendly, and polite, and accepted me into their lives immediately. The home itself was lovely, particularly the garden, which was absolutely stunning! It was a square yard closed in by brick walls and hedges, with a patio near the house. The rest was grass interlaced with twisting beds of flowers which broke the yard into winding paths. The flowers were gorgeous--tulips and others in a purple and red color scheme--and they also had a trellis with roses and a trampoline. Plus, they had sweet peas starting up as well. Add a hammock and a climbing tree and you've pretty much got my ideal garden. I ended up spending a good portion of the weekend when the rest of the family was busy just sitting out on the grass appreciating the beauty and serenity of it.
But there was lots to do, as well. When I arrived Friday afternoon, Carly and four of her friends were preparing for a fancy-dress rugby ball that evening. After we had seen them off to that, Debbie and Steve walked me into town and took me out to dinner. When we got back, we watched a rather odd reality TV show called Playing It Straight with Fraser as we waited for Carly to return with the gossip about the ball. Saturday morning Fraser and his friend Jess went over to the nearby town of Chichester for some busking (playing music on a street corner) to raise money for a World Challenge trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. So we went along to listen for a bit, and also visited a village called Bosham which was quaint enough to make you cry, and took a guided tour of Chichester cathedral. It was a gorgeous day of giant fluffy clouds rolling impressively across the sunny sky, and the countryside, all yellow with flowers on the rolling green hills, was so beautiful I thought I might explode. I could definitely live here, I thought.
That afternoon I accompanied Debbie out to visit her friend in the hospital (I sat on a hill outside and wrote) and to get some flowers from a plant nursery. We watched an elimination ballroom dance program called Strictly Dancing, and then Steve and Debbie went out for the evening and I spent some time with Carly, Hannah, Fraser, and Jess. We played pool and watched Cold Mountain, a civil war movie with Nicole Kidman which was pretty good, except for the implausible suddenness with which the main characters fell in love.
Sunday morning I got to watch some home videos from a trip the family took travelling all around the world for six months a few years ago, which were amazing. We took Fraser, Hannah, and Jess to tennis lessons, and then I walked around a lake right across the street from their house, in this gorgeous heathland that has been set aside as a public park. It had fields and trees to play in, and ancient burial mounds, and a playground, and tons of people out enjoying the morning. Yup, without a doubt I could live here.
That afternoon we went into town for the VE Day celebration, at which Jess, Hannah, and Fraser were playing in their school orchestra. It was the cutest little fair in the town square, with cotton candy and little rides and old army vehicles and veterans dancing with their wives in period costumes, and the whole town out to celebrate. What a wonderful atmosphere! We walked back home for a last cup of tea in the garden, and then, sadly, it was time for me to catch a train home. Indeed a wonderful and worthwhile weekend!
Oh, and don't worry, I learned from my mistakes with the trip to Rome and made extra sure I had brought along my camera. Unfortunately, I had neglected to charge it before I came, so it ran out of batteries the moment I turned it on and once again I was unable to get any photos of this fantastic experience. Alas!!! But perhaps I can get the Isaacs to send me some so I can share a bit of the experience with you all visually...
This morning I finally turned in the Matrix essay, which I finished last night and ended up being quite happy with. Thursday evening are the performances of our Creative Drama projects, so we've been working hard to get those ready. We got to see all the other groups' pieces yesterday, and they were all quite good, so it should be a fun night of theatre. And a relief to be done with them. After that, I have another week to turn in my last three papers, and then my dad, Pam, and Allie come out to visit for a week, which I'm incredibly excited about! Then only a Metaphysics exam will stand between me and a month of travelling Europe with Kate Fox. And then, I'll return once more to my very own home, and be quite reluctant to leave at the summer's end. Except for the excitement of the Ministry House, and the return to the UPS theatre world, and...
So it goes.