Travelling is in the Blood

Remember, grab your future with both hands and mold it into what you want it to be. It’s the determined who create the life they want, while the idle sit by and watch it fade away into nothingness. The future belongs to the exceptional individuals who can see the light of the future at the end of the tunnel.

James D. Watson

I come from a family of old colonials who have put down roots all around the world. Since I was a child I longed to be part of what felt like a special club. I wanted to share in that experience, not just sit and be enthralled by their stories of living abroad. It feels odd to think that in a matter of weeks something I never expected to happen will become a reality and I will be able to create my own stories to add to the family tome.

My Mother’s family spent twenty years in Africa before returning to Scotland and my Mother always thought of Africa as home. I’ve never been but I grew up surrounded by the remnants of their lives there: the paintings, carvings, Mvuli wood furniture, the ghosts of their past that were so much part of my life that I felt Africa was also a part of me.

My Grandfather was head of Music at the Prince of Wales School (now Nairobi School) in Kenya, my Aunt was born there and my Mother once held the record for the high-jump at Kenya High School (she had a small tarnished silver cup with her name on it that we used to collect dust and stray paperclips or marbles). I heard fabulous stories of summer holidays spent at the house in Mombasa with the white sands, the time 24 dozen eggs on the roof of the car hadn’t been strapped down and the first bump in the road sent them crashing into the dirt and how during the Mau Mau Uprising my Mother was told to clear her school locker in Nairobi and return home as quickly as she could, so she took a short-cut on her bicycle through the lions with her possessions including oboe, hockey and lacrosse sticks banging against her legs as she peddled as fast as she could, “If Gran knew, she would have had a fit!” my Mother would say.

Staff of the Prince of Wales School (now Nairobi School) in 1966. My grandfather is on the front row far right.

My Aunt and Uncle live in a fabulous townhouse in the outskirts of Paris. My gorgeously handsome Cousins are French and so effortlessly cool. There are four years between us and I’m the oldest. I remember the eldest, whom Grandpa used to call Rambo, once remarking when he was about eight, “You look like Barbie!”  That was the only time that I ever looked cool in their eyes. Fast forward fifteen years and he is a jazz pianist and composer making a name for himself with his fiancé, who is an amazing jazz singer, spending time working in Bali and the youngest was in a rock band that supported Iggy Pop. How could I compete with that?

My Great Aunt and Uncle lived in India, Iran and Iraq. My favourite story was when they were throwing a dinner party in India and had requested a pig’s head to be brought in on a silver tray with parsley behind its ears and an orange in its mouth. That evening it was carried in with great ceremony and the bearer, in his white top and gloves, proudly wore parsley behind his ears with an orange in his mouth. Their children and grandchildren have lived all over the world including Hong Kong, France, Singapore and Australia.

As for me, well I have always resided in the UK. My biggest adventure was to move from Scotland to England. Compared to my cousins, it always seemed that I was rather boring. I mean, maybe they have heard stories about me and think wow! that sounds amazing, or they’d like to live somewhere else but for me, the idea of living abroad was always shrouded in mystique and I never thought that I would actually be in a position to say that I was soon to be joining the Expat club.

An amazing opportunity has been offered to me; I could play it safe and turn it down, in a similar vein to when I turned down a job at the British Museum as a student (again by some strange coincidence I was there as a result of this same lecturer) in order to pursue an MA. No regrets. And my story could be wistful, I wonder what if?  But life is what you make of it. I don’t want a life of what ifs, so this shy girl is going to step out of her comfort zone. I am going to grab my future with both hands. It’s about time that I stop living with the memories of other people’s lives and start to create my own.

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