…because it’s Shakespeare’s birthday, and the 400th anniversary of his death. This year all sorts of events are taking place across the UK, not just in Stratford-upon-Avon or in London, where President Obama was welcomed today at the Globe Theatre. And not even just in the UK – tonight, in cinemas in Europe and other parts of the world, I could be watching a live broadcast of a special performance of world-class actors reading Shakespeare’s work. But not in Pointe-Noire, Congo.
I won’t go into detail as I’d like to actually finish a blog post tonight, but suffice to say I am a Shakespeare fangirl – and I am in the wrong country.
This is one of those moments that reinforces in me the knowledge that I will go home eventually. Early in our first posting, I would talk about enjoying the opportunity to travel, but expecting to settle home again in the longer term. I talked about how that idea of going home made it easier to countenance continuing to travel and move around in the years to come. Then I’d get that infuriatingly knowing response from more experienced expats, a smug smile and a tilt of the head, ‘Ah, you’ll see, a few years more years of this, and you won’t want to go back.’ My internal response would waver between dismissing them, thinking they were wrong and I wouldn’t be that type of expat, and being frankly alarmed at the idea that I could become so dramatically changed by the experiences ahead that I wouldn’t recognise home any more.
Actually, one of the lessons life had long taught me is ‘never say never’, so I’ve always remained open-minded about what decisions future me and my future family will make. But, today, 7 years later, I haven’t changed my mind. I still want to go back, eventually. So many people I encounter in this life (including MT) have grown up in it, or had some experience of it when children. The idea of having roots in one physical place isn’t strong with them. Well, my parents are still living in the house where I grew up. And although I left there at 18, keen to forge my own way, I very actively chose the town I now think of as home, living and working there for over 15 years. I absolutely jumped at the chance to leave when we did, to do the travelling I had regretted not doing when I was younger. I am absolutely still relishing the opportunities and experience that travel is affording me. But meanwhile I know where my roots are.
And for me, it’s about even more than roots. MT and I have debated over the past couple of years about where our base should be – not just which town back in Scotland, but even which country. But every time we would dwell on how lovely it would be to settle in some other idyllic corner of the world, I always came back around to one pervasive idea: culture. The thing I absolutely miss the most is the culture I studied, worked with and socialised around. The culture I shared with my close friends and colleagues, the culture that even helped me meet my husband. Not that there isn’t culture in other countries…but it’s not my culture. The idea that I might never again live somewhere I can go to the theatre, see films in the cinema in my own language, hear my favourite authors reading from their work at book festivals, just browse in a bookshop, in English, is not an idea I can entertain. Only in my thirties did I manage to rediscover the am-dram gene in me – something I had literally grown up with, thanks to my parents – and then I absolutely thrived on it again. One day I will re-immerse myself in that world. I want to live within at least occasional reach of the Edinburgh festival, of weekends in Stratford and London, within the possibility of seeing live bands and concerts. I want to no longer miss the performances of my own friends and family.
To each their own, and this is my own. Tomorrow I’ll be absolutely where I should be, and in the months and years to come we’ll make the most of being on this amazing continent. I hope that in a couple of years we’ll get to move somewhere else new and exciting. But today, I’m in the wrong country. And I still want to go back.