Eurodan in English

November 20, 2004

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

My relationship with my homeland has been always been difficult. I never felt particularly welcome in the region that I grew up in. For one thing the locals noticed that I didn't have the local accent (I'm not sure why actually) which marked me out as a "snob" to them, and anyone who was even a little bit different from the norm in Humberside was fair game.

That sense of being unable to fit in to the place where you grew up, but at the same time realising that it was such a stultifyingly narrow-minded and boring culture that you wouldn't really want to fit into it anyway... it does strange things to a teenage boy.

It gives you a permanent sense of respect for people who are somehow different, and who wilfully choose to plough their own furrow in life, leaving others to take them or leave them. It makes you sniff out and question conformity and cultural conservatism - wherever it may be... and the gay scene is full of it. We like nothing more than oppressing each other.

The sense of your home culture not really liking you and you not really liking it back is, I suspect, the root cause of many linguists' journeys across borders. They go and try to blend in elsewhere, flattering the locals with their gargantuan efforts at integration (You, I wanna be like you... I wanna walk like you, talk like you...).

The reward is the one thing that we never quite got from the place we grew up. Acceptance, belonging, identifying with where we live.

But the process plays cruel tricks on you. Just when you least expect it, something, a picture or a word or something on the TV, reminds you of home.

And wherever you may settle, be it Cologne, with its constant sense of being a bright, sunny morning in spring, or Stockholm with its laid-back Nordic beauty and modernity, or Brussels with its cosy cafés, diplomat-driven Mercedes and dog dirt on the pavements, wherever you are, there are things from home whose absence slowly, slyly makes itself felt.

A bit like slowly getting ill from a vitamin deficiency, it creeps up on you bit by bit and you only notice when it's acute.

For me it's water. The British cities I know best, Hull and London have very obvious rivers running through them or beside them and it's a joy to be in them as a result. There's none here and that hurts. But it's not just that. There's lots to miss from home. There's people who mean "may I help you?", and plentiful, modern cashpoints which are never empty, and non-white faces on the TV, there's safe, non-aggressive driving, supermarkets which are a pleasure to shop in, railway stations which are nice places to be, and Columbia Road Flower Market on a winter Sunday morning. There's the Humber Bridge, Tower Bridge, Marmite, Radio 4, the Royal Festival Hall, the view from the wobbly pedestrian bridge across the Thames, the fact that you don't have to register your domicile with the local authority, or indeed with anyone if you don't want to.

Don't get me wrong. I could just as well run up a list of the bad stuff about Britain, the xenophobic little-England stuff, the yob culture, the bad management at work... I could go on. But I was never going to miss all that, was I?

Posted by Eurodan at 12:43 AM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2004

Another week, and autumn trundles on into winter. It's no secret that I rather like the cold weather. There's just something very pleasing about walking well-wrapped up through the cold, crisp air. Call me perverse if you like.

I can feel a strange sense of renewed vigour as well with the dark and the cold. I've suddenly picked up my Polish books after a long pause and may even start having proper lessons (gasp!).

The TV's been on a bit less (alright then, maybe only a bit - but you see I've always got the excuse of working on my languages... except when watching Strictly Come Dancing or Casualty, of course).

And who knows... I may even start to treat my blog a bit more lovingly... but I wouldn't hold your breath!

Posted by Eurodan at 9:00 PM | Comments (0)

November 2, 2004

The grand tour continues...

After having seen off Henrik this weekend in London (as he finally moves back to Sweden), I arrived back in Brussels yesterday to wash my clothes and catch my breath, before setting off again tomorrow.

This time the itinerary is quite complicated, involving Eurostar to London tomorrow morning, then a flight from Gatwick to Alicante tomorrow night to meet Adam and celebrate his birthday at his family's house in the hills.

On Friday we're heading up to Valencia, and then early Saturday morning I'm taking a train up the coast to Barcelona, so that I can then fly with Germanwings over to Cologne, and enjoy this Saturday's museum night.

I'll be back home in Brussels on Sunday, so if you see me, it might be worth reminding me what country I'm in... I may have lost track.

Posted by Eurodan at 6:32 PM | Comments (1)

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