Lime Legal

Best of homes, worst of homes Nov 2017

Published 01 November 2023

From northern Nigeria to south Gloucester, via some ‘nasty’ little girls at an English boarding school. Fiona Fullerton recalls her housing history

I was born in Nigeria and brought up in a nomadic way, travelling around the world. My dad was in the army so we moved every two or three years. Living abroad gave me a sense of independence, but also of rootlessness. I felt that as soon I made friends, I was whisked away to another country. I’ve felt this sense of rootlessness throughout my adult life and I think it’s a hangover from my childhood.

After Africa, we moved to Singapore where I discovered a love of dancing. At the age of nine, I went to a boarding school in England – Elmhurst School of Dance – where I stayed until I was 16. It wasn’t a good experience and I was bullied quite dramatically. I’d started making movies when I was 11 and because of this I was given a rough ride – not physically, but by exclusion which was even worse. Little girls can be very nasty to each other.

My parents were living in Atlanta by then so home was a distant place. I remember long periods of being hugely lonely at school. Then, when I flew out to join them for the holidays, it was to another strange existence. I’d be delighted to be home but I didn’t have any siblings or any local friends. It was a solitary time and as a result I’m still very private. I’m not good in large crowds and always found it bizarre that, through the 1990s, I was described as this party creature. I’ve always hated that kind of socialising.

I bought my first proper home when I was 19, and discovered I was good at buying a property and turning it into something marketable. I often think that if I hadn’t got into acting I would have gone to design college. I started converting properties from bland boxes into comfy homes. In a way it was a reaction to living in all those identikit army houses. I had a rather magnolia existence so when I left home it was lovely to introduce some colour into my life.

Between 1976 and 1994 I had six homes, the happiest of which was a small place in Chelsea. However, where I’m living now is certainly the happiest home I’ve ever had. It’s an old vicarage in south Gloucester, and I feel that at last I’ve found somewhere I can call home and put down roots. We’ve been here for eight years, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere, and my youngest child has grown up here. I was desperate to provide a solid base for her – somewhere she’ll always know as home and will want come back to when she’s grown up. Initially, it was like living in a colander there were so many leaks. But my husband loved it immediately and he was right. I feel as if I’ve come home at last.

Fiona Fullerton is a writer and actress.