To be in exile is to be living away from your native country, either from choice, or force of circumstance. I’ve now elected to live in Ireland, north and south, for over half my life. The house where I was born - well, grew up - which I remember with the precision of the poet was in England. But I don’t harbour any nostalgic desire to return there to be in my home country. I feel as at home here where I am now as, I guess, I would anywhere. Well, anywhere that I had got to know and with which I’d begun to interact. Being a creature of habit, like anyone else, I need to be able to relax in immediate surroundings that are familiar. No lurking unknown threats, no worrisome puzzles, no spiders in the corners.
‘Home’ is a slippery concept. My mother was fond of telling us – perhaps at moments when she felt unappreciated – that, in the middle of the Blitz during WWII, an evacuee from London was asked, “Where’s your home?”. The reply was, “The place my muvver is”. Sadly my own parents and the house are no more. I hold fond memories of my upbringing with my siblings but had felt no hankering to return while all were still in existence.
It’s perhaps ironic that Ireland, with its well-known history of emigration and self-exile, is the country to which I have come. People flow the other way.
When first I arrived in the north, ‘Brits out!’ was a slogan that confronted me. I’ve thought now and again of purchasing an Irish passport but it has never seemed a pressing concern. Who knows, the Brexit settlement might force us Brits out after all and find me and my compatriots back in Blighty once again. Ordered ‘home’ with no right of domicile in the EU.
|© Benóg Brady Bates|