Sunday Reading: Green, Green Grass of Home

words: Becky MacNaughton
photo: Liz Seabrook

I’ve lived in the same house for over 20 years, but it’s still thousands of miles from home. My second home, I should say – the one I reach for when it gets too much.

In moments of crises I often think about a yellow piece of paper. It bears a name and a date and a birth weight, and it lists a place an entire ocean away – a town which is sandwiched somewhere between a lake and a harbour. But what it doesn’t say in ink it says in hope: that there’s a second chance and a fresh start, and a right to both.

I left Canada at the age of five, in the murk and the muddiness of my parent’s divorce. There are things I remember from this time and things I do not. Enough moments to span a day, maybe, but they are not the things that adults usually recall. I lined up boxes in the basement of our house like a train, for example, and ate grape bubble gum from a roll, wedging it in the pocket of my hand luggage. It was a backpack shaped like a cow. I carried that thing around with me for years.

I remember other days, too, but sometimes memories blur with dreams and I wonder, really, what I’m remembering at all. We went fishing once and we played basketball and there was an outdoor pool that I briefly jumped into, my brother catching me in his arms. But did I really watch the glass of a vending machine implode? Did candy explode across the floor and we take it home, like loot, shoving as much and as many as we could into a paper bag?

That’s where they stop, more or less, the snippets of things. They’re merely photographic – flat and glossy, they struggle to reveal the real weight of things.

Yet I tell myself almost every year that I’ll buy a ticket home. When people leave or die or fall out of love, it seems like the only thing to do: green grass is a better thing to look at than heartbreak. Sometimes I even pick the time of the year to go – Fall always looks best, I think, nestled under leaves of auburn and amber and gold, just before the snow rolls in. Because that is also something I remember: the banks of it, the bitterness, the need for hats and scarves and matching mittens.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what it would look and feel and smell like. It’s a type of wanderlust, but it straddles the line between going somewhere new and returning home. The house and the library and the play park will not be the same. Twenty years changes a place, least of all a person – it reshuffles the bricks and reforms the land. But on bad days, I still look at flights and I plan routes and I wonder, at the back of my mind, just how long it would take. To settle in, to carve a life, to make it feel like home.

On good days, though, it’s a different story. The thought doesn’t cross my mind. On these days, I realise that it’s the promise and the pull of it that matters to me most. And then I wonder: settled there, would I need another place to go? Another ocean to cross and another route to plan? It seems so simple then, barely even a question: I’d return here, to the really green fields.

Becky is a reader, a writer and a constant work in progress. She keeps a blog, here, which is about being all three. Discover more tales of return in issue 34 of Oh Comely

Sunday Reading: Take it from me

words: Gabriella M. Geisinger
photo: Liz Seabrook

I am a professional listener of music. Years of practice in self-isolation, my headphones lost beneath a mass of curls; hidden – during class, on walks, in the locker room at swim practice. Before technology had caught up with my sleuth listening capabilities, I carried a disc-man around in a knit turquoise bag. I could fit three jewel cases inside with it. Each day, three different CDs. One morning, a classmate nicked it off a bench and hid it. When I realised it was gone I burst into tears in front of our entire middle school. Sobbing, I searched for my homeroom teacher to fix this egregious trespass. Only when the disc-man was safely in my hands did the crying stop. I was 12. I should have been embarrassed, I was embarrassed by nearly everything – but I wasn’t this time. Music was everything.

My life had one continuous soundtrack – the royalties I must owe! – and in all that time, music grew with me. I never allowed a single moment – or person – to taint a song. To mark it with their humanness; sully it with the visceral ephemera of a memory.

The moment my father died was one devoid of music. He folded up the New York Times, and set it beside himself on the sofa. He looked at me and said, “you know, I really love those shoes,” – my brown, well worn, strappy sandals; then he went for a nap. From that point on, my brain only conjures up trauma flashes – frantic, fingers gripping our cordless phone, the tremble of my heart in my chest as I spoke into the receiver ‘my dad is dead’ to the nameless 911 operator. I stood in my apartment. Once there were two people here, now there was one.

With such striking clarity, I remember the sunshine the next day. It was June 2008, and I was going to tell the Fitzgerald children why I couldn’t babysit them this week, the first people outside of my immediate friends and family to whom I had to say those little words. My dad died. As if they explained anything – everything. In the elevator, I slipped my headphones in.

/what can I compare you to, my favourite pair of shoes/

With no warning, my life in this moment was inexorably linked with a song. Too late to stop it happening, its harmonies pulled from me the tremulous grief in my bones and solidified it there, rewriting the notes of myself. For three minutes and 53 seconds I stood in the middle of the street and wept.

