For a long time I tried to escape from where I was brought up. I grew up in a far-flung suburb of London, 15 minutes’ hard walk from the nearest tube station, which itself was so far from town that it was overground.
My parents did not especially feel like they belonged in the community, which they had arbitrarily moved to because they liked the house. Everyone else was Jewish, we were not. The other kids around us went to UCS, North London Collegiate, JFS, South Hampstead. We went to the local primary.
Later we – my sisters and I – overcompensated by going South and West, spending our time with people who lived in Chelsea, Vauxhall, Clapham, Battersea. Are these our people? How about these? Oh the hours I have spent on the tube!
It was as if we had decided that we had to get as far away from North London as possible. My eldest sister went to live in South Kensington, the other one in Fulham. I ended up in High Street Kensington.
But it all felt so wrong. No diss to you West Londoners but holy cow you have a lot of great big wide massive roads with lorries on them! And long, long, long avenues of houses like a posh Coronation Street. You look up the street one way… and then the other way… and it’s all identical, which to someone like me with no sense of direction is a real problem. And before the days of Ocado it made me wonder – where the hell do you go for a pint of milk?
I just did not belong.
Then I met my husband and as it happened he had a house in Kentish Town, North London, a mere 15 minutes’ drive from where I grew up. And I suddenly looked around where I had randomly chosen to live and thought afresh “I do not belong here.” I packed my bags and moved in with Giles without asking if he minded. I sold my flat.
At the time it was all about Notting Hill and Portobello and the market and all that crap. I, for the first time in my life, fought back in defence of North London. I praised the market and was laughed at. “Camden?” sneered friends. “With all the punks?” These were people not born in London, and they therefore had the luxury of just being able to adopt whichever area they thought best.
And I thought “Fuck you. Actually fuck you. This is my home, this is where I am from.” I never said that out loud, of course. But I never spoke to any of them again.
I was thinking about all this when we were recently at a Madness concert at Kenwood House (the most North London of all the North London places, except Brent Cross). I’ve always loved Madness, but I had no idea they were from Camden Town until quite recently. (I clearly just wasn’t paying attention to the entire song abut NW5, or the line when Suggs buys his car from a bloke in Primrose Hill.)
Then when the strip of shops at the top of my road changed from being Somali gang banger turf to a genteel hangout stuffed with bakeries and cheese-shops, Suggs himself appeared. SUGGS!
He’s very tall, he’s always carrying a rolled-up newspaper like he’s on his way to the bog. He breaks into song in restaurants. It’s very hard not to grab his lapels when I see him and scream I LOVE YOU.
And now my kids are huge Madness fans, Baggy Trousers being the sine qua non of all tunes to lift us up when we’re all feeling a bit down. I mean it could have been written for them: baggy trousers, dirty shirt, pulling hair and eating dirt. That’s… my kids, that is.
And don’t for one minute think that I don’t whisper into their ears that Madness are from here, they’re ours, because we’re North Londoners and North London is the greatest place in the world and don’t ever forget it.
I mean, just imagine what it must be like if you have been adopted from, I don’t know, Russia. Or Romania or China. And you suddenly live in America or England or France. Confusing as hell.
Or what if you’re not adopted but have to leave the country you love and where you belong in order to live, emergency-style, somewhere else. Along with all the other traumas and perils of re-locating quickly, long-term that feeling of not belonging is one of the saddest in the world.
Today, if you have a moment, please consider a donation to the Refugee Council, which supports those newly arrived in this country.
How about you? Where do you belong?
Great post! I too love Madness and I can’t get over how lucky you are to have Suggs knocking around your neighbourhood. Very jealous! I too would grab him and tell him how much I love him if I ever got close enough. I was born and bred in the town in which I now live (with only a couple of short forays to live elsewhere when I was a child and when I first met my husband who lived in the town next door until I managed to drag him back home), my children went to the same senior school that I did (greatly improved since my day) and there are many people I still recognise as being local even though I don’t actually know them and have never met them. My husband was an RAF brat and prior to meeting me had never lived in one place for longer than a couple of years. He can’t get over the fact that we’ve lived here for 23 years and our boys still have friends from primary school even after leaving for uni and then to work elsewhere. I’ve got very, very deep roots!
