We’re at Day 17 of my 21 Days of Transience, and I am wondering where I belong…
Why, I wonder, would I keep circling back to the concepts of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’?
So if the place I feel most ‘at home’ is Scotland, does that mean it’s also the place I belong? Much as I would love that to be so, sadly the answer is no: I don’t belong in, or to, Scotland. I wasn’t born there and — my daughter apart — have no family connections there.
My partner, on the other hand, has lived in the south-east of England for 30 years but still — unequivocally — belongs to Scotland. Absolutely no transience involved at all: he sees himself as Scottish, and quite demonstrably is Scottish through and through. That’s where his roots are, that’s where his family is — and has been for generations — and when he goes back he immediately slots in as though he’s never been away.
I can’t do that: my accent gives me away from the get-go. I’m obviously not born or raised in Scotland and while I may (mostly) be made welcome as a visitor — including a visitor for 17 years — I am never quite allowed to entertain the idea that I actually belong.
So not Scotland, then. And clearly not Manchester or the Peak District either, despite 14 years of putting down roots of a sort there too.
Which brings us to London, where I was born but left behind me 40 years ago.
My relationship with the city of my birth is equivocal, to say the least. Yes, I know my way around — well, I’m OK north of the river; struggle a bit from the Elephant & Castle southwards — and I still have friends (but no family) there. Mostly I can navigate without Google Maps, and big chunks of the city are hard-wired.
But do I feel that London is the one place I can always circle back to and feel something timeless calling me home, somewhere I can experience an overarching sense of belonging?
I can manage a day at a time now but then overwhelm and weariness kick in and I need to retreat to where there’s a lot more green and a lot less concrete. When Claire and I used to visit London as she was growing up, one of my very favourite moments was being aboard the Caledonian Sleeper as we pulled out of Euston and headed north.
So clearly I don’t belong in London: nothing that makes my heart sing can be found in London, and never could. My links with the baby, child, adolescent, young adult formed by London are tenuous at best now. I have, it seems, become somebody else entirely.
In fact, I guess the somebody else I have become is somebody who doesn’t actually belong anywhere at all.
And that, truth be told, makes me just a little sad.