This time two weeks ago I was in Co. Donegal, getting ready for a night of country music and jiving to celebrate my auntie’s 50th birthday. Being surrounded by my jolly and inebriated relatives got me thinking about home, and where that is for me.
I am just one of the millions of people who make up the Irish diaspora in this world. Both my parents come from the emerald isle: my Mum from Co. Tyrone in the north and my Dad from Co. Sligo in the west. They met in the absolutely wild Irish community in South London some 25 odd years ago. My brothers and I were born and raised within that community. Every summer holiday was spent going “home” to see my large and wonderful extended family. At the age of 7, my parents attempted to do what all intend to do eventually and we moved “home”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t economically viable, so we moved back briefly to London before later moving down the Isle of Wight.
Moving to Spain and having to answer that question in Spanish made me conflicted. Out of ease, I’d say Soy de Inglaterra , and yet if asked in England (in English) I’d tell you I’m Irish. I suppose living in a multicultural country like the UK, having an English accent and claiming heritage from elsewhere rarely raises an eyebrow or much further questioning. The place it is questioned most has been on the road. Some people have argued I can’t call myself Irish because of the postcode of where I was born, and others have said I’m definitely Irish precisely because of where my parents were born.
I’m not sure what makes people think their opinion has any bearing on which culture I most identify with, but trying to come up with a convincing argument got me thinking.
Saying I feel more Irish just doesn’t quite cut it for some, even though that is what it boils down to. It’s a feeling that has been ingrained into me, undoubtedly a bi-product of my Irish-catholic upbringing. It’s a feeling that I have felt from a young age when I first noticed that my English friend’s houses felt different to my own, but my Irish friend’s houses did not. It’s a feeling that is absent when I look at the Union Jack, but present when I’m asked what’s the craic? Ultimately, it’s the feeling of familiarity and of family, passed down by those who raised and shaped me to be the person I am today.
There have been times it has felt stronger than others. Without a doubt, it was most potent when we moved home and I developed a full-blown northern Irish accent (that I can switch on and off to this day). The feeling faded a little when we left our Irish circle in London and moved to the quintessentially English Isle of Wight.
Of course, that doesn’t mean to say I don’t identify with anything British whatsoever or don’t appreciate the opportunities the UK has given me, it’s just I’ve grown up viewing this country through a different lens. I think that’s the beauty of being raised amongst two cultures: being an outsider with a foot in the door to both has given me a different point of view.
So back to the title of this post – where is mine? Well, I suppose I’m lucky enough to have two.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day everyone!