Leona Skene says
It’s weird, isn’t it? Our identity, our sense of belonging. I feel lucky to be Scottish, because we have a very strong, if sometimes chippy and quite bolshy, sense of who we are. My home is my home, but I think I’d be OK anywhere here from Shetland to the Borders. I do remember, though, coming back from having lived in Italy for almost two years, and feeling very small and lost at Gatwick Airport. Everything was different and wrong – the money was all stupid, Boots had too much choice, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. In the end I went and stood near a group of Italian tourists, just to hear them speaking, like a duckling who adopts a cat as its mum.
Imagine that feeling though, and multiply by about five fucking million, and add in some incalculable levels of trauma and pain, and crying, displaced kids. Then take all that and put it on a shitty fucking dinghy across the Mediterranean.
I mean, can you even begin to comprehend it? It must be apocalyptic. And then you get here, to the place that isn’t home but doesn’t have bombs and soldiers, and they hate you, they don’t want you. You’re vermin to them, they put you in a camp. You are a plague. Your children are cockroaches. It doesn’t bear thinking about; I don’t know what I’d do. Off myself, probably.
I have a social worker friend who deals mainly with refugees, from Syria and other places. She says one of the hardest parts of her job is getting those people to stay, getting the kids in school. Because they just take off again. Whole families, seemingly sorted, just up sticks in the middle of the night. I didn’t get that at first, but now I think, well why *would* you ever feel safe again? Why would you trust that things were going to be ok in this new country, where admittedly no-one is shelling your house, but they spray-paint your door and mutter at you in the corner shop. You’d forever be in a state of high alert, one eye on the door. Moving targets are harder to shoot.
Well now I’ve thoroughly depressed myself. Happy Monday, everyone! I’m off to have a cup of tea and donate to the Refugee Council. And wish I could do more.
I loved this post.
I definitely feel as if I belong in North London. I too had tickets for Madness at Kenwood although in the end couldn’t go as we had a friend’s son’s bar mitzvah, which if anything was even more North London. I absolutely love it here- the heath, the people, the beautiful houses, swimming in the ladies’ pond, the history of the place (did you know that, when Sir Francis Bacon invented frozen food by putting snow inside a chicken, he did it on Highgate Hill? Just one dazzling North London fact.)
The only thing I don’t like is the dreaded Brent Cross, to the point that I’d rather schlepp to Peter Jones.
LOL… couldn’t go because of the Bar Mitzvah!! that made me laugh
Cindy Fried says
I do love North London as a transplant from The Old Kent Road (mate) – gentrified or not, everyone seems to rub along from all over the world. But I especially agree with Lizzie regarding Brent Cross *shudder* – not a place I could ever imagine having a spree, just there for necessities.
We had tickets for Madness too! But we couldn’t go because I was rushed to hopital for an emergency appendectomy – the drama! All over now – all praise the NHS!
Nicky Woolner says
Lovely post. I am a Citizen of Nowhere, not reconciled to my upbringing in Essex, which I recoil from in horror. I’m SUCH a LM-C snob. Will make a donation pronto.
Why the Essex hate, though? 🙂
Lesley Somerville says
Esther, you’re what shepherds in the Lake District call ‘hefted’. You’re attached to your patch of land, your home, and if you stray you’ll find your way back, as you did. Everyone should be able to have that feeling of being ‘home’. The tragedy for refugees is that they don’t. Climate change is going to make things worse. We rich Westerners need to get to grips with this and help to ensure that every person has a ‘home’ they can thrive in. It makes our current politics look so so small and irrelevant. Change IS coming
I’m a Mancunian through and through. After many years in the South East, studying and working, I’ve now rocked up in Tavistock. The sense of belonging here is quite astonishing even though most people weren’t born in Devon. I’ve integrated very well but part of my soul will always be Manc and it’s emotional returning. I’m proud of how it’s grabbed itself by the lapels and rebuilt following the catastrophic event of the 90s. Hard as nails but warm as a toasted crumpet, I’ll always be a Mancunian.
