On the outside looking in

Photo by Marc Masquiel


I have long felt like a foreigner in this world.  Born in Jamaica to a Jamaican mother and a Welsh father, not black –  disappointedly not so.  Arriving on a banana boat in 1966 in England yet not English.  Going “home” to Wales in 1972 yet not Welsh and my father constantly reminding me to remember my Jamaican roots.  Spain ignited a sense of identity only because of the curiosity as to where I was from.  You’re English they’d say when I said I was from Britain and immediately I’d explain my roots and claim that I was British.

Now with the recent and resounding no by some British people living in Scotland, I am not so sure!  For 22 years I used the term British to explain an experience of life in a place that was not mine.  I held a British passport, have done for life and lived in many places until I settled here in Mallorca and then found my home here in Binissalem.  But who and what am I?

I am not Welsh nor am I Jamaican, at least I have never thought so.  Half yes but not whole.  Does it matter?  Having always had a sense of looking inside from the outside, I don’t think so.  Moreover I was always envious of my Welsh family for their ties to the community and so I always hankered for that too.  I found that when I moved to Binissalem in September 1999 just in time for their wine festival.  This year the town celebrates 50yrs of this festival and one can feel the pulsating pride as we move into our second week of festivities.

Last weekend saw the start of the party with the famous grape fight!  As I waited in the plaza along with hundreds of Binissalamers excitedly gathering in front of the town hall, I bumped into first born’s second best friend in the village (the first being put aside once this one arrived on the scene!).  This young lad had come from Asturias a year or two after we had moved here from Palma.  He and first born were inseparable!  Ying and Yang, blond and brunette, two peas in a pod!  They did everything together, spent every spare moment together until they entered their teens when they slowly but surely drifted away from that intense relationship.  Bumping into him in the plaza was a joy, he is a fine young man.  Two kisses, a sincere greeting, but nerves gave him away.  Of course I wanted to know what was the matter.  The answer was “I can’t wait for it to begin” referring to the Vermar, the wine festival!  First born was the same.  Looking inside their lives this past weekend, I felt very much an outsider as I’ve never had those feelings of intensity, of emotion, of excitement.  Call me laid back and Jamaican perhaps?

I cannot remember ever being like first born and this friend and all the other Binissalmers who are so proud, so upright in their conviction that they come from the best place in the world!  I agree with them – Binissalem is the best village in the world!  We are family, we are community, we are one, especially now at the 50th celebration of our wine festival.  Me?  I am one step away from all this, looking in, on the outside by choice, by experience, with love.  I was born foreign and I shall die foreign but home is where the heart is and my heart is here in this welcoming town, this town whose name means Sons of Peace – Binissalem.


Journey to Self



In my weekly radio show “The Happiness Café” I ask listeners for their opinions on the topic of the show and yesterday was no exception.  The topic permeating the show was “self-discovery” and the guest was an inspiring woman who is co-founder of La Akademia, an educational project aimed at 16 to 22yr youngsters and aimed at addressing their emotional education – free by the way!  It seems to me that all too often education forgets to nurture the emotional well-being of our children and youth and we have many damaged adults as a result of these issues being forgotten or put aside.

So what are my thoughts and opinions on self-discovery?  I loved the fact that yesterday’s guest told us how, when she was a child, her parents encouraged her to have an independence in everything she did and moving out of her comfort zone was something she thought all people did as that’s how her parents encouraged her to be.  My first thought therefore is that on the journey towards self-discovery, we are going to be accompanied by those meant to show us things at some point in our lives, preferably when we are young and then periodically when we need it when we are older.

I was blessed to have grandparents and parents who also encouraged independence and I can see how that has shaped me become who I am.  If I think back to childhood, I was very much left to my own devises a lot of the time and I remember a LOT of play always.  Play on my own but most often play with siblings and friends, outdoors for hours on end – free play – paradise!  And there was lots of reading, time to just sit and read and escape into my imagination.  There was a structure in place, very much a feminine one placed there by my mother who was the main organiser of our day-to-day.  That structure not only gave routine and comfort but it was about security in which I had time to be me.

From that safe starting point in life I have been able to continue my journey with highs and lows, successes and failures, gain and loss, adventure and home and throughout it with the belief that I was still learning and above all, becoming me.  At times I needed to fuel up and in comes those moments that remind us we are learning especially the tough ones, in my case divorce 7 years ago.  We are born naked in the sense that all the clothes we choose to wear throughout life are the colours and combinations we use in that moment.  The clothes I was lucky to wear as a child were laid out for me, clean and comfortable thanks to my parents and family – they were love, respect, trust, peace, happiness, joy, wisdom to name a few.  With those placed freely and wholly in my hands, I was able to grow and look for more outfits – university, employment, marriage, children, cultures, communities – and these were the reminders of my choices and where I was going on my map.

Now, I am older, still learning, still on the journey to self and the differences are that I lay my own clothes out every morning – gratitude, faith, trust, contentment, openess – and at the end of my day I look back and see how far I came.

Self-discovery – on-going, accompanied, alone, pain and gain, easy and fun but the map continues to open sending me in directions that are already printed but just hiding under the flap, waiting for me to peal it back.

Enjoy your journey folks – it’s not over even when you get there!


For more information on La Akademia in Mallorca, totally recommended if you have a young person in your life who is curious: