Yesterday one of my friends posted a photo on his blog of a graveyard (a bit of a strange answer to the question of "Photograph somewhere where you feel at home" but there you go). Then he wrote about the places he has called home at one time or another.
This morning I was kind of drawn into two discussions on the same subject from a different angle - namely "immigration".
The first discussion was live on Radio Leicester where I talked about my Mum being from Rotterdam and my Dad being from Leicester as well as how Leicester has changed since.
The second discussion was a bit more difficult for me especially as it included one of my least favourite questions (where do you feel most at home?). I was recorded talking about where I came from and where my parents came from.
Asking me where I feel most at home is an easy question for me to answer - until it comes to my reasons (or - more to the point - other people understanding my reasons).
I am technically English. I have paperwork which will tell you that I am British. The only thing which will give away the fact I have a direct connection with any country other than the UK is my first name. Maybe I will tell you that my Mum was Dutch and my Dad is English. When you ask me if I can speak Dutch I will say yes. The next question may give you some idea of my thoughts about Holland - especially if it is "Do you go back very often?". My answer would be something along the lines of "not as often as I would like to". The true answer would be - "I would move there like a shot if I thought I could get a job".
The honest truth is I have never really felt at home in England. Certainly not since I started Secondary School. England has always been a frightening place for me whereas if you sit me on a car ferry to Holland I start to feel more relaxed the further I get away from the English coast. For a totally relaxed Ineke may I suggest you stand me in Rotterdam City Centre for a few hours? Or find a Dutch person for me to speak to (next best thing is a Glaswegian - their accent has the same effect on me due to the similarities in speech pattern when the Glaswegian slows down to a speaking speed I can understand)!
I may never have actually lived in Holland but it is the one place where I have always felt safe and protected (and found the rules easier to live by).
If I can't get to Holland itself I always think I was born in the next best place. Norfolk is flat, slightly watery, and the part I originate from is (or rather - was - if you are a human that is) an exit to another world. Kings Lynn was one of the Hanseatic Ports at one point in historical times. It still has a port run by Associated British Ports.
Then you come to the furthest west I have ever lived. Landlocked Leicestershire. The only reason I ended up taking a German GCSE at school (and slightly upsetting my Oma in the process - which was quite ironic as it was because of her that I had actually wanted to take a Dutch GCSE - which I did a couple of years after I left school).
Leicestershire is mostly associated with my Dad's family (good point) and school (bad point). Oh and terrible Public Transport.
Back to the GCSE saga. I have never been formally taught Dutch (as in "textbook Dutch"). When I picked my options for my GCSE's I really wanted to do Dutch as I thought I would find it useful. Of course - being in landlocked Leicestershire - there wasn't that much call for Dutch so I was forced to do German instead. I think I blogged on here at some point about Oma telling my parents that I was speaking Dutch with a German accent (and her not batting an eyelid when Dad peppered his Dutch sentences with German words).
I have a very strong sense of identity with the Dutch. Not least because my Dutch personality traits are the ones which I have found most useful at keeping me alive and out of trouble (stubbornness comes to mind).
If I were a jar of jam or a can of soup I would have a label which said "Product of more than one country". Pity I always have to choose which country I belong to.
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