Ahhh love Tavvy. I’m a Londoner (south) and my late mother moved to Lydford. I miss her and visiting Tavistock
Can’t even begin to imagine the trauma of being displaced by war or natural disaster and having to be a refugee. Of the place you called home not even existing anymore. I’m Scottish so as a previous poster said, we have an incredibly strong sense of identity. I too have moved back to 5 minutes from where I grew up to have kids, my children will go to the same schools as I did, quite a few of their little friends at nursery and toddlers are the children of people I went to school with. It weird but nice too. Sometimes it’s a bit much. My husband is from a tiny Scottish island and I don’t think he imagined in his wildest dreams that living in a leafy suburb of Glasgow would basically be the same as living on his tiny island- everyone knows everyone. And their parents, older brothers, best friends and cousins. Can’t do the nursery pick up, sainsburys shop or go to the park without seeing people I’ve known for 25+ years. That being said when he talks about his very rural childhood vs my very suburban childhood I feel like we are not from the same country, we could not have less in common. His first language isn’t even the same as mine. It’s such a strange concept, identity and belonging, which doesn’t really follow borders. Elaine x
Well done Esther. This is why I love you.
I had a similar experience of wanting to escape the small rural village where I grew up, feeling the confines of a very close knit community. I was adopted as a baby and until I had my own children had never felt this sense of belonging either to family or location. The idea of identity is still confusing. I have moved around quite a bit and haven’t felt the urge to go back at all – each new place is a new adventure so in that sense it is liberating.
Even though I grew up in Wales between the age of 4 and 16, I never really felt like I belonged there, and didn’t have a glimmer of a feeling of homecoming when I went back for the first time in 25 years. But I did pick up the excellent Welsh word for a feeling of longing for home – hiraeth. Not quire sure where my hiraeth is for now. I now live in the South, but my family is from the Midlands. Actually, I think it might be for south London, even though I only lived there from 24 – 34.
Anyway – hiraeth is an excellent word.
Ha! My mum is full of hiraeth. She was so full of it that she attempted to turn our house into a sort of Welsh farmyard, which didn’t really work. But at least now I understand why
Spare a thought for those of us from military families who move every two years to wherever they decide to send you but you end up in an identical house, in an identical street, with the same types of people, just in another part of the country, or another country all together. And no-one from the local schools wants to bother making friends with you as they know you’ll move on in two years so are entirely replacable. This was me growing up and now as an adult I found this moving to the Channel Islands from the UK and it was the same – the ‘native’ mums at school simply weren’t bothered about inviting you to stuff as they don’t expect you to stay. We’ve been here four years now and 99% of my friends are also immigrants which says a lot really. I think this is why I am drawn to institutions; boarding schools, the officers mess etc, as it gives me a sense of belonging to something.
I am in the midst of a ‘not belonging’ I’m from North London, Highgate. My husband from Hampstead, a UCS boy. We find ourselves living in Yorkshire. Thinking it would be better, safer etc etc for the kids I’m now 4 years in and absolutely hate it, but stuck here as the children are happy and settled and at a crucial point in their eduction. Every time I open my mouth I feel like a foreigner. I’m so homesick for North London. I can only imagine the horror of being relocated somewhere where you have nothing, not even the language. The Uk is my home yet sometimes where I am feels more foreign than not. Will donate.
Lawks, Jo we live in Highgate (before that Archway) and just last night had the “do we stay in London or do we go?” discussion. Our house is tiny but weirdly even though the lack of space is driving us a bit mental we feel we need to stay in London FOR THE KIDS?! I don’t know why. So upside-down.
