What is my country? I have no country, nowhere that I can call truly my own. Oh yes, I live in a village tucked below the rolling downs of Wiltshire, in a house that has been here for centuries; I know the history and the trees and the wildflowers and the birds and the architecture of England probably as well if not better than most, because it has been important to me to learn it, to adopt it as my own, but it is not deeply and thoroughly mine.
The landscape that feels right to me is on a grander scale. The hills are parched, tawny and dry, the skies are blue, the rivers are wide.
Why does it still, after forty years and more, seem an imposition to put on shoes and stockings or socks? Because bare feet or sandals are the right and proper thing. Why does the fall of leaves in autumn fill me with foreboding, the smell of chrysanthemums revolt me? Because winter is a hostile season. Cold winds that others find invigorating-make my ears and teeth ache. And I remain convinced that the only way to enjoy swimming is to be so hot in the sun that you are desperate to drop into a cool envelope of water.
And why this permanent sense of dislocation? Because I was not born here. I am an alien, a refugee, a changeling. I only arrived in this country when my deepest loyalties were already forged, my natural bonds already made. And those ties were made half a world away, in other latitudes, in a country to which, I have come to feel, my own nation had no right, and to which I cannot return.
In 1942, when I was eight, I walked out of Burma.
“A heart-breaking memoir that will make you want to hold your loved ones close.”
“It will make you laugh and cry.”
“Shows what it was truly like to grow up in a bygone era.”
- With a foreword and afterword by Mary’s daughter, Sarah Rayner (author of the international bestselling novel One Moment, One Morning)
- 25% of profits are being donated to WWF’s Save the Tiger campaign