I constantly think about the concept of home. Where is home? For some people, it may be where they were born and/or raised. For others, home might be the world, and they will travel their whole lives. Some may move thousands of miles away, others may never leave their childhood neighbourhood.
For me, home is England. That has become very clear in 2006, when I realised that I couldn’t imagine myself living anywhere else. Born in Birmingham and raised in the coastal city of Recife, Brazil, I never really felt like I had an identity until I first experienced living in London.
Suddenly everything made sense, however cliché that might sound. After having lived in London for a few months, I went back to Recife and the chaange in me was noticed by everyone. Even if I missed my family and some friends when in England, whenever I went to Brazil I missed England itself. It wasn’t only the friends I made here that made my heart ache. It was the smell of England, the sensation of being here, the colours, walking up and down the streets, the sounds… simple things like taking the tube to and from home – Mind the gap! – or walking into a pub. It made no sense to anyone but me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Recife. It’s a beautiful city, the cultural background I grew up with is amazing and it has certainly enriched my life. I am very proud of the traditions I learned and my experiences growing up were incredibly valuable. But not even the amazing views and the rich culture could make me forget England.
The truth is I don’t feel like I belong in Recife. I had always felt somewhat of an outsider growing up. Some aspects of life in Recife didn’t seem like things I wanted for my life. It was only when I first came to London that I realised just how much they bothered me: have you ever tried walking around in the craziest possible outfit you could think of? In Recife that would most definitely not work. In London, most people won’t even bat an eye lid. Most people here won’t care about what you wear, how you look, whether your hair is impecable and your shoes are Louboutin. In Recife, when interacting with people, I still experienced 9 out of 10 times the whole “do you know who I am” phenomenon. It was very important to drop in conversation that so-and-so drives a BMW or owns this many businesses all over the place. You are what you have and, more than anything, it is unforgivable to not look impecable and God have mercy on your soul if you’re a bit overweight.
I’m not saying that kind of behaviour doesn’t happen in England… it’s just not part of MY England. My experience here has been completely different. In the years I’ve been here, I have learned and changed in a number of ways. My parents have come to terms with the fact that I’m at my happiest in England: I’m healthier, slimmer, my hair and skin look better. I’m so much more confident and industrial here it’s unbelievable: in Recife I can’t even get on a bus without getting lost!
As I said, this is MY perception of England – and, at the moment, London. My London is not the touristy one. It is not the London of the living statues or the London Eye.
My England is the everyday England: of the Underground, the morning News, getting annoyed at people who stop in front of you for no reason when you’re in a hurry, knowing the difference between Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S and Asda and knowing which products I prefer to buy in each of them, walking into a a bank and not having to unload every single metal thing you had in your pockets…
My England may not be anyone else’s England. My love for it may not make sense to anyone else. My reasons for loving England may only ring a bell to me. But at the end of the day, this is my home. Even if I’m not really allowed to call it that.
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** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **
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