Esther I loved this post. It made me reflect on my motives and there are some great comments as usual. I grew up on the opposite side of the world, have lived in NZ, Australia, Amsterdam and Barcelona, and I most definitely pick North London. North London is the greatest place in the world and don’t ever forget it! Will donate now.
I am from the fens, a place you never truly leave even if you flee to the other end of the country (as so many of my friends did on leaving uni). I am uncomfortable when I am above sea level and get altitude sickness in the Peaks. I like the weird, flat accent that nobody can place. I like the uninterrupted views, and the slight threat of flooding. I have grown up petrified of sluice gates, coz if they break, we drown.
But I don’t like the racism and the bigotry and the lack of education, and the deprivation.I don’t like that, when I moved to a new village where my great great grandparents had lived, I was considered an outsider for EIGHT YEARS. I don’t like the insularity: it’s like an island within an island.
It’s an odd place. But it’s home.
I will definitely donate. Home is so important as is a sense of belonging. My actual home if I could choose would be in north London near the Heath. But I can’t afford that, not even close, so we live in south London instead. It’s fine. I feel at home in London generally, less so in the countryside where I grew up. Increasingly though this country just generally isn’t feeling like home. Given the backdrop of current politics and where it is headed I increasingly don’t feel like I belong. I have never had a strong sense of national identity I don’t think, I am not even really sure what national identity means for the English, when it’s not tied up with an abhorrent form of nationalism. But there have always been things I could be proud of as British person. I see those things being attacked from every direction now and I want to disassociate myself from it all. But if this isn’t home, where is? I guess I need to do my tiny bit to help fight for something better for this country and all the people who live here and would like to but I don’t feel very optimistic right now!
Well I grew up in Pembrokeshire and couldn’t wait to leave, I now live in Melbourne Australia, married to an Italian Australian, but I still get a rush of joy when I drive up the road to my childhood home where my parents still live….
I’m Liverpool. Born and bred. I can’t imagine moving or living anywhere else. Two of my sisters have moved south but I’m here for the run in. Sometimes I’m envious that the best theatre and exhibitions are in the capital but it doesn’t make me want to live there. I can get a train in 2 hours down to the huge sprawling assault on the senses that is London. I enjoy it for a few days, but then coming home is always sweet. I belong right here.
Also, with pleasure a donation is incoming. X
I grew up in Brixton, south London. Went to art college in Brighton and then spent many years raising my family in Bristol. I’ve been living in Utah for the past 7 years, and this place feels the most like home!
Christa I love the synchronicity of your first three homes starting with ‘Bri’ …
I should have moved to Brigham City here in Utah!
So interesting to read. I grew up in East London but went to school in West London. I didn´t belong in either. Also spent my summers in North Norfolk where I was again, surrounded by West londoners and people from Cambridge and still didn´t belong. I didn´t have a particular bond to London and was always desperate to leave. Found it HILARIOUS that the people who´s parents looked down on us for living in the East now all have children who live there because it is acceptably trendy and cool now. I now live abroad and don´t really belong here either I suppose but it is home. The place I feel I belong most in the world is my grandmother´s house in Norfolk. It has all the memories of cosy christmases and sunny summers. I long to be there when I am homesick and count down the days until my next trip. We aren´t originally local and maybe we don´t belong there either but it is the one place in the world that feels right…but also why I like to keep it as my retreat when I need to escape.
Sharon in Scotland says
I’m black, my parents were from the West Indies. I was brought up in Southend on Sea and later on, Leigh on Sea, both in Essex. From an early age I’ve been drawn to the far north, Scotland, Scandinavia, anywhere where you have to wrap up warm and the views are big, bleak, all shades of slate blue, browns, purples and greens, with lots of water.