There were very few moments after that when I could listen to this song. The opening notes ripped from the depths of me that single moment, standing on the street outside the diner – crying in the sweltering summer heat. No matter where I was, the world would melt away and I would be on the same street in the bright June sun, almost 19 years old, weeping.

I am sitting in Italy, the land of my mothers. I am writing in a house on Via Ciambrelli in a small mountain town called Bucciano. The sun is warm despite Christmas’ approach. I have Take It From Me playing on repeat. It was the second play that brought up the tears. So much time has passed since that moment, the grief has further to travel – more scar tissues to work through. More life to navigate before returning to the surface to breathe. But it is always there. There is no quicker way to tap it – oil from a well – than this song. It is etched deep into my skin, into the crisscross of veins in the back of my hand.

/come on take it, take it from me (we’ve got a good life)/

So many songs move with time. The I’s and You’s and Here’s and There’s shift like visions in a dream, relevant only to things in this moment. Music is malleable that way. It is magical that way. This song, on the contrary, is a door that only opens into one room. Its power and beauty exists in its ability to bring me back to that summer afternoon – a window through which I can look at my past, feel it with only an eddy of grief, not a crashing wave.

The sandals have long since gone. I no longer live on that street, or in the same country. I don’t even have an iPod anymore. But nostalgia is powerful, and music more so – and when those notes begin, I am standing in a pair of brown strappy sandals in the blinding, heart-warming heat of the summer sun. 


Gabriella M Geisinger is a freelance writer specialising in music, societal commentary, and poetry. For her MA in Narrative Nonfiction at City, University of London, she completed her memoir, The Many Lives of my Father. She uses words like bricks, building houses that keep you safe for a time. You can follow her on twitter, and visit her website


For more tales of return, pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 34

Sunday Reading: Hiraeth

words: Helen Duncan
photo: Liz Seabrook

It was the views that did it for me; held in the frames of the large sash windows that dominate the upstairs rooms. That’s probably the reason why I chose the house on the hill. Look North and your eyes meet Wytham Woods on the horizon. Look West and the land stretches further into the distance. Your attention rests for a second on a glint of silver as the light hits Farmoor Reservoir before moving on to the bluish rise of land beyond.

West. And that old familiar call. It’s only recently that I learnt there’s a name for it.


It bubbled up from within my subconscious. And in certain locations, where the landscape seemed somehow familiar, I would feel a deep longing for another place. And that is still how it hits me today, each time I gaze from those upstairs windows, or when I travel North or West.

I can feel strangely at home in new places. And yet home feels far away. I might recognize the bent silhouettes of windblown trees outlined against a wintery sky, or near-horizons formed by land close to rising in a sharp ascent.

Crashing waves, and a glittering sea that stretches far and wide, tug at a part of me. Newly-ploughed fields hold distant memories in their ridges and furrows, and long shadows, cast across fields in the golden hour of midsummer or on a crisp midwinter’s morning, stretch out as if to meet me, pulling me back to the place from which they spring.

Perhaps it is the tilt of the earth or the angle of the sun that causes such feelings. Or perhaps the lives of our ancestors continue to resonate in places; their very existence running through the landscape still, like a live wire: a frequency that some part of me, from somewhere long ago, remembers and receives. I have been out on the moors before, and moved between the mountains: the primordial crackle tuning and retuning as it tries to reconnect to some memory within. Where is home?

Come and sit with me for a moment on another hill, among the grey stones of Tre’r Ceiri hill fort, high on Yr Eifl on the Llŷn Peninsula. Here you can breathe in the 360-degree view of land and sea as easily as oxygen. Imagine the wonder its Iron Age inhabitants must have felt as the sun rose and set, and the weather fronts rolled in; as the moon waxed and waned, and the stars made patterns in the night sky. Did they feel this same yearning?

North and West, West and North. I am almost there.

But my home, it seems, is always just beyond the horizon, waiting.


Helen Duncan is a freelance writer and grantseeker based in Oxford. Her writing is inspired by the natural world, special places, folklore and fairytale. She celebrates life’s simple pleasures and seasonal living on her blog The House at Nab End and on Instagram. Discover more stories of finding home in Issue 34 of Oh Comely - Return


Sunday Reading: Poached peaches with cold cream


Words: Bre Graham
Photo: Femme Run

Every great romance in our lives is not just left in our memories, but in the physical things that remain long after that love has left. What we own, where we live and who we are, linger longer than the people that we hope might stay. Because sometimes when relationships end, they don’t just break, they completely shatter.

