Phil and I were talking about belonging last night. We watched an episode of Stephen Fry’s BBC documentary on language and towards the end he went to a Norwich City match, all decked out in his Norwich City gear, and talked about how important it is for him to feel as though he belongs to that particular ‘tribe.’ He commented that while many people say they don’t feel any special pride in, or attachment to, the city or country in which they were born, he feels it very keenly.
Phil has always said he doesn’t feel particularly English, while I always have. But more than that, I’ve always felt I particularly belong in that part of England in which I was born and brought up. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a Londoner. Or to have grown up in Manchester (God forbid!). I feel a deep connection to Yorkshire, even when I am far away from it. And when we go home, that feeling is always there whenever we drive into the county. It’s not even something conscious most of the time, just a kind of settling deep inside me, a sense that this particular light and this particular sky and these particular types of stone are somehow made from the same stuff as me.
I always felt it on trips home in the past, but it didn’t have the same significance to me that it does now. I don’t know why, but that sense of belonging has become much more important to me as I get older. Is that the same for us all, I wonder? It doesn’t seem to be for Phil, who feels much more at home here than I do.
I don’t see Yorkshire as much as I used to on trips home, because mum moved from there after dad died. Someone else sits now on the back step where I used to sit and smoke cigarettes when I came home from college. Someone else enjoys the click of the latches on the old doors throughout the house. Someone else looks out over the old church opposite the spare bedroom window, in the room where mum and I waited with dad on the night he died. None of that is in our family now.
So now on my trips back, I experience the first layer of feeling I belong – the layer that comes with being in England – but only occasionally that deeper connection that comes when we drive into Yorkshire and the air smells a little different, and the color of the stone changes, and the accents get more familiar, and then I know that I’m truly home.
(My old friend Ruth was here last week and she brought me the cup in the photo. It instantly became my favorite, for obvious reasons).