There’s no place like home – but what happens when you have more than one?

What exactly does ‘home’ mean? Where you were born? Where you grew up? Where you live now? Whether for university, work, or because you have loved ones living in different places, many of us have more than one base, and, for me, having two home cities means that home is much more about people than places. On the one hand, I could say that Belfast is my home – this is where I grew up, where my family live, and where myself and my best friends from school, who have all dispersed to different places, gather and catch up whenever we can. However, on the other hand, I no longer live in Belfast, and have firmly established a new base in Glasgow, with a whole new set of wonderful friends, some of whom I now consider family. As previously mentioned in my ‘Reflections on 2015’, my list of reasons to love Glasgow and never leave is growing, so it’s starting to feel more and more like home. Having my two bases relatively close together means I travel between the two fairly regularly, and I have found that there are both perks and downsides to having multiple bases. I suspect a few of these might be familiar to those of you with more than one place to call home!



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You’re always missing someone.

Having two homes means I have two sets of favourite people, who I often wish were all in the same place at the same time. While this can be tough, it also means that I make the most of the time I get to catch up with friends and family when we are in the same place, and I do really appreciate the people who matter most to me.


You understand the difference between a ‘typical’ person of a place, and stereotyping.

Stereotypes tend to arise from observations and exaggerations of people who don’t know a place well, and thus are inaccurate (and often derogatory), but having lived in more than one place, I have noticed that people who live in close proximity tend to share similar mannerisms, turns of phrase and style choices. This obviously doesn’t mean that all the people from a particular place are the same, it just means that people are part of what characterises a place. Just one example of this is in expressions unique to places. Both Glasgwegians, and ‘Belfastians’, as my siblings and I like to refer to ourselves, have some brilliant sayings. People outside Northern Ireland are unlikely to know what a ‘melter’ is, but it’s just too good not to use, even if it’s met with blank faces. Equally, the first time I heard the Glaswegian expression ‘face like a melted wellie’ I gleefully stored it up until the next possible opportunity to casually slip it into conversation. (Read excitedly used it inappropriately).


You know which of your homes is the superior for your favourite activities.

For me, Glasgow wins on clubs, but is missing Belfast’s late-night coffee shops. Brunches and bars are a close call between the two – I can recommend excellent choices for cocktails or pancakes in both cities. (Oops it seems my favourite activities revolve around food and drink…) I shall be following this up with guides to some of my favourite haunts in both cities very soon!


Sinnamon, in Belfast, is one of my favourite places for late night coffee and life chats…



… but Glasgow’s Gin 71 has a pretty fabulous menu. And cocktails in teapots.  


It always takes a few days to adjust when you move from one place to another.

After a few weeks with my very loud, crazy and lovable family, my flat seems strangely quiet, and I don’t think I will ever be able to break the habit of cooking enough food for a small army, no matter how long I live on my own. But on the plus side, there’s always enough to feed visitors!


You are likely to have a serious case of wanderlust.

Living between two places means you can’t help but notice similarities and differences between them, and personally, drawing comparisons between the different places that I have lived in and visited only makes me want to discover, explore and compare more adventures, places and people. If anyone needs me I’ll be at the airport…



A Year in Ginger

Yesterday I realised that it has been a year since I gave in to my hair’s slightly ginger tendencies, and went from blonde to full-blown red head. Over the year, the colour has ranged from bright cherry, to strawberry blonde, and has currently settled at a suitably Christmassy auburn. And after my year of giving up the platinum, would I say blondes have more fun? Absolutely not.


On a practical note, being blonde required much more upkeep, and regular salon visits, which gets expensive. My various shades of red have been maintained by a fabulous friend and her skills in kitchen hairdressing, and my hair is the healthiest and shiniest it has been since pre-bleaching, which said fabulous friend likes to remind me is NEVER ALLOWED TO HAPPEN AGAIN.


Image from Pinterest

What does my hair have to do with people watching, you ask? Well, more interesting than my newly discovered appreciation of having shiny hair is other people’s reactions to red hair. They have been mixed. One brother says he “preferred it blonde”, the other, in a manner appropriate to the school playground, says “ha, you’re ginger”, while my mum loved it so much she decided to join me and become a redhead. Long-time friends found the change a bit of a shock, in a “why would you want to be ginger?” sense, but the general consensus among my trusted advisers has been to keep it red. Strangers tend to assume red hair is natural, maintaining the playground attitude of disbelief that anyone would choose to be ginger. On the one hand, this creates a camaraderie among redheads, and a compliment, or even uncertainty as to whether my colour is natural from a fellow redhead has left me more than a little smug.


On a less positive note, however, something I noticed almost immediately was that as a redhead, I get catcalled much less in the street than I did as a blonde. Unless I have aged so dramatically in a year that I am no longer of interest to builders, “lads” in cars etc., I think we can safely assume this is down to hair colour. The attitude of some men that it is acceptable to wolf-whistle at passing females seems to apply more to blondes than to other hair colours. This suggests that blonde stereotypes are very much alive and well, and, somewhat disturbingly, the belief that blondes have more fun comes from an idea that they are more desirable to men. Before dying my hair red, truthfully I had never really thought about stereotypes associated with hair colour, but in switching from “Dumb Blonde” to “Soulless Ginger” (or “Carrot Heid” in Scotland) I have noticed a real difference. While I am not suggesting that this is by any stretch of the imagination the biggest issue of stereotyping in our society, it touches on a wider issue that, for whatever reason, people tend to categorise according to appearance, and to associate certain character and personality traits with aspects of appearance, whether based on fundamentals like race and gender, or something as trivial as hair colour. With red hair or blonde, or indeed with dark or light skin, as male or female, I am no more or less intelligent, promiscuous, or anything else people might associate with hair colour, or any other aspect of appearance.

Oxford Part 2: The Queen’s English, café people watching, and moving to Paris

Working in the Dictionaries department at OUP has allowed me to release my inner language geek, and this, as well as wandering around Oxford, has made me think about how interesting accents are. Living in Glasgow, I have become used … Continue reading