MacPhail – week 6

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It seems to be a commonly quoted statistic that moving house creates the same stress level as divorce, death or starting a new job!

This has been relayed to me from many directions in the last few days with mixed tones of warning, concern and humour. If this is indeed the case then expect next week’s article to be more incoherent than usual.

Maybe it’s a reflection of the slightly nomadic life of a musician that I lead, but I’m not yet too concerned about the prospect of this weekend’s flitting. Possibly next Monday, when among a mountain range of boxes I can’t find my accordion, my clothes, my laptop or wellies, I might have a different view.

Having moved a number of times over the years, I’m aware that the practicalities of the exercise are certainly not without issue, but because I’ve not stayed too long in one place it will hopefully be easier than it might otherwise be. I am also in a fairly lucky position that my worldly possessions – few as they are – are already spread between Glasgow, Fort William and Tiree, and I’ve no need to shift all these things at the same time, so it will be a less comprehensive migration for me than it would be for most.

More interesting than the practicalities of moving, is the question of how where we live shapes our identity and the extent to which that varies widely between different people.  For me, unlike many, where I live doesn’t feel too important a factor in identity and never has.

Over the last 22 years since leaving school, as well as periods of living back home, I’ve lived in Tobermory, Glasgow, Fort William and Oban, but would never consider myself to be from anywhere else but Tiree. I have enjoyed greatly being in every one of these other places and in different ways feel a strong and positive connection with them all, but to me living in a place is temporary when compared to the constant pull of the place where you were brought up, where family ties are and where cultural background lies.

I would not assert that this strong link to place and cultural identity is either a good or a bad thing. Most people in today’s world have no such specific links to people and place and it makes them no better or worse in character. However, it certainly exists, it feels powerful, and having existed with it, I would not ever like to live without it.

These connections, coupled with the ever present background feeling that I’ll eventually move back to Tiree at some point, makes the effect of living anywhere else merely transitionary.  The practicalities of life and chosen vocations may override these hankerings for home, but it is a very enjoyably dream to ponder.

In the meantime, I am very excited about our imminent move to a new harbour and the beginning of another of life’s chapters.  I may live there till I’m a 102 years old, but that time will feel transient when set against the permanence of upbringing and the anchor-lines to generations past in a geographic area that is specific to the ethnic group and culture into which I was born.

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