In my dreams, I would come from a family of Spanish desperadoes, or exiled Russian princesses. My ancestors would have crossed tropical seas, fought with pirates, made their fortunes panning gold. Instead, I was brought up in a suburb of London called Ealing. My mum’s family are from Wales and my dad was brought up in Norwich. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but these places are not exactly exotic. Some people love a bit of flag waving. They can get very heated about their national identity and I understand that they love that stuff. But it’s not the symbols of being British (or is that English?), like the Royal Family or the Union Jack, that define me. What defines me is my innate sense of being a bit English and a bit Welsh because that’s where my family come from, and that’s where I’ve mostly lived. It is in my genes, and it is also part of the culture that I’ve been brought up in. I can’t really help it. Over the years, the culture that I have lived in has, thankfully, included people from all over the world. Immigration and immigrants have immeasurably improved not only my public life, but my private life too.
My partner’s family has a history of which I am inordinately jealous. Basra, Goa, Portugal, Germany; they’ve lived all over the place. Mine have started to scatter too, and these days between us we have family all over the world – in Portugal, Germany, France, Australia, India. And many other families are exactly the same. The world is gradually getting more mixed up, and the question “where do you come from?” is not a simple one to answer any more. Do I come from where I was born, where I was brought up, or where my family came from originally? Not in the legal sense, but in the sense of what I see as my identity. In an age of easy air travel and the possibility of free movement around the world for some of us, the question “where do you come from?” can be a tricky one to answer. Well, my family started out here, but we ended up over there, oh and then we went there. We don’t all live in just one place all our lives anymore, or only have families within our own gene pool, and thank goodness for that. It’s great to live and work in other places, and being ‘foreign’ is not some kind of a disease. So I’m really sorry, Ealing, you’re lovely and all that, but I don’t really come from you anymore. In the current climate I like to see myself as a citizen of the world.