“Belong” is a mid-14th century verb made of “be” and “longen”. The first part is an intensive prefix meaning “on” or “about”, and “longen” comes from the Old English word “langen” meaning to “go along with” or “pertain to”. Further references describe “belong to” as “to be part of a particular group or system”.
Speaking the same language, sharing similar beliefs and having familiar habits can help one belong to a group. I have been living in the UK for a year today and can say I “belong”. At first, the spoken English in London was rich with expressions that I did not grasp. Plus, my beliefs are somewhat off-beat (being a veteran vegan, agnostic and unsociable) but I do share the love of walking, pottering around and a good cup of English tea. I do not share the habit of sun-bathing as soon as there is a ray of sun, and neither do I go to pubs for a pint yet I do enjoy visiting market towns and walks on the commons with H&H*.
On the first Thursday night in March 2020 at 20h00 when everyone in our street leaned out open windows or stood in doorways, clapping for medics, doctors and nurses of the NHS, I knew that we were part of the neighbourhood, part of London and part of the UK. To experience this moment of unity, with us clapping and Ivy barking, was a sign of us being part of the bigger picture. Getting through this pandemic will be the glue that binds us to this island.
This together with wearing wellies, enduring the Underground, stocking-up on jumpers and cardigans, buying crisps for emergency supplies, walking Ivy with her tweed collar, taking a brolly on our one-a-day walk, and revealing my nuclear white pins and feet as the weather warms, make me a Brit and Londoner as well.
If I look at my DNA test results, I am already more English than most born on this island. My ancestry shows that I am 47.6% English and 13.7% Irish, Scottish and Welsh. The balance of my ethnicity is Iberian (unexplainable), Scandinavian (hence the white pins and feet) and Ashkenazi Jewish (paternal side of my DNA). This means that 61.3% of me is genome bound to this island. The rest adds some spice (think paella), Viking-type traits (jury is still out on this) and commercial savvy (perhaps showing in my occupation).
DNA and virus aside, the final test of belonging will be when I can do all of this in one breath: moan about the BBC, lament over the grey weather, despair over public transport and say “bollocks and bugger” more than once. Best I get practising with this so that when the UK emerges from lock-down, I am 100% the real thing (no additives, no artificial sweeteners and gluten free).
(*Husband & Hound)