Diversity Is Natural

It’s been a tough week for Britain and the weeks and months ahead are bound to be anything but peachy. As for me, I’ve been nursing a stubborn ‘Brexit’ headache since the referendum last Thursday, accompanied by a heavy feeling in my chest, reminiscent of a broken heart.

As I mindlessly scrolled through the tweets on my Twitter account the other day, I came across a notice by Francesca Martinez, one of my favourite stand-up comedians. She was advertising her next performance,“Wobbly Manifesto,” part of the Science Museum’s Late Programme, and I quickly made up my mind to attend, hoping that a night out might cheer me up.

Also performing that evening was Deaf Men Dancing (DMD), an all-male dance company made up of professional dancers who happen to be deaf. I’d never heard of them before but the title of their show, “Let Us Tell You a Story,” intrigued me. I was definitely not going to miss either performance.

Leaving my husband in charge of the children’s bedtime routine I thus set off across the city to the Science Museum. Continue reading

Stronger Together

Next Thursday the UK will vote whether to remain in the EU or leave.

As a non-British citizen, I’m not allowed to vote although I’ve been a UK resident for 17 years and I pay my taxes here.

europe-1456246_640Neither the Leave nor the Remain side has run a campaign rooted in sound reasoning and factual information. Instead, there’s been a lot of political posturing on both sides of the divide.

It’s perhaps difficult to predict what the real consequences of Brexit will be as there’s no precedent. Still, it’s unlikely to be anything like the rose-tinted future, reminiscent of the glory days of Rule Britannia, that the Leave campaign paints.

It’s no secret that I am an ardent supporter of the Remain campaign and until recently I couldn’t imagine that a majority of British citizens would seriously vote to leave the EU.

But the most recent poll ratings indicate that the Leave campaign is in the lead, and I brace myself for the prospect of waking up next Friday to the news that isolationism and xenophobia have won the day, at the expense of openness, solidarity and cooperation.

How, then, will a potential Brexit affect me?

I’m a Swedish citizen but have lived in the UK since 1999; I am married to a Brit, and we have two children with dual citizenship.

While I don’t purport to feel British, I do identify myself as a Londoner – a Londoner by way of Sweden.

Truth be told, national identity has never been of much personal significance to me. Mostly, I feel Swedish only when England plays Sweden in a football match and even then my momentary burst of patriotism is mainly to spite my husband.

I last lived in Sweden in 1993, two years before Sweden joined the EU. These days, when I go back to Stockholm, my hometown, I don’t have a feeling of coming home; I feel very much like a visitor, and I can’t imagine moving back to Sweden for many years to come, if ever.

I barely manage to keep up with Swedish news, I’ve got no clue who’s who on the Swedish music and entertainment scene, and I’ve not celebrated Swedish midsummer in a long, long time. I don’t even think my children know what it is. In other words, I’m not a very good Swede.

The reality is that London – and by extension, Britain – is my home and now that my husband and I have bought a house here, we’re unlikely to move anywhere else until the children are grown up and have moved out.

“Of course, we wouldn’t just kick you out,” my British friends tell me when I voice my worries for a post-EU Britain.

“Oh, thanks,” I say, not sure I feel that grateful for their assurances. For what they’re thinking, even if they won’t admit it aloud, is that it’s not the Swedish immigration that bothers the Brits, or the French, Italian, German or Spanish immigration. It’s the EU citizens from Eastern Europe they’re not so keen on. If that’s not an expression of xenophobia, then what is?european-union-1328256_640

Even if I am given leave to remain in the UK post-Brexit, which I have to assume would be the case, I have to ask myself; will I want to stay here?

Will I still feel a sense of belonging in a country that has turned its back on the rest of Europe because it considers some Europeans more worthy than others?

I can’t vote but some of you can, and I hope with all my heart that you will vote for Britain to remain an integral part of Europe.

In an interconnected world, we are surely stronger together.

Happy Birthday!

Happy 1st birthday, Born Whole!

It’s been a whole year since I wrote and published my first blog post and 52 weeks later, I am still here, faithfully blogging every Thursday.

IMG_2784Although the idea of starting a blog had been brewing at the back of my mind for some time, I kept putting it off and citing an endless list of reasons for why I wasn’t ready to set up my blog just jet.

But then I went on a writing retreat at Abbey House, Glastonbury, led by my wise and altogether fabulous mentor, Julia McCutchen. There, in a room full of people I barely knew but with whom I felt intimately connected, I realised that the conditions for starting my blog would never be ‘right,’ so I might just dive right in and do it. And I did.

The day I posted my first blog entry, I was beset with a horrendous migraine. Sharing my personal writing with the outside world was like walking naked down the street, and I avoided checking my phone and email for hours afterwards, petrified of any reactions to my writing.

Nonetheless, I kept writing and posting, and as the weeks went by, it became less frightening and eventually I reached a point where I thought to myself, what the hell, this is who I am and this is what I write, deal with it!

Over time, I’ve got some fabulous feedback on my blog for which I am very grateful. My mother sometimes calls me after reading my blog and says in a slightly tortured voice,

“We never knew that’s how you felt,” or “if only you’d told us.”

But as I keep telling her, this blog is not intended as some kind of reckoning with the past or getting back at those who hurt me.

Rather, I write this blog in the hope that it will reach readers who for some reason or other find value in what I have to say.

Recently, a woman whose son was born with a cleft wrote to me to say she appreciated my blog. Her message alone made me feel that a year’s worth of blogging – of walking down the street naked – had been worthwhile.

Now that I’ve got my blog firmly established, my next step will be to expand and deepen the contents of Born Whole over the next 52 weeks. And to all of my readers I say a heartfelt, THANK YOU for your support!

PS. If you like what I write, please share my blog on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc. The more the merrier.

On the Fear of Never Waking Up

The early years of a cleft child are typically characterised by a series of surgical procedures, and my childhood was no exception. Chronic glue ear – a common consequence of cleft – also meant that I needed minor surgery to insert new grommets in my ear drums on a regular basis, an operation that was always done under general anaesthesia.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that my earliest childhood memory should be from a hospital stint. I reckon I was about two years old, but I may have been younger. This is what I remember: Continue reading