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How to Make a Household a Home

There is a lot to be said about the fact that, stuck in our houses once again, the British public’s favourite Netflix show has been a mixture of society, romance and gossip – three things currently in very short supply in our own lives. I speak, of course, of Bridgerton. For anyone who has not yet seen the eight-part series, it is a bizarre kind of Jane Austen-meets-Gossip Girl, and the blend of romance and mystery makes it very easy to binge.

It was while watching a scene in which the marriage-hopeful girls of one of the families are sitting in their drawing room, trying to amuse themselves with a book or some sewing, while waiting – in vain – to be called upon by eligible suitors, that I was struck by an odd feeling of empathy.

I wonder if I am the only one who feels strangely like a home-bound 19th-century lady waiting for something remarkable to happen . Ignoring the elaborate balls and parties (and the numerous romantic trysts), it suddenly occurred to me that life in lockdown has come uncannily to resemble something out of a period drama.

You wake up and get dressed in all your fineries, only to then traipse your way as far as the sofa. Maybe you read a book or continue to pursue that hobby that you swore to perfect last March (learning a new language or instrument and painting were apparently among the popular ones, all excellent 19th-century accomplishments). Perhaps in the afternoon you take a turn about the local greenery just to ‘take some air’, before returning back home just in time for your twentieth tea of the day. And you make more polite conversation about ‘how nice that walk was’ or ‘what horrible weather we are having’ because there is nothing else to talk about. Or maybe that’s just me.  

When I was younger, I had a three-foot-tall plastic oven with four hobs and little dials to ‘control’ them with. There was also a little tea-set complete with mini mugs, saucers and teaspoons which I constantly managed to lose. Holding fake tea parties and ‘cooking’ leaves and grass on my fake hob used to keep me entertained for hours. Despite living in a house, for some reason I, and no doubt many other children who played these games, decided that pretending to live in a house was fascinating.  

Now, those days have long past and it is becoming clear that you can have too many tea parties and that hobs are not half as exciting as they seemed. Being stuck in our houses or our households has made it seem like the world has become infinitely smaller over the past year, and that to ‘Stay at Home’ is not to do so many of the things that we love. But: a home is not just a house.

There is a beautiful line from Thor: Ragnarok (yes, we really have gone from Brigerton to Thor): “Asgard is not a place, it’s a people.” It is the same with Home. Yes, we might be staying in our households, but home can still be whatever we want it to be. It can be the walk you now go on every day that you cannot imagine doing without, even though you had no idea it existed before lockdown. It can be trying – and failing – to do a weights session with your flatmates, before deciding that making banana bread with them is much more fun anyway (it is). It can be yet another Zoom quiz with friends you haven’t seen for months, or a board game that you have not played for years. It can be the nostalgic photo albums that you look through until the time when we can make new priceless memories – because we will make new ones.

And in the meantime, we can keep doing things that help us remember what home is: I am off to my drawing living room where, with any luck, my butler flatmate will bring me my tea. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait too long before some eligible suitors drop round.

With illustration by Alisa Musatova