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Published: March 25th 2012
The town of Fettercairn, located not far from the rugged shores of the North Sea on Scotland’s east coast, is one of my many hometowns. The distinct, musty smell of coal mixes with the sweet smell of roasting barley from the town’s whisky distillery and musky, ever moist ground.
Daffodils bloom in phases in the spring. Brilliantly yellow flowers first make their appearance while there is still a light dusting of snow on the ground. By the time the snow melts, the next blooms raise their sunny heads in dramatic contrast to the first ones that have faded into light beige. The third phase of daffodils bloom against the vibrant greens of the Scotland countryside. In autumn, the green rolling hills are covered again by flowers. Sprigs of purple heather coat the ground and bloom until the first snow.
Just past the threshold of the arch built to honor Queen Victoria, an alley is hidden between two gray stone buildings. The whitewashed structure that housed my tiny flat is midway down the alley. The only heater was in the hallway. Electricity was expensive and the heater stored energy at night. Heat was released during the day. Not very convenient considering that I was working during that time. For heat I had propane heaters with an open flame which heated a ceramic tile. Warmth was radiated as the tile heated. Doors on every room, including the kitchen, helped to keep that valuable heat in the flat. The temperature in the hallway was often cold enough for me to see my cat’s breath.
Like heat, hot water was hard to come by. The flat didn’t have a constant supply. There were two options. One was to keep a coal fire going in the living room. Pipes that carried water ran through the walls of the fireplace and would heat up water. I never got the hang of keeping that fire going 24/7. The other option was to flip a switch in the kitchen which operated the water heater in the closet. While flipping a switch was much easier that keeping a fire going, this method required no less than two hours to heat up enough water for a bath. I got up twice each morning; once at 3am to flip that switch and again at 5am to ready myself for work.
Fettercairn was my home for a year and a half. There, I found my sense of adventure, developed a love for solo travel and cried countless tears. A hometown is a place and time filled with self discovery. I’ve had many hometowns. I have no doubt that I will have many more.
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