I saw this question posed on social media recently:

How far away do you live from the place you were born?

Many (I’d say the majority) of people who answered this question lived within 100 miles of where they were born, but some had travelled across oceans to live on the other side of the world. However, I came to the conclusion from reading the replies that most people prefer to remain in the area they grew up in and know well. Is it because they feel a particular area is their ‘territory’? Is it because their friends and family are all around them? Or is it perhaps because locals speak their mother tongue with the accent they learned as a child?

I was born in the East End of London, and also have lived in South East London, South West London, Croydon (Surrey), and Suffolk, all within 100 miles of where I was born. However, I feel most at home when it’s time to visit my grandmother’s grave in the East London cemetery, where my mum’s ashes also rest. We walk around the local area, visit Chrisp Street market and the site of my old house (it’s now a college) if we go on a Saturday, and during these times I listen out to hear any of the locals who might speak with the accent /slang I heard all around me as I was growing up. This particular accent you can probably hear on the ‘EastEnders’ TV programme if you watch it (I cannot bear melodramatic ‘soaps’ and neither can Sam), but I hardly hear it at all in Suffolk. The East End has changed beyond all recognition and is not home to me anymore, but I’m always pleased to see that some of the streets I ran and played in as a child are still there.

Do I feel rooted in the East End I ask myself? I’m not sure, is the answer. I’d have to say I feel a pull to visit there every once in a while (we tidy Nan’s grave once a year) just to see what further damage has been done to the area I once called home. I don’t feel rooted in Suffolk either though, as the accent is different and many of my friends and family are in London or London’s outskirts. Maybe I’m rootless, but I enjoy living in the countryside. I have no desire to move back to London, but I always look forward to travelling there to meet people I know or to attend functions. If anything I would prefer to live on the Isle of Wight, a place 200 miles from Suffolk where I’ve lived for 30 years and around 90 miles from London. We know the Island so well that it’s like a second home to us. If Sam survives me, he knows to scatter half my ashes on the Isle of Wight, and half on my grandmother’s grave.

Do you prefer to stay near to where you were born? Is it because your family are there, or is it because you know every road, side street and back alley in the area? Do you feel at home when you hear the locals speak? It’s quite fascinating to me why we feel a pull even half a century later to a particular place where we don’t now live but, by coincidence, we had just happened to be born there.