The Smallest of Celebrations by Eloise Sims


The Smallest of Celebrations by Eloise Sims


(Undergraduate - History and Politics - on six month exchange)


Winner of 3rd Prize in the Paddon Award 2016


I was born in England, on the coldest day of 1996, in a tiny hospital near Sussex. I left when I was five years old to live in New Zealand, a country on the other side of the world. I was armed merely with traces of a plummy accent and an inexplicable love of the Mighty Boosh, neither of which were particularly useful for settling in with the Kiwis. This year, after 14 years of living in New Zealand, I decided to return to England for a six-month exchange. This poem is about the week I first arrived in Exeter. It’s about being young and brainless with people who are equally young and brainless. It’s about being invincible. It’s about missing your home, but finding a new one in a place you didn’t expect. It’s about the things we need to celebrate.

Waiata aroha: Maori (Noun): song of love



The Smallest of Celebrations


When I glimpsed the leftover lipstick on my cheek
from my mother’s blessing. When
my suitcase finally shut.

When I said, “I was born here”.


I was beaming
when I ran across this bridge.
When I stepped onto
that bus. When they said, “Welcome home”
at Heathrow Airport
like they could
look at the world through anything
but time.


It made me laugh
when it was the first night and
we waltzed
in the kitchen. When our flat mate
quoted that poem. When I fell back
asleep into another dream, and when I dreamed,
I dreamed of
seeing English sun again,
and humming an old waiata aroha to its
tepid heat.


I was still humming when you
opened my door the next morning,
when the rain smelt
like gunpowder. When I liked
the way you said “New Zealand
‘cause you said it like “nostalgia”.
When those pigeons
flew up in a symphony. They were celebrating us,


And I was rejoicing,
the day when the heater whirred into life and
when the streetlights
followed me home. When we finally
talked about England like
we knew what it was – when
we called ourselves
English, even when we still bawled your
anthem in the middle
of that road.


When they ask what
celebration means to me and
when I say, “I was born here.”


Reproduced with kind permission of Eloise Sims
Copyright ©Eloise Sims