I knew from the time I was little that I wanted to live in Scotland and so I have been for the last 17 years, in far-flung corners. It feels right that I’m here, it feels right that I see seals, deer, sheep, birds of prey as part of the landscape. It feels right that I see rolling hills, snow on mountains and the Portmahamock lighthouse winking at night.
It has it’s annoyances and challenges living this far north, but it feels right…………why is that? Warm/hot countries do not speak to me, never have……………but the thought of getting on a CalMac ferry and going to somewhere even more remote is my idea of heaven!
The landscape brings me joy, the view from Lidl’s carpark can stop me in my tracks. I’ve done London, getting the bus on the Harrow Road, walking through Tooting to get home……………I know what feels right.
Cindy Fried says
That sounds like heaven. London is too crowded. Funny enough I spend a lot of time in Leigh on Sea and love being there, too.
Sharon maybe way back when you have Viking ancestors. It’s not out of the question!! I have a rare blood type that is almost unheard of in white people and most common in the Gujarat. The sentence “the view from Lidl carpark” made me laugh xx
I’m a bit of a nomad and find myself now in a village south of Nottingham. I’m a south Londoner (Wimbledon/Wandsworth Common) and have moved around the world and latterly to the East Midlands where my ex husband had a job. He’s now back in London and I’m still here. I keep thinking that I’ll move back ‘down south’ but remain here after twelve years. It’s easy access to everywhere and pretty countryside but in my heart of hearts I’m still a south London girl..
Born in Sydney Australia and raised in country NSW. Never felt like I belonged there at all. Spent time in the city, the country but actually couldn’t wait to leave. Came to the UK to meet family from Stoke-on-Trent, lived in Coventry, spent a lot of time in London. But it was Birmingham (of all places!!!!) and North Birmingham that made me feel like I was home. I fit in here. When people ask where I am from I say Birmingham, despite my Aussie accent. My husband and kids are Brummies and so am I. When people ask if I ever want to go home to live in Sydney, I resolutely say no. I am home. No one gets it, as most people see Australia as some kind of paradise, but I love it here. I love the seasons, the countryside on my doorstep, the buzz of a big city and everything about being where I feel I belong.
Love both Esther’s original post and your reply. Your place is your home. (I’m from Victoria, Australia and have moved back, but am still torn between the mountains and the sea and between here and the UK, where my husband’s from). At least we can visit, and have freedom of movement, unlike so many displaced people.
I’m a lost Brummie who has lived away from my hometown longer than I lived there. I’m now near my husbands hometown and our kids go to the school he went to.
When I visit my folks the appeal of the wider streets and quiet pulls at my heart. But for now I have to stay in this dull corner of SE London/Kent crossover
What’s hardest here is that so many people seem to have lived here forever so making new friends is impossible when they all kept to their school groups.
Now off to make a donation…
Born in Oxford, went to Oxford, now work for the University… I guess I have nailed my colours quite firmly to this mast, and yet I’ve never really thought about belonging here. Strange.
After a few years in London/Liverpool (PhD research) and Brussels (husband’s secondment), we have washed up on the street where I grew up, nine doors from where my parents still live. Now we have children I love being able to give them this easy connection to their grandparents, but it can, at times, be a little much. My husband is Dutch and we talk about moving there for a spell to help with the kids’ bilingualism. Equal parts excited for the adventure and terrified of moving away from this small corner of the world I have carved out for myself!
