Do you know that feeling you get when you don’t really want to leave somewhere? When you’re comfortable, happy and there’s a strong pull to stay?
I had that feeling again over the past couple of days as I started to turn my mind toward leaving Scotland, just as I had it when I was leaving Melbourne almost two weeks ago.
When I think about it now, it’s not a feeling I got when I had to face leaving my job. It’s now almost seven weeks since I finished work and I can say that with some conviction.
I wasn’t sure whether the feeling would last, but at the time I remember saying that while I was sorry to be leaving some of the people, after seven years it felt like it was about the right timing for me to move on. To do something new.
Yesterday, on the other hand, I wanted to stay in Blantyre, the town of my father’s birth.
It was hard to say goodbye to my cousin. She may have been born in 1928 in the ongoing days of the horse and cart, but she’s a thoroughly independent and modern woman. I felt a strong connection to her on so many things – from a love of history and travel to a strong commitment to working and making our own way in the world.
She’s been to Australia a couple of times, but she wants to see Uluru (Ayers Rock), so I’ve promised to go with her if she visits again. And she knows that I will be coming back to Scotland when I can.
“Don’t leave it too long,” she said, as she drove me to the airport. “I cannae last forever.” Just like my Dad – it’s hard to believe she’s not invincible, but I know she’s right. That’s a big part of why it felt so hard to leave.
I’ve also had a couple of lovely nights out in Glasgow and Edinburgh with her son (is he my third cousin or my second cousin once removed?) He’s a great guy about my age, a lawyer and father of seven-year-old twin boys. Despite growing up on different continents, we have some shared life experiences and values.
We’re both children of older parents who were born in the 1920s, who lived through depression, war and the rapid modernisation of the world. Like me, he learned not to ask for too much, to work hard and be immensely grateful for what life brings.
As I embarked on my visit to Scotland, I posed a question about whether or not it was a place where I could live and work. The answer is yes – in the summertime at least!
As proudly and irrevocably Australian as I am, there’s a poem by Sir Alexander Gray that I saw etched on the side of the new Parliament building in Edinburgh that stirred something in my Scottish heritage:
“This is my country
The land that begat me
These windy spaces
Are surely my own
And those who toil here
In the sweat on their faces
Are flesh of my flesh
And bone of my bone.”
That’s how I feel about Australia – particularly rural Australia – but it’s wonderful to experience some sense of belonging in the land of my father. I’m sure I’m not the only child of a migrant to feel this way.
My next stop is Spain. It’s my first visit and I have no family or other connection here. However, like a record 27% of people in Spain at present, my employment prospects have been directly impacted by the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis.
Hola Spain – what will I learn from you as I arrive here a newcomer to your land and customs?
I recall something my Scottish cousin told me her mother would bid her as she left the house as a girl, back in the 1930s: “Chin up, shoulders back and step out.”