Musings on my life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Who says you can't go home again?
Nearly thirteen years.
Since I left the UK I've had a baby, established a career, and watched my life morph from what was more-or-less still a student lifestyle to that of boring (but stable!) suburbia. I've been re-assimilated into my birth country and had the luxury of living near my parents and getting re-acquainted adult-to-adult. I've learned to accept and enjoy the higher standard of American living, embracing the 24hr supermarket with open arms, and have grown to consider firehose-strength water pressure a constitutional right. I've even started thinking of Chipotle as our "local".
Still, within minutes of landing in Glasgow, it felt like being back home. Now, granted, I never lived in Scotland (although I did work there and spend extended time there), so perhaps the changes of 13 years weren't as obvious to me as they would have been in London or Manchester, but even with that in mind, there was that sense of coming home and, frankly, of never having been away at all. As my husband's relative put it, "It's just like walking into another room", and I couldn't put it better myself. Another room rather than another house, country or world.
Of course, things have changed - stores have come and gone, prices have most assuredly gone up, buses have privatised (growl - do NOT get me started on the horror which is Glasgow's privatised bus system - it's a mess, and expensive to boot!), and readily available Starbucks are clear signs of "the 51st state" which we'd been warned to expect. And yet....
One of the things I always do to acclimatise myself when I travel is immediately head to a retail area - I often don't buy much, but it's a way of assimilating prices, local delicacies and getting in a lot of people watching. This trip was no different - while undoubtedly (to quote Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein) the rates have gone up, and an American-style glossy-tiled mall graces the bottom of Buchanan St... so much is still the same; the faces were the same, somehow, the way things are labelled, the fonts on the newspapers, and even the pace of movement down the streets. Things may have moved on, but they haven't changed. I'm not sure what I'd expected really - to go back and find that I'd remembered everything with rose-tinted glasses? That it wasn't as much "home" as I remembered? That things had changed so drastically as to truly feel like just another American city? In the event, it was reassuringly the same as it had always been. Well, except for the weather - unlike the usual cold, damp, drab and drear of January, 7 of our 8 days there were bright, sunny, and downright WARM! It was a heatwave for the time of year; I'm not quite sure how we got so lucky given the blizzards of the previous week, and freezing fog that followed our departure.
My husband and I were both thrilled to see our daughter enjoy this new/old home as much as we did. This was her first trip overseas, and we really didn't know quite how she'd react. As it happens, she can't wait to get back quickly enough, and has been suggesting schemes to mail herself there if we can't figure out a way to put her on the plane for the summer!
It was a delight to see her meet her paternal extended family, too: many new aunts, uncles and cousins to get to know (and to translate from their native Glesg'y) as well as family friends many of whom she'd never heard of before. It could have been quite overwhelming (don't we all remember being paraded out as children to oohs and ahs of "Last time I saw you, you were only ~hands spread apart~ this big" and "You've grown since that last picture your mum sent!"?), but she embraced it with style.
For me, it was a chance to be a tourist in Scotland for the first time - every other time I'd been there it was for a gig, and I was too busy to do much as a rule. Oh, I had managed to do some hillwalking around Loch Lomond and visit Callander/Killin once or twice on days off, but I'd never really "done" the cities properly, so it was a real treat to explore. This time we made a point of visiting galleries, castles, and stately homes as well as a day into the lochs and glens, really getting to enjoy it as a holiday as well as a long-delayed family visit.
And we've learned that you really can go home again.