This is such a tricky topic, isn’t it, in our complicated world. I was born in the Netherlands, grew up in France and Germany to parents from Australia and Canada. I went to an international school, with friends from everywhere. When school finished, these friends dispersed, so very little trace of my Munich home remained. As an adult I have moved to various cities in Canada, the UK, Australia, back to Canada and now to New York. My husband grew up in various parts of Asia, is Australian and British and spent years in Nebraska and Seattle. Between us we have family in Germany, France, Leeds, London, Australia, Canada, Denver and New York. Our young children are living in their third country already. So I find belonging in communities rather than in place. Belonging happens when I am with friends who have congregated from all over for an event, and they all understand implicitly my transient lifestyle because it’s the one they live too. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve made friends from elsewhere. As others have said, the worst is when people in a new neighbourhood refuse to even initiate a friendship with our funny family because of fear we may up and leave. It’s a global world! I add to my circle of friends each time I move, each time I travel. I see myself doing this now with my career, too, cultivating connections internationally, cross-jurisdictionally. There’s a richness to it. What a pity to refuse friendship simply because the constancy of geographic proximity might one day end, to be replaced instead with a lifetime of beautiful intense reconnections in any number of cities. I love my international community and can immediately tell when I’ve met someone who is part of it, similar to how you might right away recognize a North Londoner. Yes, there are trials to being unrooted. I sometimes wish there was one place I could return to where I felt, unequivocally, at home. One place where my accent wasn’t different (I have a mongrel accent, it belongs nowhere and exists as a marker of difference). But there are also fantastic moments specific to this life, where for example Aussie friends and Munich friends and Hong Kong friends and other blow-ins meet in a New York bar and sing the same song at Karaoke at the top of our lungs. The joy and intensity of reunions. In my circle I have a number of friends who are – or were at one stage in their lives – refugees. Nothing amazes me more than their resilience in the face of forced upheaval, which is of course so different to what I have experienced in my life. An amazing book on the topic of modern refugees is “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid. I highly recommend it.
I was born in East Dulwich, wrong side of the South Circular road, SE22 so not nearly as desirable as Dulwich Village SE21, but how times have changed. Despite living in East Sussex for nearly 60 years I still think of myself as ‘coming from London’ and remember those early childhood years with a kind of rosy glow. My paternal grandparents were Russian/Polish Jewish and arrived in this country 1883 to escape the pogroms. They became totally integrated within one generation, my Dad only knew a smattering of Yiddish and when he was old enough, anglicised his surname and was baptised C of E. He rarely spoke about his childhood and I do occasionally wonder if he was confused about his cultural identity. Sometimes I feel a bit cheated that I know so little about that aspect of my family, and now there’s no-one to ask. In honour of my Lefcovitch family I have donated to the Refugee Council and hope this may contribute in some small way to help a displaced family make a home here in the UK.
Shame I didn’t move to Brigham City in Utah eh?
My feet a very firmly planted, I’m lucky I know exactly where I’m from I grew up in the most northerly Island in the UK. I now live in Aberdeen, when people ask any holiday planned the answer is going home.
Home is 500ish folk, eight miles long and three miles wide at its widest nine out of ten folk have known me or I’ve known them all all our lives.
Strange thing though would I move back if I could………no there’s something very comforting in anonymity.
One of my all time favourite posts of yours Esther, and I love everything you write I think you know?? The only exception to this is Madness. I’m sorry but perhaps it’s my American-ness but I just don’t/ can’t ( I’ve tried) get it. I’ll leave that there as I don’t want to anger my fav blogger nor do I want any of her Estorians coming after me.
I’ve lived in the UK for 26 years now, 3 years longer than I lived in America but I still don’t feel ‘at home’ fully. The last 15 years have been here in Wales and boy oh boy do I know about the Hiraeth thing. There are songs, thick pages of never ending poems and hulking great books written on the subject. My kids have all had to at one point or another used me as their audience / judge / talker off the ledge when they have had to get their heads around a tongue twisting soliloquy for the Eisteddfod… I get it but I don’t ‘get’ it.
I love Wales but I’m always and forever Ashleigh Bach or American Ashleigh …I can walk the walk and talk the talk ( Dwi’n siarad Cymraeg) but I don’t know if it’s me or ‘them’ but I’ll never really ‘belong’. I’ve actually on several occasions pondered where the hell I’ll be buried or scattered. That debate is ongoing …
I guess the place that I feel most settled or ‘my place’ is London too- but WC1N. I guess it’s because it’s so vibrant and culturally diverse that I don’t feel like I stand out. I can be me, I love the freedom ( pre darkness of course if I’m on my own, I’m not a lunatic), I love the ability to just slip in and out and see or do something new.
