The people who made me came to England from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and other places besides. My parents met in Spain, a country where I would work in my early twenties. From my first year of life, Germany and Spain were as important to our sense of family as the green fields of England.
I was born in London, that great world city, and I moved straight back there from the country when I turned eighteen. I was a student and a barista at the Soho YMCA. The people around me were from Finland, Austria, Colombia, Ireland, Brazil. I kept studying: my doctorate looked at refugees, exiles, and émigrés who came to Britain fleeing the Nazis, and from that I went on to work with asylum-seeking children.
Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to travel and work overseas. I’ve been made welcome in communities thousands of miles from where I was born, found new family, found new friends; I hope I’ve done that, in turn, for people who have come to live and work alongside me.
It wasn’t so much a choice as a vocation. Everything in my life has involved crossing seas, crossing borders. So much of who I am is founded on a sense that our lives and identities are about routes more than origins; time more than territory. That freedom of movement is vital.
This week’s Marvellous, Electrical finds hope and horror and secret identities in an ordinary-looking Queensland cafe.