Sheridan Jobbins
4 min readMar 5, 2024
Homesick for places that don’t exist

I have so many imaginary places. I even have some which I have sold or relinquished. For a long time, I wanted a mill. I fantasised about the 18th-century edifice in the country. Three stories — converted to work so we could stone mill wheat for the local sourdough aficionados. I imagined it, built into the side of a hill, running water tinkling. Maybe a pond with fish. A field spreads out before us. I even started looking for it. All over the world. France, Spain, Portugal. In real estate papers. Driving through the countryside. We even went to a restaurant in one, in the Welsh countryside — but it was closed.

But as we started to look, I noticed that water mills are frequently low in the gullies. Overgrown with wild, dark trees. Dank, wet, sunless places. I abandoned my imaginary mill because of the imaginary rising damp — and then turned my gaze to a windmill. Perched high on the cliffs. The ocean beating a path to my sandy door. Old, stone-based, cloth-sailed, Don Quixote tilting mills. Until my husband reminded me — I hate the wind.

Sometimes, in the windmills of my mind, a mill floats through. The sky is blue, and the sun is high. Hiraeth shoots it down. That mill does not exist.

For the longest time, my mother’s ailing health allowed me to fantasise that I could remove her from her dark, two-storied townhouse and move her to a sunny apartment by the sea. I walk past this house every day on my way to the public pool. Modern, sleek, facing the morning sun. Two bedrooms, $ 4 million, $ 8 million, $ 12 million, $ 24 million to buy — rising in value year after year in my dreamtime. I thought perhaps we could lease one — and I would throw in the lease for a grand piano as well. No one in our family can play the piano, but maybe talented friends would visit Mum. We’d hire a waiter — or Oscar could play the waiter — and serve margaritas — in shallow champagne glasses rimmed with salt.

Mum died.

Every day now, I walk past the apartments and imagine Mum in a floaty dress, drinking margaritas, allowing everyone to carry the chat around her. The day is warm, the sea, Pacific. That day does not exist.

I have a house in the countryside. It’s made of rammed earth and buried deep in a green grassy hill. The house is rounded, like the Science museum in Canberra, and there are arched windows at 60 degrees, making five sweet apartments, each with a private view of the rolling countryside surrounding it. Each apartment is furnished with a desk, a couch and a reading lamp. There’s a generous double bed, and a bathroom with a bath. Perhaps this house is in Kangaroo Valley, but it might be outside Castlemaine, Albury, or Gundaroo. The centre of this house has a shared kitchen with a light well through which you can see the stars at night. There’s a lounge with a stone chimney for cold nights and the playing of board games on the floor. This is the shared 6th apartment that also looks out over rolling hills. Outside is a large marble table around which the whole family can gather to share moments and occasions. We don’t have children, but that home will withstand any bushfire and keep them safe.

I don’t know if this is a ‘place’, but on that farm is a hand-carved marble wardrobe — out in a field somewhere — a place to be discovered like in a statue in a glade. The cupboard has a mirror with a bevelled edge inlaid into the door. There is a lock and two brass keys — one held each by the eldest man and woman in my family. Into that cupboard, we deposit the dead. It’s the Jobbins Family Vault. You must look at yourself in the mirror when you open it in your grief. Knowing that one day, you, too, will be there.

There’s an office in the English countryside — a walled English garden outside. This is the only place that is shaded. It has a desk with inlaid leather and a tilting armchair for the seat. This is a manly space with a large shaded lamp. It is surrounded by trees and large windows that you can step through onto the grass. This is my safe space.

The oldest house that does not exist is on a Greek island in the Aegean. It’s high on a hill that slopes to the sea. It is white, with an arched and collenaded balcony. There are ferns, and a hammock and a cool breeze. I have never been to Greece nor the Aegean, but this is my happy place.

I long for a dinky old wooden church, a tiny cabin in the woods — the woods are sunny, and a beach house on the golden sands. I own a French farmhouse with awesome wooden beams and towering stone walls. I have a hand-hewn tree house, the branches living inside and out, the roof made of glass through which I can see the stars, or the rain with lightning on stormy nights. These homes are all filled with the furniture that, even today, I buy at markets — for my imaginary home — and then spread among friends and family for safekeeping.



Sheridan Jobbins

Seriously, my ambition is to create a screenplay as airy, iridescent and flawless as a soap bubble.