The first time I came to Cornwall, I was 1 year old.
I have memories of playing on Readymoney Beach with froggy wellies and a Tommy the Tank Engine bucket. I had ice cream with a flake in it. I had cream tea the right way up. I knew how to pronounce Fowey, and we had pasties for lunch. I loved the way people said my name differently. “Would you like a cup of tea?” was the first sentence I understood in English. I was told to say “no, thank you” because I might not like it, I said “yes please”. Since then, I have tea with milk in it every day. Lantic Bay and Rough Tor are favourite places. I knew this was where I wanted to live some day.
I couldn’t wait to finally learn English, threw myself into my lessons and read and watched everything I could to speed up the process. We came back almost every summer, and as soon as I was free to, I moved to Cornwall for a year, strengthened family ties, sat by an Aga and learnt how to make Pasties myself, with proper short crust pastry. I taught at a local school, I paddled on the Fowey, I found a canoe club and did DW, a race I’m now addicted to. I’ve lived in Cornwall twice more since then, and visited countless times in between.
My friends from Germany have been to visit, and I’m now not the only weird German who imports PG Tips. I have to bring them for several people whenever I go back. That’s a good thing, because when I go to their house I can have a proper cup of tea. My friends from the UK love Wasserspatzen and Kässpätzle. The vote for Brexit was the first time I cried over a political decision. It wasn’t the last. I have felt the shrinking of my welcome in a country that was home acutely. February 1st was a sad day.
I live in Edinburgh now, and it makes me feel a little better that this city is proudly pro Europe. My university is proudly diverse and international. I’ve been through the application and it looks like all I can get is pre-settled status. I’ve had a National Insurance Number since 2012. No, I won’t be chucked out while I’m studying. Yes, I will probably be able to come back with a visa.
It’s not the same.
Today, I should be excitedly and anxiously preparing for the launch of an anthology I’ve been editing.
I should be looking forward to my family coming over, celebrating an achievement together. Instead, it’s hard to keep connected as everybody is doing their best to handle their own life during this strange time.
We had a holiday planned for the summer, now I don’t know when I will see them next. I am beginning to worry about having to spend my first Christmas without my family this year.
I miss my parents, my sisters and my dog.
by Lena, 29, in Scotland since 2018
First published May 2020
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