Are You Local?

This is something that is becoming something of an issue as more of us live away from our places of birth. When I first came to the UK I met a woman in a small village in Kent who had never been to London – too dangerous, and only a few trips to Tunbridge Wells less than 10 miles away because she didn’t need to. I found this strange, as everyone I knew wanted to ‘travel’, ie circumnavigate the globe at least once in their lives. But I also find it wonderful that she felt no need to leave her home. This is from the wonderful Grace Dent in today’s I newspaper:

“I moved to London where I’ve stayed fro over 20 years and absolutely nobody is local. Or maybe all 8.63 million of us are, but in different, transient, ways. Does 10 years living in the same house make me local? Surely I’m more local than the latest influx of young cheekboned things who’ve livened up my boozer with their Sunday jazz quartets and their craft ales. Yet to some of the east London old guard I meet while walking the dog, I’m a gentrifier and a johnny-come-lately.

So when I come across someone like Suffolk’s “Are you local?” woman, I feel the tiniest twinge of jealousy. Because here is a women who knows for certain where she’s from and wears her roots, albeit rudely, like a lanyard. She’s a local. Not for this woman the difficult small-talk with taxi drivers wanting to know: “Where are you originally from?” No filling in forms and puzzling over the space marked “home town”. No stinging compulsion to be up north spending time with sick relatives, and then, on arrival, feeling a visceral urge to be back down south, where your own bed is.

The following day we went for a pint in a deserted pub, only to find one of the larger tables had a “Reserved for locals” sign on it. This was just in case outsiders – of whom there were practically none – stole the seats from locals, of whom there were also practically none.

It took a lot of willpower not to order a bottle of Shiraz, sit down at that table and wait for a postcode-based altercation to occur. Perhaps, I thought, someone might specify exactly which part of the country I should p*** off back to. Half my life is over and I’ve never felt truly local. ”

Does it matter where you’re from?

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