Silly me! I was watching the television on Wednesday evening when my usual lockdown feeling of distracted boredom was for once set aside. Why so? Well, all of a sudden as I was watching an episode of the cookery programme ‘The Hairy Bikers,’ just as that very popular twosome Si King and Dave Myers - arrived on the island of Majorca.
Enjoyable as ever, Si and Dave travelled the island and were featured cooking a number of Majorcan foodie favourites. However, as cooking and cookery has always seemed to have passed me by, I spent most of their scheduled hour on screen in the grip of homesickness. Yes, really! And it wasn’t just me either, because on social media after the show had finished, our ‘last-but-one’ island based Anglican priest, Robert Ellis, confessed to very much the same feelings as me as he watched the show enjoying the beauty of the island once again. This got me thinking about - just how long do you have to live somewhere to be able to call it home? I suspect this conception of ‘home’ is a very individual thing, as I know folk living in Majorca (now and in the past) for many years, but never believing, nor wanting Majorca to be defined as home. It’s a strange one, as we are all different in this regard.
Even now, friends of mine who have lived and worked on the island for decades have differing views on the subject of - where is home? You would think that the older you are when you arrive, will in some way colour your sense of belonging, but it’s not as simple as that. I have always been fascinated by the nature of us ex-pats and what makes us ‘tick’ as if we were somehow much the same. I suppose we should consider whether we have embraced Majorcan culture even to a limited degree, or - become at least a competent Spanish speaker, but it’s more than that. Confusingly, this concept of home I believe, can’t just be allocated to language and culture, but to other, less defined elements of life. For instance, who would in all honesty, want to spend their lives yearning to be living somewhere else in the world? Equally, it must be possible to enjoy living in other countries as well as always being attached sand proud of your place of birth.
In my ruder moments when writing in the Bulletin, I have occasionally mocked the concept of the ‘permanent tourist’ - but, if that’s what browns your breasts - so be it! Indeed, I suspect that many PT’s have long gone from the island; perhaps died off, or just faded away gracefully. I can remember when we first arrived on the island 20 years ago, the ex-pat community was dominated by early retirement pensioners. This was transformed in the so called ‘noughties’ when there was an influx of young families seeking a new life - and with modern technology making that working lifestyle a possibility, the profile of those of us living and working on the island changed dramatically. Yes, there are still many people who chose to live out their retirement on the island, but - in my judgement they are very different from the retirees of the past as many are still involved in ’business’ to some degree - a business or career that they developed whilst living on the inland, not just as a happy adjunct to moving to live in the sun.
Nevertheless, I can still remember when it properly struck me that Majorca was ‘home’ for me. About fifteen years ago as we landed at Palma airport after a fairly typical short visit to catch-up with the family in the UK - as we landed, I mumbled to myself “It’s nice to be home” which was immediately picked up by a certain person! “Really? That’s not like you.” Well, yes indeed, ‘home is where your heart is’ - and all that, but true all the same. However, I do find it rather irritating that sometimes we in the British expatriate community are sometimes expected to make a crude choice (usually by other Brits it has to be said) between where we come from - and where we now live. Why - and since when? It has always struck me, that given a reversal of roles, would we Brits be as welcoming and understanding of a very large group of people(s) from the other end of Europe turning up on their doorstep? And don’t give me any of that old arrogant nonsense about - “them needing us more than we need them” because, that hasn’t been true for decades.
Anyway, there I was - sat on my sofa, damp-eyed and fragile, watching The Hairy Bikers ride around Majorca taking in familiar sights and sounds and talking to a group of women, of which two of them I actually knew, and a MDB colleague, who just happens to be a Michelin starred Chef. Unhappily, I was thwarted in my desire to phone a list of UK based family and friends as I was about to burst with pride - because, it seems, this would be both “extremely naff and pathetic” at the same time. But I am naff and pathetic - I replied; I just want to show them all where ‘home’ is and what it looks like, because I miss it. Sad, but true.