So in the last 3 weeks I’ve been in Leicester, Manchester, Menorca, Manchester, Leicester, Bradford until finally returning back to the flat in Glasgow.
Really detailed map illustrating my recent travels…
It’s been a rollercoaster ride of leaving things behind by accident, nearly missing trains, and being many multiple formations of myself in different places at different times. I’ve been a daughter, a girlfriend, an old best pal, an ex, an auntie, a cousin, a student, a new friend and an aquaintance, and it’s been fascinating to reflect on how I am me in those different spaces, all of which have been home for me at different times in my life.
View from the balcony of our flat – you don’t get that in Glasgow
Menorca was glorious, full of sun, sand and sea (and Brits unfortunately…). I flew with my boyfriend on the day of the referendum results, and went into the air with a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach, looking out of the window at a country who had voted to leave the EU, whilst flying to a country where well over half a million Brits have made their home. We landed to the knowledge that Cameron had resigned (damn you, airport wifi) and then put away the bleak and bananas British news (and weather – huzzah!) until we returned (for the most part at least, and what a mess we returned to!).
Manchester saw me working at the university library; an academic home to me for the 9 months I was living and studying there for my Masters in 2013 – 2014, and from there I made my way to Leicester, to stay with a PhD pal and present my poster at the Festival of Postgraduate Research. This was a great experience and enabled me to get back into the swing of talking about what I am doing, why, how and who with to people who are not in my field, but also just to people generally. I haven’t been explaining my research to people very much recently, and so it was really great to be asked some thought provoking questions about my work, and good feedback about my capacity to communicate my research in a non-academic way.
“You are clearly very rooted in this research which means you are able to communicate it very effectively.”
Making a train a home with bunting
After Leicester I travelled to Bradford, speeding through countryside; that hinterland, the space between that is so familiar to me from many years of long-distance relationship during my university years, and still now, in a new long-distance relationship. Suspended in a metal can, lingering but never settling or dwelling in a place, you are given coordinates, loaded on board and sent on your way. There is of course a destination, but the time in between is such a strange place to inhabit, hungrily snacking on glimpses of places you will never go to, stations in towns you will never visit, or perhaps you have already visited and you gaze eagerly out the window for a few precious seconds of fragile nostalgia, and between those stations, villages and hamlets cut off from transport links, and, it feels from your seat on this giant tin worm, cut off from the world and civilisation beyond the parameters of the village boundaries. I always, always wonder what it would be like to live somewhere like this. I imagine my neighbours, how I would spend my weekends, what the pubs would be like, if I would be welcomed by the locals; if I would ever truly be accepted, or if I would always be seen as an outsider. I’ve heard things about village life, but you never know a place until you live there. This research has made me reflect on the kinds of places I have lived and would like to live, and made me think more deeply about the identities of place and its peoples, which shapes which, maybe it’s a reciprocal process, place and people shaping each other through interaction…but that’s another PhD altogether…
So Bradford, my old friend, we don’t really speak anymore, and you’ve changed a lot since I left. In truth, we’ve grown apart, we’re very different now, and many of your residents who I was so fond of have fledged from your nest of moth eaten wool and blackened stone. A born and bred Bradfordian boyfriend connected me to you for a long time after many others had left for University, whose Yorkshire heritage, love of the city and knowledge about its past opened you up for me, and I came to see and love you like he did. But when relationships that are based in place end, so too do relationships with the place itself. Or they change, at least. I think in the time it’s been since then, I am able to return to you with the fond memories of long lost friends. You are full, after all, of some of my fondest memories, and returning to you is always a strange sensation of stepping back in time, into my past, (that might have something to do with the way I seem to become a teenager as soon as I step through the door of my mum’s house…).
I grew up in that house and it’s undergone loads of transformation (goodbye 70s kitchen, goodbye bright orange veneer mantlepiece and grated gas fire and stone surround, the ultimate den for spiders, so long, brilliantly hideous dark green carpet with yellow and red splodges on in, farewell bright pink and orange bedroom walls…), but as the longest familiar dwelling, I’m fiercely protective of it and each change has brought a new (very short) grudge of child-like bitterness and resentment of not being consulted (“I LOVED THAT TREE IN THE GARDEN HOW COULD YOU CUT IT DOWN WITHOUT ASKING ME??). So Bradford, I think you will always be home, until my family moves away, and then…who knows…
Aaaaaanyway. All this to say, I’ve been reflecting on home, familiarity and belonging loads during my recent travels, even while I’ve been ‘off-duty’ or whatever, not at work, as it consumes me now. I’m always working, always having conversations with people about home, identity and heritage. It fascinates me, and what with the whole Brexit Bile, it’s even more pertinent than ever that ideas of home and belonging as being fixed in time and place and amongst a specific group of people, is challenged and torn apart to make room for a more inclusive notion of what it means to be British.
More on that soon. In the meantime, where is home for you, and what does it mean?