Everybody knows where they come from. It may not be entirely truthful, it may be hard to choose an accurate answer, but everybody has a boilerplate response for the ineluctable small-talk query “so where are you from?”.
For me, that response has always been “Newcastle”. Technically untrue; I’m originally from the coastal town of Blyth, south-east Northumberland. However, as it falls within the sprawl of the Newcastle metropolitan area, for the vast majority of introductions it is an accurate enough statement. I’m yet to meet anybody outside of the ten-mile radius where I grew up that could pick my Northumbrian accent out from a typical Geordie cadence.
In fact, the likelihood of ever having my accent identified correctly as Northumbrian is diminishing daily; I have a very fluid accent, and I find myself calibrating my voice subconsciously whenever I’m around “foreign” accents (in this case, “foreign” means outwith a radius of 20 miles from my house - it’s not a UKIP response, that’s just the point at which accents are noticably different). It’s not quite Foreign Accent Syndrome, but I definitely speak with a more Scottish drawl now that I live in Edinburgh. Irish accents in particular weave their way into my vocabulary whenever I spend any length of time with Irish people, and it takes a couple of days to flush out of my system.
So, despite my flexible inflections, I think it would be accurate enough to say that I’m “from” Newcastle without raising too many eyebrows. Until recently, “from” was synonymous with “home”; I always considered North-East England home, and I suppose in a way it still is, but that feeling is diminishing rapidly.
I feel more at home in Edinburgh these days than I do in Blyth or Newcastle. I know this city, I can see her evolve, but this is no longer the case back in the north-east; it seems that everytime I return, everything has changed. It’s hard to say that the Blyth or Newcastle I called home is the same as the one that exists today. My first and middle schools now no longer exist; one has been rebuilt into a larger primary school, the other is a housing estate. My first job, working for GAME aged 16, has been absorbed into it’s parent department store. Even McDonald’s, where I spent five years of my life has had a full refurbishment and looks completely different.
I don’t yet know if Edinburgh will ever fully replace Newcastle as home. It’s not an easy thing to quantify, but at this moment in time I feel like I’ve reached an equilibrium; I consider “home” to refer to wherever I am not. If I’m up in Edinburgh, I will say “heading home to Newcastle for the weekend”. When I get back in England though, I will say I’m “heading back home to Edinburgh on Sunday”. If Scotland ever gets independence, I think I’m going to need dual citizenship.
I have yet to decide which passport would be my main one.