Day 767

For months I have been noticing that more often than not, whenever I randomly turn on the radio in the car or at home, I hear something closely related to what’s going on in my mind.

‘Stand by me’ was the first episode of a series called ‘We need to talk about death’ on BBC Radio 4. Given that death and dying are an essential part of the stream of human existence, many of us shy away from the subject. In this series Joan Bakewell explores the choices open to us and other questions on the subject that are most feared.

Last Sunday, on the long drive home, between Bollywood and Jazz music, we tuned into the radio to check what was on. We were introduced to an enigmatic Welsh word, ‘Hiraeth’ (pronounced Here-eyeth with a rolling ‘r’). There is no exact English word for it. The best we can do is ‘homesickness’ but that doesn’t do it any justice. Hiraeth is a feeling of something lost a long time ago. To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep sense of incompleteness, a yearning for something better, a grief for something left behind, an aspect of impossibility, pining for a home or a person. It can push the nostalgia button and bring on the belief that things were better in the past. It is the signature tune of loss.

I think I know what that feels like.


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