Belonging is such a weird thing, but timeless and what we all strive for ultimately I guess. I wonder, as our world ‘expands’ what it will be like for our children’s children? Will they attach their belonging to an area, a religion, a town country or continent? Or maybe their favourite SM provider.
I was born in North Yorkshire and have been living in Edinburgh for 15 years. It is where I belong. With recent political developments I feel even more at home here, slightly removed from Westminster and the accompanying sh** storm. I love Scotland, I love the people, the landscape, attitude, language and history, I never thought I’d see a day where I felt more Scottish than English but I do.
Will donate. xx
A wonderful, thought provoking post and wonderful, thought provoking replies.
I’m an Aussie and as a teenager always had a vague incoherent feeling that there was something else… somewhere else. That I just didn’t quite fit in in Perth. Now London is my home. I truly feel at home here and in Britain generally. I love the seasons, I love the pubs, I love the cultural life, I love that amazing feeling of being in the centre of things. After a few years in London I went back “home” thinking I should, had a baby and planned to settle down. But I was so homesick for London I upped sticks and came back – with toddler. It was honestly far more difficult to move to south London (property prices :-/) away from Holloway north London than to leave my country, such was my strong north London adopted identity.
My in laws (and husband) are from the former Yugoslavia and left as migrants, not refugees, just before the civil war. After several difficult years, my m-i-law took to the Australian way of life. She swims, she’s at the beach most days, she loves the heat and the low key style of dressing in comparison to that very polished European style for women of a certain age. My f-i-law not so much. He couldn’t adapt and has since chosen to move back. Home is so personal and often inexplicable.
Donation forthcoming, for helping people in need feel at home.
Born in Yorkshire, grew up in a village in Oxfordshire, which I hated, always felt out of place and counted down the days until I left for Uni. For me it’s North London, Finsbury Park, Holloway, Stokey, then East to Walthamstow. I now live on the edge of Epping Forest, the sight of the Shard etc. from my window and the sound of the M25 keep me going. After several years I can see the benefits of being here and am in London proper so often that I can now cope with the fact that I don’t actually live there anymore, but if I get really stressed or unhappy my failsafe solution is to go for a massive walk around N London – half a day, maybe Finsbury Park – Crouch End – Waterlow Park, Hampstead Heath then down all the way to Camden or even Euston. I love that and it always sorts everything out. My kids are Londoners by birth and I genuinely feel that this is a gift I have given them and it’s something tangible that can’t be taken from them. Can’t explain it, N London still is ‘home’. Wonder if that will ever wear off?
Leonie M. Smith says
This is my favourite ever Spike post. Fact.
I grew up in a pretty village of about 3000 people in south west Suffolk but it always felt wrong and I didn’t fit in. I moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire 10 years ago to be with my fiance and I am so at home here in this quirky little city. Its biggest strength is that it’s close to Cambridge but the houses are cheaper so a lot of arty and techy types move here instead. The Bishop of Ely gave permission for Ely Pride to fly the rainbow flag from the top of the tower on Pride Day last year – that’s a brilliant example of how great it is.
I love this post. It is something I have struggled with and continue to do so. I’m from Belfast – grew up all through the troubles – couldn’t wait to escape the place. Rushed off to Uni in London at 18 and never looked back. Lived in London for 13 years roughly and when I son was 2 we moved to Hertfordshire, to a safe pretty and inevitably dull market town. It is cliquey and sorry, but I don’t find southerners as friendly as the Irish. I don’t really fit in, in many ways – I find people can be closed and everyone puts on a game face. I miss the sea, I miss the craic, I miss home. But my kids are too settled so I find myself living in a weird commuter world where everyone works in London and lives in a place they weren’t brought up. It is beautiful but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have moments of loneliness and wondering – why am I here?