Where the hell am I from?
I thought this would be a good intro into me on the whole, because my origin story, as it were, makes up a lot of my interesting (I hope) and funny (I hope) anecdotes about things. Also, what I went through forms quite a big part of who I am and how I react to things etc… So, here we go.
‘Do you want the short story and long story?’
As a previously prolific user on tinder, the question of where I was from came up quite a bit in the cringey small talk you made on the app before you transferred numbers or got ghosted (one or the other, no in-between).
And, in reply, I’d ask a kind-of test. If they were genuinely interested (or just trying to be polite) they’d ask for the long version. In it for awkward one night stands, the short story.
And, the short story sounds quite interesting, quite glamorous even. Half northern Irish, half English, grew up all over the place. Moved to London for uni, stayed. Wham bam thank you, ma’am. I’d never specify where I grew up- that, for some reason, is something I don’t really enjoy telling people.
And, if they asked for the long story, I’d make up a joke and quickly change the subject, maybe say I moved around a lot. Nothing more.
Let’s start at the start. It’s time to come clean with this, I guess.
I am half English and half Northern Irish, but anyone who knows anyone from Cornwall will tell you that saying you’re English isn’t right. You’re Cornish, It’s a whole other identity. So in that respect, I am half Cornish. My mum is from Looe, the most idyllic postcard town you can imagine. My first memories are of climbing up and down those 45 degree hills in the sunshine with my grandparents. My first ever memory in fact, is of my mum, pregnant with my sister Amber, telling me things were going to be different soon (I was 2? At the time- I have a very good memory).
Despite this feeling of home being Cornwall, Northern Ireland is where I go to the most. We don’t have any family left in Looe now, so whenever we’d go ‘home’ as such, we’d go to Ards. Also a beautiful landscape, it’s situated by Strangford Lough and a few miles away from Belfast, this is where most of my relatives live. And we even own a house there! So this should be where I’m from?
No. As soon as we go back I feel like a fish out of water. In London, people say a lot about my accent; different people hear different things thanks to an international upbringing but I’m happy to say Irish or Northern Irish is one of the most common ones people place my voice to be from. But when I go there, I feel like I sound like the Queen, surrounded by accents so thick my friends back in London would probably need a translator (One friend in secondary school did need me to translate for my dad when they met, despite the fact he’d moved away at 19 from NI). I love it, but it’s not my home. It’s what I call my ‘families home’. We’ve been visiting religiously at least once a year since I was born, so I do know some people there and I even lived there for 4 months after I finished school, but it’s not my home.
So, shouldn’t Looe be my home? No. We have no family left, and moved away when I was three years old, and have only been down twice in the past 7 years. I don’t know anybody there, and don’t really feel that strong a connection to it, aside from the happy memories I have.
Cut to the year 2000. We move from Cornwall to Fareham, a town that means little to me other than my red school uniform I remember so well.
Cut to the year 2003. We move to Helensburgh, in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere in Scotland. But my family loved it. I still have so many fond memories there; my parents loved the rural, small town feel, the long long walks we’d take through the highlands. Amber and I were only young then (she, 4 and I was 7 when we moved) but we both still keep in contact with friends we made in school then.
So, is Helensburgh my home? No. We haven’t been back since we moved away in 2006.
Then, things escalate quickly. We spend 6 months living with my aunt in Twickenham (who I still visit weekly, at that same house) whilst we waited for our visas to come through for… Saudi! Saudi Arabia, Middle East. Yep, that’s right. I lived there, for three whole years.
I won’t go into details of what it was like, I’ll save that for another time, but we spent three years there in an international compound attending an international school that did the British Curriculum.
Then, we moved to Abu Dhabi when I was 12. And we stayed there till I was 18. We moved around a lot there, I think I lived in 4(?) homes while I was there and my parents moved again once I moved out. I will say now that I didn’t really enjoy my time there, but for many, many different reasons. Everything from the heat to my school made it a perfect storm of teenage angst for me, and I could. Not. Wait. For the day I went to uni. I was pretty much counting down to it since I was 13.
And it was so, so worth it. I moved out officially on the 11th September 2015 (after a short period of working as a piercing and tattoo apprentice in Northern Ireland). Uni was spectacular. Everything I’d imagined and more. And it was my student halls that made that the case. Nata and I met on day one of moving in and have been close ever since. I have many other friends like that, too. After then, I moved around a couple of times, once into a flat on the Abbey Road, once in with an ex (big mistake lol) and now, just under a year ago, into a cute little flat with Nata in an Art Deco building in West London.
In terms of where my home is, I don’t really have a home. This was something that really upset me; I even cried about it a couple of times after getting pissed at house parties or in halls. But it’s something I’ve come to terms with, now. Don’t get me wrong, I have so, so, SO many positive experiences that I’ve gained from growing up abroad; I’ve seen things I’d never thought I would’ve seen, been to every continent on our family travels and generally lived a very cultured and unique upbringing. I’m so happy for this, but there are downsides too. How do I answer ‘so where are you from?’ If I don’t even know myself?