Nationality: how should we define who we are?

Is it where we are born? Where we are raised? My mother tells me

“do you feel Welsh? Then you are.”

my tongue may be Welsh, but my mind seems to be English; I can’t count the times I have turned heads with my apparently peculiar turn of phrase or opinion on the country I am encouraged to hate. (Context: the Welsh ‘hate’ the English. It does make things a little difficult sometimes.) 

this is because my father is an English, ex-public school boy from an agricultural background; I was raised not to waste, to work hard and speak correctly. However, it is my mother who confuses my self identification; she was born in Sierra Leone, to a Caribbean mother and Irish father. My maternal grandparents met in Granada, as my grandfather was a surveyor. They travelled the world, to the extent that my aunt, and namesake, was born in a country that no longer exists.

Such does pose some issues. I don’t honestly know how to react when people ask for nationality. I can cope with ‘so where are you from?’: I simply name the town in which I have grown up. Yet it would be interesting to learn how other people would define children like me; an old English family one side, yet a myriad of cultures from the other. Is my mother African because she was born there? Or is she Caribbean because that was the prominent influence in her cultural upbringing? In reality, she calls herself English, as she lived in Durham from the age of 6. Yet when I asked my aforementioned aunt on how she viewed Africa, she simply replied with ‘home’. 

i want to reach out to anyone else who feels like they are a stranger to their own identity. Those who feel like they do not have a true sense of place; perhaps it is for us to decide, for us to pick a nationality, any identification, and create our own mirror image. Own the confusion. 

Or, failing that, use it as a go-to piece of information when forced to play ‘2 truths and a lie’ because, honestly, I don’t think I will ever be able to stop myself from breaking out in a cold sweat when faced with the “ethnicity” section of a survey.  

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so we’ve yet to find a decent world map with south sudan

A beautiful take on travel, history, and the importance of time.

Sandpaper Blues

For my sixth birthday, my grandparents bought me globe. It sat on the desk, tilted at that attractive, precarious angle. I loved that the mountain ranges were palpable beneath my fingertips. Their intention with this gift was to aid my transition into the realm of proper education. I had just begun the first grade.

This was late September 1989.

Within two months, the globe was out of date in the most drastic way possible. (Until global warming inevitably creates Waterworld: The Sequel.) The Berlin Wall fell and half the Soviet Union descended into capital-R Revolution.

Aviary Photo_130301683079408240

But we never got another globe. That was the one we had in our house for years. Just this little piece of history, rotating slowly, collecting dust.

It is odd to think of now, as our apartment is adorned with three world maps (sure, one is a shower curtain, but still), how big that chunk…

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Where for art thou, childhood?

So where I work, a small barbers in a smaller Welsh town, I have to pretend to like a ridiculous amount of very excitable children; apparently parents will wait for over an hour to get their little darlings a haircut, lolly and sticker. the whole concept really baffles me. I am not a natural child speaker; I lack the ability to gain their attention and seem to scare the living day lights out of many, even with the simple “would you like a glass of squash, darling?” Apparently this is a fear inducing question. Maybe it’s my hair.

Yet today, in what I will henceforth refer to as “Bernard’s Barbers” in, let’s call it, Aberllew town, I asked what I believed to be a foolproof, fearproof question: “so what have you asked Santa for this year?”

Now I was fairly sure I could have predicted the answer; a jigsaw, a bike, maybe even a serious request of the elves for a puppy. But do you know what I was met with?

“I want an iPad.”

AN IPAD. this child was under 10. An iPad. What has happened to childhood? I cannot believe times have changed at such an Olympic speed; I was only 4 when we welcomed in the millennium and even I feel like I am lost in time, lamenting the good old days. I write this to plead, quite frankly, and not to complain about the unfair amount of haircuts everyone in Aberllew seems to need all at once. (Honestly, I love making painful amounts of tea/coffee/squash/glasses of water and sweeping, while singing Some Day My Prince Will Come in my head, pretending to be Cinderella, but that is neither here nor there). My point is that children need to stay children. We don’t get to stay innocent and naive for long enough; before we know it, exams and school work and gossip and breaking hearts and bank balances that you simply cannot believe start to take over, drowning us in a sea of our own thoughts and conflicting feelings (and, let’s face it, comfort foods to eat our way out of feeling like an overweight failure which is such a vicious but delicious circle). Basically, buy you children a bike and take them outside to enjoy the precious time they have to graze knees, get dressed up in mud and make memories. Buy them dolls to play with, and not Barbies that were pretty much designed to give us all some form of appearance complex, but real rag dolls to be drEssex up and dragged around the garden. Buy them finger paints to inspire their creativity and real, tangible fun. Soppy, I know, but if I see one more child ignore the play box in Bernard’s, this breaking heart might fully crack.