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Maybe it’s because… September 15, 2009

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Durham.
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Having spent the day in London today, and Friday of last week, it’s struck me how easy it is to feel at home there.  I know the common view is that London is a very impersonal place – which sometimes it is – and therefore presumably you might always feel a bit apart from it.  That’s not true in the slightest, though.  It’s very easy to partake in all the bits and pieces that make you feel like you belong there: watching people on the Circle line at rush hour, striking up a conversation with the person behind the counter in a small-ish shop, navigating your way around without an A to Z, refusing a free paper, or (dare I suggest it) joining the London network on Facebook.  All these things are very easily done.  The multiculturalism means that if you’re looking, you can more often than not find a whole lot of things you have in common with quite a lot of people around you.  It’s very easy to feel like a Londoner very quickly.

On the other hand, I think I could live in Durham for a decade and still not feel like a local.  Not that I don’t love Durham; I do, very much, and I know a good few of its hidey-holes and customs now, but the fact remains that I do not in any way consider myself to be From The North East.  Part of this is accent-based.  I do and most likely always will sound very much like a southerner, and I am conscious of this, and everyone within earshot when I open my mouth knows this.  (I always think of that as pretty important – I know I shouldn’t but the fact is that I feel as apologetic about where I’m from sometimes as the fact, say, that I went to an independent school.  In some places, the north-south divide is alive and well and there are things it is and isn’t okay to be proud of.)  Part of not feeling like I’m from Durham is the relationship I have with the city: I’m a student.  In London, being a student and considering it home are not mutually exclusive; in Durham there has always been a distinction drawn between Students and Locals, as if the latter have more right to the place, and the former are only passing through.  Which is true.

But part of it has nothing to do with these things that I can analyse as much as I like – part of it is because, actually, you know what, I’m not from Durham.  I’m from Southampton, if you catch me off my guard when you ask me, and Winchester if you don’t.  (I spent five years at school in Southampton, I did my growing up there.  Two years of college and I still mentally round southwards when I think about where I’m from.)  Either way, I’m from Hampshire.  I’ve lived there all my life and I love the place.  I’ve always assumed that eventually I will leave, and live somewhere else – quite possibly London, for a bit at least – but to be from somewhere is about how you feel, and I will always feel like the sort of person who drops the aitch of ‘Ampshire and feels a little thrill of pride to be allowed to do it.

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