My massive transfer: I’d lived in western Sydney my whole life – however I discovered myself within the UK’s ‘happiest place’

My massive transfer: I’d lived in western Sydney my whole life – however I discovered myself within the UK’s ‘happiest place’

“I assumed you’d appear like somebody from Dwelling and Away.”

The cheerful lady greeted me within the foyer. I didn’t look something like a Summer time Bay resident in my swimsuit, blue hijab and heels coated with grime from my stroll up the gravel driveway. I used to be frazzled and solely simply on time.

Foolishly, I’d assumed that my non-driving city way of life may nonetheless be supplemented with ride-sharing. I didn’t but admire that there have been none going to the village of Leek Wootton. The taxi driver had dropped me in the back of the large grounds, and finally I discovered my approach to a stone-fronted mansion. It regarded extra just like the Downton Abbey property than a venue for a job interview. As I used to be launched to my future colleagues, I used to be struck by their pleasant curiosity about how I’d discovered myself right here. I didn’t blame them; I used to be questioning the exact same factor.

‘I didn’t look something like a Summer time Bay resident’: Zeynab Gamieldien at Compton Verney property in Warwickshire in 2020

Up till the age of 25, I’d lived in the identical home on the identical road. I’d been fortunate sufficient to journey extensively, however I’d at all times returned to the acquainted comforts of house. Getting married and shifting out of house was my first massive transfer, however when my husband was supplied his dream job shortly thereafter, we made the choice in 2017 to relocate to a city within the English Midlands with the charming title of Royal Leamington Spa.

The well-trodden path of the Australian working vacation in London was not for us. Though the town was simply down the M40, it appeared a world away from the area best-known as “Shakespeare’s county” by advantage of being the bard’s birthplace. It was loads for a lady from western Sydney to soak up, even when the city had been ranked the happiest place to reside within the UK simply that yr.

A garden park in regional England, blanketed in snow.
Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa through the winter of 2017. {Photograph}: Zeynab Gamieldien

Whereas my husband plunged into his new job, I busied myself with the logistics of establishing our new life. I struggled with the central heating, calling the electrical energy firm to inform them it was defective, just for the technician to come back in, snigger and change it on immediately. I took every day walks previous the Royal Pump Rooms, a former spa tub the place 18th-century gentry flocked to “take to the waters”. I utilized for jobs and battled by means of emotions of disgrace after I tried to create a checking account and was refused as an unemployed foreigner. Attempting to cheer me up, my husband purchased me a bicycle, and I started to experience alongside the canals of the River Leam and into the neighbouring cities of Warwick and Kenilworth, names I recognised from Elizabeth Bennet’s fateful tour in direction of Pemberley.

By the point I’d discovered a job, winter was setting in. I’d visited London within the winter twice earlier than, however I had actually by no means encountered the dreaded Beast from the East. My Australian coats proved to be grossly insufficient. As I shivered on the bus cease, slipping and sliding on the slushy aftermath of yet one more snowfall, I resolved to get my driving licence and to make some pals. In my fragile state, each appeared unimaginable duties. I studied the enormous octopus-like roundabout on the fringe of city, attempting to grasp how its many tentacles operated. My new colleagues have been invariably type and welcoming, providing lifts and infinite cups of tea, however there was nobody I even vaguely recognised from my former life.

Because the lengthy winter lastly turned to spring, I too started to emerge from the fog of isolation. I breathed within the crisp air on my every day bicycle commute, previous a flock of child lambs grazing on lush fields, ending close to a medieval fortress initially constructed by William the Conqueror.

As an alternative of specializing in all of the issues I may now not entry, I made a decision to throw myself into the brand new issues I may: jousting shows on the native castles, stately house excursions and strolling the cobblestone streets on my lunch breaks. I started to fall in love with not simply Leamington’s Regency structure, manicured gardens and charming cafes, but additionally its much less apparent grit and group spirit.

A large medieval castle against a blue sky; in the foreground is a garden of flowers in full bloom.
‘I breathed within the crisp air on my every day bicycle commute, previous a flock of child lambs grazing on lush fields, ending close to a medieval fortress initially constructed by William the Conqueror’: Warwick Fort in 2019. {Photograph}: Zeynab Gamieldien

Often, one thing jarred. I had by no means felt particularly Australian in Australia, however I actually did right here when my references and jokes didn’t land. I used to be additionally way more seen in cities and villages than I might’ve been in London. In these moments, I felt like a curiosity, a hijab-wearing lady with a markedly antipodean accent.

However for probably the most half I used to be thrillingly nameless and accepted simply as I used to be. I started to see that whereas the steadiness of my life in Sydney had been nurturing, it had additionally made me complacent, reliant on folks and context to outline my sense of self. Right here, I used to be pressured to look at who I used to be when all of these constructions have been eliminated. Because the months turned to years I bought my driving licence; travelled throughout England and past, solo and accompanied; wrote a novel and met unbelievable folks.

Slowly, I felt myself changing into extra assured in an identification untethered to anywhere and intrinsically my very own. After three years, when our time in Leamington got here to an finish, I introduced that identification again with me, together with a lifetime of reminiscences of castles, winding nation lanes and Shakespearean costumes.

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