I’m calling this blog Midatlantic because it’s where I’m always located – in my head, in my writing, in my life. I’ve spent almost exactly half my life in Great Britain and half in the United States, and there are people I love dearly in both places. When all planes were grounded after 9/11 and when the ash cloud covered northern Europe, my two places were cut off from each other – separated by a very wide ocean.
I know how wide it is – I crossed it from New York on the Queen Elizabeth I in the summer of 1964. Halfway through the voyage we passed the Queen Mary a good mile away. Each boat sounded its horn to salute the other across the gray and choppy water, a ceremony that struck my 6-year-old self as the loneliest I could imagine. For the rest of the voyage, we didn’t see another human soul on that expanse of ocean until the cranes of Southampton loomed out of the fog early on the 7th morning. For months afterward, I wouldn’t let my parents out of my sight. I’d seen how vast the world was and knew it was just a matter of chance that we didn’t lose each other in all that infinite space.
But I grew up to embrace that vastness. My life now straddles the ocean. I fly over it twice a year. I’ve watched the dawn break over it, I’ve seen the Hale-Bopp comet high above it, I’ve looked down onto the towers of Manhattan, and followed the S-bend of the Thames as the plane turns over London to approach Heathrow from the east.
My geographical division began early. I was born in the United States to British parents. I have two birth certificates – the one from the state of New Jersey and the other from the British Consulate in New York. After the Kennedy assassination, my parents decided to move back to the old country. I grew up and got my education in Scotland, then worked in London for several years. At the age of 29, I came back to the States for a gap year – a time of respite from various troubles – and ended up settling in for the long haul.
Because of my transatlantic life, there is no single place I call home. Instead there are several. A former boss once told me that I gave the impression of always having “one foot off the island.” What better place for a writer to be?