Nottinghamshire. The county of my hometown is – regardless of being the county of my hometown – pretty beautiful. Get out of the small, dilapidated and Wetherspoon-saturated town of Mansfield (located in the middle of England and once voted 4th worst place to live in the UK… ahem.), and you’ll find awesome country pubs, gorgeous ancient forests and cosy country estates. I spend a lot of time complaining about the general crappiness of the town I grew up, and I often neglect the stories of the countless weekends I spent scrambling around the hills of the Derbyshire Dales, camping in the fresh air of the Peak District.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. Not all of those mandatory trips to the countryside were welcomed with open arms by my younger self, and there were also COUNTLESS miserable weekends of my parents dragging three extremely walking-resistant children up and down rainy, muddy grey landscapes – my sisters and I reeling at the INJUSTICE of being forced to endure the hardships of the great outdoors. The outrage.
This is an estate near Farnsfield, close to the home of Robin Hood. Growing up in Robin Hood Country meant a childhood visiting the Major Oak and Sherwood Pines, and dressing up in little Robin Hood hats with tiny wooden bow and arrows. Okay, probably by the age of 11 your connection with the hero of English folklore dwindles, but the legend is alive in this area. We spent Christmas Eve walking around the 1112-year-old Major Oak, and I was happy to be home and be reconnected with a bit of my own history.
It’s been over 5 years since I left England for life in Amsterdam, and with each year I feel further and further away from my home country and the feeling of well… actually being English. It’s a weird thing to experience, but something that I guess eventually comes with the life of an expat. It’s not all sunshine, roses and the adventure of starting a life that is completely different from anything you’ve ever done before. There’s also the constant missing of your friends and family back at home, the lack of deep-rooted familiarity with the culture that surrounds you, and an eventual battle with your very identity. Oh, the melodrama.
Regardless of an impending identity crisis, a few days back at home in the English countryside was a perfect way to round off another year living life in the Dutch capital.