I’ve not been posting much recently, mainly because I was planning and then executing a trip over to Kiev. They were having something of a heat-wave there, which made a nice change from the occasional rain we’ve been having here in Devon, and I got to see some more of my friend and be there for her birthday, which was nice.

Kiev is an interesting place. Like most European cities it’s felt the touch of uncaring twentieth-century architecture, but in the main it’s quite beautiful: wooded hills overlooking the vast expanse of the Dniepr, many churches and cathedrals that vary from European gothic to minarets and rotundas reminiscent of the Middle-east, the legacy of a Greek conversion. One thing I particularly noticed about the ecclesiastical architecture was a preference for gilded roofs, which you never see in England. The streets are ill-maintained, but on the buses people pass money forward to the driver and change back to the passenger with utter unconcern, which is completely alien to the public transport system here. Everywhere there are the little trailers that dispense Kvas, painted in the Ukrainian national colours of blue and yellow. Another thing that you notice a lot is how much English there is around. Most signs are in Cyrillic text, and there are enough that by the time I left I could read them after a fashion, but on the walls are numerous messages in my language. Graffiti in England is in English, but in Kiev people express their hatred of Emo in the language and alphabet responsible for it and expect to be understood. Agreement with that was inevitable, but my favourite piece simply told me to smile.

Nice though it can be out there, though, the thing that came home to me most is just how much I belong here in Exmouth. It was raining when I arrived, from a leaden sky that threatened more, but that was like a much-loved quirk in a dear friend. It was so good to be back among familiar things and people, without the constant pressure of new sensations and ways. I think it’s important to live in a place that feels that way, that fits like an old pair of slippers and makes you smile when you arrive, and there are only two places in the world that do that for me: Canterbury, where I was an undergraduate, and Exmouth, where I have my home and family. I like to see other countries and experience how other people do things, but in the end they just tell me what’s right or wrong with my own home. I think I appreciate them and it far more for loving this tatty little seaside town, with its battered crazy-golf course, cheesy amusement arcade and two miles of sometimes overcrowded beach. I might prefer Kiev’s swallows to our seagulls (quite a lot, as it happens), and their market to our Sunday jumble sale, but I wouldn’t exchange them for the world.

So if you’re thinking of going to Kiev, I say do it. It’s a great place, and I’d like to go back one day. For now, though, I’m happy to be back at home and to be planning a drive with the owners’ club tomorrow that will let me see more of it.

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