I was born in Lancashire in February 1982 into a close-knit family. I now live in Northumberland with my husband and our dog. Nature is my church and I’m never happier than when on a hillside with the wind whipping round me or when I’m swimming in a river. I also love people and hearing their stories, the emphasis being on hearing as I do a lot more listening than talking.
From a young age I’ve had what the English call ‘itchy feet’, this is not a health problem but means ‘to start to want to travel or do something different’. I have a distinct childhood memory of going on holiday to Tenerife (where every self-respecting English family goes on holiday), my parents renting a car and us ending up in a tiny remote village where no-one spoke English and everything was very different from Lancashire. I remember thinking it was wonderful. From there started a life-long love of seeing new places, meeting new people and hearing their stories. Up until now I’ve lived and journeyed through much of South America, Central America and Europe; so there is still plenty to go! This included our honeymoon; a 3 month cycle trip coast to coast across South America which was life changing in many ways, as all journeys seem to be.
Within England I’ve lived and worked in London and now, as mentioned, I’m in Northumberland. I love and admire Northumberland for its strong sense of individuality, culture and freedom as well as its wide open spaces. But ultimately I’m a Lancashire lass at heart; it’s a link I feel wherever I am in the world. I’m the grand daughter of a cotton mill worker. My parents live in the village my great great great grand parents moved to to find work in one of the local factories. A reservoir now covers that factory and when it hasn’t rained for a while you can see the ruins poking out above the water. My background is the stereotype people think of when they think of the north of England; a lot of rain, moody moorland, a terraced house, gallons of tea, strong earthy accents, cold weather but warm hearts.
For me England, and Englishness, is an ever-growing jigsaw puzzle. And the added complication, or beauty, depending on how you see it, is that the picture keeps changing. My upbringing and experience represents only one small piece of the puzzle that makes up England. Because I’ve lived in other regions of the country, and because I’m a teacher by trade I have had the luck to meet and work with a wide range of people so I feel I have an insight onto some of the other pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. But I’m aware there are many pieces I’m only just aware of and I’m sure there must be pieces I don’t even know exist. I’m here to find out more.
When opportunity knocks in my life, I tend not to question it too much and just open the door. This has led me down some hard and some amazing paths in my young life; some good and some bad but in the end I have always learnt a huge amount. So when Mikael got in touch to discuss me potentially joining the expedition, the internal answer was already, and always going to be, ‘yes!’ even if it took me some time to vocalise it. I’m also taking part on this expedition because I love this small, complex, beautiful, over crowded country that forever surprises me. It will be fascinating: the route takes us through both rural and urban areas, through places traditionally labelled as poorer areas and more affluent areas, through areas that appear to have huge social problems and others that get sold to the world on picture-perfect-postcards. But I’m also interested in the inbetween places where most people are ‘just passing through’ but some people live; I always find these the most interesting. Finally I’m really interested to see Mikael’s reactions as a foreigner to all the things we will come across. In short, why am I joining in? Curiosity, a love of novelty and a love for England that negative media has not yet managed to put out.
Georgia V is a freelance teacher and outdoor enthusiast from Northumberland.
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