I am currently reading Anna Del Conte’s memoir Risotto with Nettles and was struck by a very poignant quote for me. She states,
“I have become a hybrid, fitting properly neither here nor there, being neither English nor any longer Italian, always missing something when I am here or something else when I am there. Even now that I am old, I have the dilemma of where I should be buried: here in the lovely churchyard of this picturesque village in Dorset, where I now live, or in my family’s tomb in the grand Monumentale cemetery in Milan. Even dead I will not settle . . .One might have a less dull life, more interesting experiences, broader education, but the price is high.”
Del Conte, who is a popular Italian food writer here in the UK, writes about her move from Italy to England, and the challenges she faces—both in the differences in food, but also in lifestyle. Now, I am not saying that the cultural differences between a Canadian moving to Northern Scotland are the same as an Italian moving England in a post-war Europe—obviously with the times and the language barriers there are always other issues to face.
However, moving to a different continent, or indeed, a different country at all, gets you starting to think about which one you want to settle in—if you want to settle at all. I know that there are those who live nomadically, shifting from country to country depending on the season and their mood. Although I have been a bit of a nomad in my life—England to Ontario Canada, to Alberta Canada, back to Ontario Canada, and then to Scotland—I really don’t know why I keep uprooting my life, and I wouldn’t necessarily class myself as nomadic. I do want to settle in one place eventually. Moving is pretty upsetting. Most of my friends are in the Toronto area, my family and high school friends in Calgary, and now I have just created new ties here.
No matter where I am I always feel like I am missing something. And, as Del Conte writes, ‘even dead I will not settle’. I have made this choice now and there is really no going back from it. I don’t regret any of the nomadic lifestyle I have lived, it has made me who I am, and I am very pleased with that person, I have to say. But it is extremely challenging. It hits you harder than you think, and in different ways than you think. I suddenly find myself having a deep, abiding longing for Lipton chicken noodle soup, tofu, drip coffee, or just sitting down for drinks with a few friends after work downtown. I don’t have that here, or I don’t have it the same way. Tofu: if I scavenge for something with Linda McCartney on it I’ll be sort of fine, Lipton: they have some weird Chinese version of chicken noodle soup here that just seems to have a lot of soy sauce dumped into it, Timmy Ho’s: I don’t really drink coffee but you can ask around for it, and friends: well, there is not the same downtown atmosphere, not the same people, nor accessibility, and everyone seems to be on vastly different schedules here. Not to mention everything seems to close down past 5 except for the pubs. But there are still lovely people, and lovely places, they just takes a while to find. You have to find new things to miss and new favourite haunts. It takes a while to believe that this is where you live right now, that this is where you have momentarily settled. But when does that moment become forever? And I know that sounds like a terrible lyric from a Backstreet Boys song, but really??
Del Conte decided to stay in England because she met someone, fell in love and got married. I am not saying if I plan to get married or not, but when you do start dating someone in a different country, that does get you thinking about settling in that place permanently and starting a life. When it is not just you, it becomes that much more complicated. Del Conte further states,
“It demands a lot of goodwill to bridge the gap that separates two people who have grown up in different countries. You certainly learn to share most things, but the baggage of anecdotes, proverbs, everyday allusions remain incomprehensible to the other person. In many cases the partners can make the most of this situation, but it can also create an abyss that tends to widen.”
This is on a completely different vein than the previous paragraphs but I will say that I very much agree with Del Conte on this, in relationships yes, but also in everyday life. You become about to say something to someone at work but then realise they will have no idea what the hell you are talking about. (I tried singing the Goldfishes theme song at lunch ‘I love the fishes ‘cause their so delicious! Gone, Goldfishin’!’ It was not a success). You reference something to your boyfriend in an attempt to make a joke and then you have to explain the punch line. It does put a certain stint on things. However, I think you can avoid that ‘abyss’ by embracing as much as you grumble about things. I know, I am one to talk, all this ranting about weird British shit. But honestly, embracing and sharing are the best ways to go—otherwise you will never feel a part of your environment and your environment will never be a part of you.
That’s my two pence. I hope it works out for me.
West Coast Adventures
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