When you have moved as much as I have, ‘where are you from?’ is a hard question to answer. Initially I said Wales as that is where we moved from, where the children were born and where we still own a house.
But lately my answer is always London. For a number of reasons.
- Everyone has heard of London even in Texas. Big Ben, the houses of Parliament, London Bridge and Red Double decker buses are all instantly recognizable. Many people have been there or have friends there. Though its a good sign of better international understanding that people no longer assume you will know Abby or Michael because they also live in London! Highly unlikely in a London Population of over 8 million. London is a really big city. This year (2017) London’s population reached an all time high of 8.6 million (over 8 times the population of Austin, Texas)
- I was born there. Not in the suburbs, where I grew up, but in Fulham. Fulham is an Inner London district located 3.7 miles (6.0 km) south-west of Charing Cross. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, between Hammersmith and Kensington and Chelsea, facing Putney and Barnes.
- I have lived in London longer than any where else (27 years) up until I was 30. I was brought up in West London but as an adult lived in Islington and then Turnpike Lane. Islington was a cultural, style and food Mecca. And Turnpike Lane was a new immigrant area which acted as a barometer of international trouble zones. You could tell where there was a famine or a war by who was moving in.
- A large part of my working life was in London. First in a publishing house, then as a nurse and finally as an English teacher in two North London schools. When I think back to jobs I have had, the London ones are often the first I think of.
- I owned a flat and then a house there. Oh how rich I would be if I had kept either of those!
- London is an amazingly diverse and unusually integrated international city: one in three people are now born abroad. Residents originally from India dominate ten of the capital’s 32 boroughs while Londoners born in Nigeria, Poland, Turkey and Bangladesh have the highest numbers in at least three areas each. In some areas including Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Brent more than half the population born abroad, according to figures from the Mayor of London’s Data Store.
- Londoners are proud of being Londoners. Many people there consider themselves Londoners first and British second. In the same way that many Texans are Texan first and American second. So I am proud to be from there.
- I still have family there. My sister lives around the corner from my old school and my niece lives overlooking the Thames in central London.
But telling people you are from London has other implications now.
For third time since I started this blog there is another tragedy in London. This time a tower block terrifyingly caught fire over night. The trapped people on the upper levels were grimly reminiscent of 9/11. Once again the emergency services were out and people milling round the familiar streets giving their accounts of the horror in strong London accents.
So now I hesitate to tell people. Because I know the first thing they will think of will be the attacks and the fire and rather than recognition I will see pity in their eyes.
This week we are back in Wales and when people ask me where I am from I say Texas!