Besides food, a place to stay is the most important human need. On top of this, it needs to be more than just a place to sleep. It’s not just important to have a place that feels like it’s yours; it is vital. It’s egocentric, but so much of the world is extensions of us as people. The way a person dresses is a physical embodiment of how they want to be seen. A person’s body language is their soul expressing itself through form. And a home reflects how a person wants to be in their free time, and how they want to live. Where you live, then, is an important choice. How do you want to live and how do you make it happen? Today I want to tell you what home means to me.
A painting from a Slovak artist, Gregor Dalecky, that I feel an affinity with
2015 was a truly insane year for me. I switched jobs three times and changed where I was living 5 times. In none of the places I lived was it possible to change much. I could move my stuff in, but the basic amenities were not mine to change. The cutlery belonged to the owner of the place. Most of the glasses and cups were not mine. The plates were all basic. For a time, I lived in my parent’s house, but I felt like more of a guest there. It isn’t my childhood home, since they have moved into the city, so I basically had the guest room there. It’s a room for their many friends and visiting family members. It was fine, but not mine.
My parent’s house is only a home insofar as my parents are there and I love them very much.
The year after was all change. My first two months in Prague I slept wherever I could, hostels, Roisin’s, Teddy’s, my fiancée’s (pre-relationship). Dossing around, practically homeless, but with the kindness of new found friends to house me. It took a while to find a place to stay and rent, but I got there eventually. It was alright but nothing special. A place to kip, listen to music late at night without disturbing anyone, and accrue mess. Everything was from IKEA. The kitchen was a bit of a nightmare as it had no window and even less counter space. I have no idea how that is legal. Kitchens need windows. When my fiancée agreed we should look for a place, it was my main demand: a kitchen with a window.
Finding a place was a challenge as the rental market is a bit weird, but when we eventually found a partially furnished flat in the centre of our favourite area with a window in the kitchen, we snapped it up.
Our kitchen window – Toaster from Tesco, Kettle from my mate Damien’s girlfriend Hanicka, Vase from Butler’s (a gift I got my fiancée), Candles from Tiger
We had a house, but how to make it a home? We had to make it colourful and beautiful and comfortable.
Our sofa, a bit beat up and second-hand but very cosy
“A house that does not have one comfy chair in it is soulless” – May
A home needs to feel comfortable and secure. It’s also important to have a way to separate yourself from the other people you live with. For though I love my fiancée very much, and she concurs, it is of critical importance that we have more than one place to sit. It was her idea that we should go for a sofa, and she found it on one of Prague’s buy/sell/trade groups.
Let me tell you, I know moving furniture. I have previously been a furniture delivery assistant and I have dealt with moving a sofa on spiral staircases before. Prague has hard twists. It was a good thing we asked The Little Van That Can man, Scott, to help us out. He’d moved this type of thing before and knew how to take it to bits in the right way to get it around corners. Still, there was a three story climb as there is no lift.
Ahh well, I am no stranger to slightly uncomfortable shoulders.
What’s nice about making a flat together is that we’ve both had ideas and have made suggestions. We don’t disagree on much because her taste and vision is very good. One area which is particularly nice is the kitchenware.
Where the magic happens
Implements and tray
Over a month before we decided we’d move in together I remember when she mentioned the cool knives she saw. At first I thought that a knife was a knife and as long as it was sharp I was happy. Then she showed them to me and I was especially happy. Why not have useful things that also look good? They are also very easy to spot in a sink if they ever get mixed in with the rest of the dishes. We haven’t found much use for the tray, but it’s cheerful so it’ll do.
“A home without books is a home without a soul” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
A subsection of our books
We both travelled here and hence don’t have many books. We both really like books however so have done our best to own at least a few. Real books are valuable because they have a whole other feeling to them than the e variant. While I rarely remember much prose anyway as I find it less memorable than poetry, I remember it even less when it is in ebook format. The books in the top left hand corner are my Dr. Seuss library, a modest collection but I began collecting later in life and Dr. Seuss is kind of pricey in the UK. In the top right, you can see two Slovakian books about bears. My fiancée is a collector of Slovakian books about bears. On the bottom shelf, there is an eclectic shelf of cook books, Lanark by Alasdair Gray, Franz Kafka’s collected works, How to Manage Your Slaves, and an Alien Encyclopaedia. We found that last one in a book shop in Edinburgh and she wanted it because she loves The X-Files.
Furthermore, that same tower has part of our souvenir collection.
Collecting souvenirs is apparently controversial, as a lot of people think it’s not “real travelling” if you take anything back to remember it. This article very convincingly argues otherwise. We like to find things when we travel. They are cool reminders where we’ve been. In the above linked article there are some tips for how to find good souvenirs.
On that shelf, we have some Russian dolls, a wee Hungarian man, a couple of postcards and This is Prague, a book on the city’s history. Each of these objects is special, my fiancée spent time in Russia, we visited Hungary together, and our wedding invites are on postcards. Prague is where we met and live. This city will always be special to us, why not take things to remember it by? Why not display them here while we live here? We’re expanding our own personal history.
Making our flat together has been a wonderful opportunity to work together. We have shared responsibility for collecting and paying for items, even if I’ve done more of the physical lifting and she’s done more of the metaphorical lifting by finding them. We’re sharing a vision of what kind of life we want and what we are willing to do to get it. My wedding proposal may not have been the most planned or most romantic, but it was extremely honest. I proposed in our flat. The flat we built together. I told her I love her and want to continue building this life together.
The writer of this piece is, despite popular belief to the contrary, neither a puppy nor a cutie. His face is steely, as are his abs, and his eyes have a cool blue-green thing happening which completes the look.
Please find below pictures of other cool things we have. It hurts me that I couldn’t write about all our cool wall art and the meaning behind every object, but such is life. If you have any questions don’t be afraid to ask!
Cork collection, dated. Spare keys, a vase, and a picture frame with Czechoslovakian stamps
Glassware and cups; bought, given, and taken
She has shown me Community and I like it
A ladder that we thought was a real ladder but makes equally good display shelves
‘Hlavni Nadrazi’ by Lukos Hey, he’s a good guy
Left to right, 1950s Russian theatre poster, a painting bought on Charles Bridge
A picture frame that looks like a theatre, made by my friend Cat as an engagement gift. Fairy lights bought by my parents also in shot.
Vintage Russian ‘days’ posters (“First day of school” “First day or holiday” etc.)
A fridge, looking homely with photographs, magnets, and a painting by my fiancée’s niece