Nikki Gemmell is an Australian writer - the name behind the The Bride Stripped Bare. We are terribly similar. (ah yes apart from the award winning author bit)
She moved to London 12 years ago when I did, also looking for a life outside the ordinary and stayed. I lasted seven years, she's still there. Her husband is Australian too. They even did the same sort of work I did. She has two boys a little older than mine and a little girl. Now she wants them to know Australia. This book is written for them.
It nearly broke me but I loved it. I finished it last night and read it all in such a rush I felt as though I hadn't quite taken a breath for an hour.
I come from a family of migrants. My great grandparents were all migrants to South Africa - one set gave up and went back to Scotland. Snakes or snow I suppose. In turn, my parents are migrants to Australia.
Nikki (we're on first name terms, now of course) who lives in Notting Hill writes so vividly about London that I can almost smell it and taste it again. Those were the first tears.
Then I welled up a little more at her rich descriptions of Australia, its openness, it's roughness, its sunshine. She's sunshine obsessed and I remember that feeling after the suffocating, grim, grey, endless English winter. She wants her children to know Australia and to be Australian. She feels as though she's raising little English boys, pale and polite.
I laughed at her memories of her own childhood and her joy in coming home each year... the way I also used to revel in coming back and eating buckets of mint slices, the joy I had when we left London for Australia and saw our toddler in turn revel in the wide open spaces and warm weather, knowing we'd made the right choice.
I feel embarrassed by this reaction, this flood of emotion. I am not a migrant who's moved cultures, left Russia or China and come to a totally foreign culture. I haven't fled a despot or war or persecution.I don't see myself as a migrant but I know what it is to not quite know one's place in the world.
I have spent just long enough in another country to start to feel as though it's more home than the old home. I felt such a wrench leaving London that I felt I was making a huge mistake leaving. It took a year to like Australia again and get used to it. I now live in a place that is so close to Australia that people often think it should be. They're wrong, New Zealand is different. Similar but not the same.
Now I guess I'm raising little Kiwis. My five year old cried in frustration when I mimicked his changing accent the other day. I remember my parents doing the same to me. I'll try not to do it anymore.
I know I am Australian. Not born but bred. As my new mate Nikki agrees, it's not perfect (just watch breakfast television and you'll want to leave again).
We'll get back one day and before we lose our children to the land of earthquakes and All Blacks... for my husband I don't know which is more dangerous.