People always ask me “Where is home for you?” It’s a good question. I was born in Sussex, England, moved to London when I was 19 and then some 15 years later, married and pregnant with my daughter moved to Zurich, Switzerland. Today we are in the fortunate position of being able to spend a great deal of time in Cape Town, South Africa.
When you lose your parents at a relatively young age (I was 21), the concept of home becomes rather transitory and irrelevant. Without the gravity of family holding you down, you are set free in a way; a liberation that I found to be bitter sweet. My 20’s, the most turbulent decade of my life so far, played out in London. I watched both my parents die of AIDS, fell in and out of love and became involved with a cult leader, disappearing with him to New Mexico for several months. My career seemed just as unstable. I hopped from Interior Design to Advertising, eventually training to become a Pilates instructor.
In my 30’s, married and pregnant I craved a different experience, a different scenery. Switzerland’s neatness and unspoilt nature were enough of a stark contrast to London’s busy abundance, and its pristine forests and lakes provided a perfect environment for raising a small child. But Switzerland never felt like home. Apart from the language barrier (Swiss German so harsh and guttural to my British ear), I was always made to feel like a foreigner and I surrounded myself with the expat community by way of comfort. More importantly for me, though, Switzerland had little to no creative energy. I felt like I was slowly dying, existing but not thriving… death by ‘Hausfrau’.
I had first visited Cape Town in 2002 on holiday with my husband. We returned each January, finding ourselves stretching out our trips by an increasing amount each year, so that by 2012, we decided to buy a home and began “swallowing” as they call it here. I had fallen in love with the city. Its awesome beauty, it’s wildness; the smiling faces and openness of its people was inspiring and exciting. Here I could breathe, here I could fulfil my creative potential. I signed up for a writing course and began the memoir I had been planning in my head for years.
I met Marioara when I chose Wild Olive African Artisans to create a bespoke perfume for my husband’s birthday. On our first encounter, we arrived at the Pepper Street store to find her in overalls, busily painting a mural on the exterior wall. Her infectious and energetic personality enchanted me, her creative passion all encompassing. I had never met anyone like her, so devoted to her profession. Her enthusiasm seemed to encapsulate everything that I found so exciting about Cape Town; small artisan creatives, inspired by their environment and zealously doing their thing.
When Marioara creates a bespoke perfume, she wants to know just as much about the client’s partner as the actual client — your likes, your dislikes, where you grew up, your favourite colour. We got to know each other quite well during the project and she would often tell me that she liked how I was the complete opposite to her, that I balanced her, calmed her. Funnily enough, she too had an effect on me, by inspiring and encouraging my creative projects and ideas while also instilling in me a can-do attitude and filling me with creative confidence. Upon asking me to be her muse (who wouldn’t love such a compliment?) I was overjoyed. We are now working to create a perfume together, inspired by my story. We aim to create a scent using only naturals with grounding properties, so that the wearer will feel at ease, balanced and centred. A perfume with a purpose.
So today, when people ask me “Where feels like home for you?” I proudly say “Cape Town.” It may not be my birth place or where I spend the most time, but maybe one definition of ‘home’ is a place where you feel creatively at ease, where your ideas can fly and where you feel inspired to fearlessly follow your dreams.