Tuesday, 27 May 2014

“Where are you from?”

It’s almost like talking about the weather.
An obvious opener, in a hotel full of young persons travelling, but I find it difficult to answer. Or rather, I’m reluctant to answer it. Just as I was reluctant on Naxos to agree that I was English, and would usually say I’m half Scots, half Irish (and deny Granny, who was a Lancashire mill girl, but really became Scots by adoption, living out her days in Beauly near Inverness).
The question, or its answer, sort of implies that, wherever it is, that’s where I’ll be going back to. And it pigeon-holes or labels me in a way that I don’t wish to be labelled. If I really was “from Scotland” I’d be delighted to tell them. But I could just as easily say, I’m from Eiserlohn, where I was born, and whose location, oddly, I only have the vaguest idea about. Perhaps I should visit. Or Listowel, in Kerry, which is where my FaceBook page says is my home town, the one constant as I grew up. I’m not “from” Wormingford, or Coggeshall, or Ampleforth – they’re just places where I lived for a while. Where I always felt like an alien, an interloper, a visitor, just passing through. But here I call home, without thinking, in the most innocent of contexts – writing a list of things to do when I go to England (not “back” to England) and ending with “Monday 7th July, fly home” and don’t even notice until later. Yet I have no actual “home”, no spiti – a bed somewhere, a meal from someone, for a while. But if I was sitting on a mountain in Greece, with a campfire, a bottle of krasi, and my sheet of plastic for a tent, it would feel more like home to me than any of these places. Perhaps because I chose it, or it chose me, or my “higher power” led me to it, seemingly by a series of accidents.
So what is it that makes me feel I belong here, in a way I’ve never felt anywhere else, apart possibly from Loch Spelve on Mull, or Hope in Sutherland, which I would have loved to call home.
The light. The heat. The Greeks. How I wish I could speak to them, as one of them. The fruit. The trees. The rocks. The mountains and the sea. The sea. The flowers. The ramshaklecality of it all, bodged and half finished. The talk. The shouting. The quiet. The cymballing of the goats and sheep. The magic. The madness. The way it won’t let you walk away from this present moment, its intensity and aliveness, that neither past or future has any weight, compared to the electricity of now, the intensity of it all, the assault on the senses. Only it’s not an assault, it’s a seduction, a caress. I’m in love with Ellaada, and most people I meet seem to feel the same way.
So to answer, “I’m from here”, is not a lie, not a presumption, not precious or pretentious – it’s the literal truth.

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