Wednesday, August 09, 2006

England, where my heart lies....

When I wrote yesterday that it was in England that my heart lies, like Paul Simon I was referring to a person not the place. Yet it set me thinking..... I am always disappointed when I make that long trip 'home' that I am not overcome with patriotic enthusiasm for the country in which I was born and in which I lived for so long. Every time I imagine that I will feel a rush of pleasure as I fly over London and glimpse the Sussex downlands that were the constant background to my childhood. And every time I am disappointed - sometimes it's raining, sometimes it's smoggy, sometimes I am too exhausted to feel anything but relief to be getting off the plane. Always, before I am ready, I am fighting crowds, gulping pollution, drowning in the endless traffic jam that is the M25.

Instead the enthusiasm comes when I make it back here. The first breath of New Zealand air, the first glimpse of the splendour of the Marlborough Sounds or the turquoise waters of Tasman Bay they remind me of why I made that crazy journey into the unknown in 1992.

The quality of the TV may irritate me, the lack of a decent newspaper may send me daily to The Guardian Unlimited but in New Zealand generally, and in Nelson specifically, I have found my turangawaewae, my 'place to stand'. It is in New Zealand that I come alive. I have no regrets and yet ... and yet ... eventually there will be yet another corner of a foreign field that is forever England. I may never live in England again but every visit reminds me that I carry it with me wherever I go.

Its chalkland built my bones, its rain watered me, its culture moulded me, its seas soothed me, its rivers whispered to me, the fruits of its earth nurtured my body..... and the quiet beauty that lurks in wooded canals and tilled fields and ancient hedgerows and cropped gentle hills nurtured my soul. Without its reflection I would no longer be me.

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