It’s the first stage of losing love, when even the thought of a thing can bring them back. Something as small as a scent jolts us straight back into that scene, and our pasts can open up again in an instant. It’s why for some, the summer stings of flings, outfits once loved collect dust and hide beneath beds and favourite restaurants are no longer frequented.

Recently, at the end of a relationship, one that was delicate and maybe doomed, I felt the best way to move on was to find a new way to walk to work. We had first met on a night out where we poured our whiskey like wine, swapped sweet nothings for hours and finally first kissed in a busy bar beside my apartment; the same bar I still pass every day going to my office. From our first meeting, to when goodbyes were said, I had built a guide in my mind to things that would remind me of this time; things that I knew, even when they were happening, would hurt hard to remember when it was over. Maybe just one of the downsides of being a writer is that I don’t want to forget a single thing, and most of the time, I don’t. The list was long, from bars to books, to songs and what Sunday mornings felt like, from the toast to the type of soap.

On our last good night together before things finally broke, I grilled steaks and we ate poached peaches with cold cream in an August heatwave, in a room full of unpacked, smoke-stained clothes from his week away. But I know, that for now, while I might try and block out these memories, at the time they were beautiful. Soon enough though, a peach will just be a peach and the end of August just a time when leaves change. When we least expect it, things we think we lost return renewed.

In the end, the stories that we build upon others dissipate. We can forget why once something as superfluous as a bathtub made us weak with regret, and the memories stop shocking us. Because what time reveals, is that the things we attach to others really just represent us at a moment in our lives. Maybe they’re just memories of being young and foolish, or maybe something more serious. No matter what they hold, they are stories as much of you, as they are of what you lost. Because everything we lose when we love, ultimately will return.

Bre Graham is a freelance writer and editor. She is currently living in London working on her first novel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Pick up a copy of Oh Comely issue 34 for more stories of return. 

Sunday Reading: Home

words Danielle Morgan
photo Ruth Allen

I don’t remember there being the awkwardness of a new relationship; those embarrassing moments when you are not totally sure of one another never really came. The butterflies flitted about the empty recess of my stomach, but they aren’t the kind that jump into your throat and made you feel sick and dizzy. They’re the docile kind, the ones that drift aimlessly about, resting softly in the pit of your belly. Occasionally, when a subtle moment of seeming insignificance swells a feeling of insurmountable love, they let me know that they are still there. They flap their delicate wings and remind you that they will never truly leave. Not when it is real. Not when it feels like this.

While I was at university, my head tucked into the dog-eared pages of The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Master and Margarita, consumed in the fictional lives of others, he was zipping about country tracks on his old Vespa, a little rusted around the edges, weather-worn and unkempt, but always reliable. A bit like us. Old school. The back wheel spinning as though in silent motion, kicking up the dirt as if he were disappearing into a cloud of muddied up fog down lonely lanes and roads ransacked by the wind and rain. When I think back I picture these moments as if in a movie; two main characters going about their daily lives completely oblivious to the paths they will take. The unassuming bookworm and the intrepid nomad. With no reason for the paths to cross, as fate would have it they do.

We sit opposite each other, the bluster of early autumn rain pelting against the window outside, the rusted fishing boats bruised and battered wedged at awkward angles into the damp sand. “Would you like to go for a drink?” he said. “Alright then, that might be nice,” I replied. The tide of feeling draws ever closer to the shore, I sip my stout and watch his lips as he recites stories about how we would fleetingly pass in the school corridor. We had never said more than a hello. Funny how things pan out, how the past revisits you in unexpected ways and ordinary chance turns to anything but ordinary luck. A twist of fate, like the unfurling plot of a movie, or one laid out within the well-thumbed pages of the books I would so often and fervidly escape into.   

A calmness unexpected in fledgling love took over, but perhaps that is because it wasn’t young or inexperienced at all; the seed had already been planted long ago. We just didn’t know it yet. Like the broken spine of a tatty paperback, or the moth-eaten hem of a shabby overcoat, it already felt familiar. Lived in.

A love that feels lived in is a league all of its own. Sometimes you are not perfect on paper but you know love when it feels like home. I had returned to mine, in a place that I never knew it had been waiting for me all along. Before the butterflies, or the fantasy worlds of my paperback heroes, before the dusty dirt track and the misty seaside adventures, but as all stories start: at the beginning.

Danielle is a writer living on the outskirts of London. She is a self-confessed book worm and tea addict. Follow her on twitter to keep up with her work, or just for the odd tea fuelled bookish escapade @_gigglingginger. Pick up a copy of Oh Comely 34 for more tales of return.