Saturday, 11 August 2012

Sharing my British Roots

A Place I Once Called Home
(c) Amanda van Mulligen
It's not often that I get the chance to show my kids directly where I came from. To show them my roots. Where I grew up, where I went to school, where I played out on the streets with my younger brother. I'm talking about way back when, in the days when I called England home.

It's been twelve years since the Netherlands became my home. My children have no idea what it's like to live in England and it's possible that they never will.

So this summer, after a holiday in Cornwall, we took a detour to Watford after visiting a friend nearby to take a tour of my British roots.

We went to the flat that was my first 'out in the big, wide world alone' dwelling. A one-bedroom flat I bought along Whippendell Road. It's a hop, skip and a jump from Vicarage Road, home of Watford Football club where I attended almost every home game for more years than I care to mention.

Now someone else's family home
(c) Amanda van Mulligen
Then we drove past the business park I worked in for a year, following the road up to Croxley Green. From memory I directed my husband to the house which was the last family home I lived in before the members of the family I grew up with all went their separate ways to form new families of their own. The house had been slightly extended, built upwards over what was my parents' bedroom. The front door and windows were new. But in essence, the house looked the same as it did so many years ago. A dark blue car was parked under the tree that stands in front of the house, the same place my Dad's Renault stood when it was broken in to multiple times - every time a Phil Collins CD disappearing until my dad got fed up replacing it. The same parking space I used at the end of so many fun evenings with friends.
My former secondary school
(c) Amanda van Mulligen

We turned down the road at the side of the house and I remembered the surprise we got one morning when we came downstairs to find our garden wall blown down after a stormy night. The road was filled with cars, parked on both sides making driving there a slalom affair. We headed past Croxley station, past the pubs on the green where I spent many a social evening and down Scot's Hill to my former secondary school, St Joan Of Arc. It looked the same as it did over twenty years ago. Did I say that out loud? Twenty years? How can it be so long since that school was like a second home to me? How can it look the same as it does in my mind's eye? Awash with happy memories.

Then it was through Rickmansworth High Street where Boots the Chemist still occupies the same space  it did over two decades ago. Natwest Bank has the same home at the end of the High Street too. It seems that in a world of change, some things do actually stay the same.

On to Mill End where we also used to live, close to my former primary school. The house looked in desperate need of updating, some care and love to be poured in to it, but the school looked familiar. Bigger than I remember it and certainly not on the same scale as Dutch primary schools which tend to be smaller but more in abundance than British primary schools. We passed the community centre where I used to attend drama classes. Something that seems incredulous now to my introvert adult self. There was even a picture of my drama group in the local paper, but I cannot remember why. Memories. A car trip down memory lane.

My roots. My life in England. My British upbringing. And what did my children make of it all? All three boys sat in the back seat fast asleep.

How do you share your birth country roots with your children? 


  1. Hello Amanda, what a lovely post. Thank you for sharing it. I was born in Zambia, and went to school in Malawi and Zimbabwe. So I would have to take our kids on a round trip in Africa to go back to my roots, it's a typical third culture kid story. I did take my husband to Africa, hopefully one day we will take the kids too. For now I try to tell them stories about my youth in Africa. Stories of sitting on the top of a land rover while touring a gamepark, camping at lake Malawi, tasting flying ants and lots more.

  2. Ooh, that sounds far more interesting than the stories I can tell my little ones. When you do share your roots with them and actually make that trip I am guessing that they will be awestruck. What a family event that will be!

  3. I got a laugh about your kids' reaction - falling asleep, and I could have guessed it. They don't have the memories. My (American) children have been to my native Holland several times, but not to the places where I grew up. I haven't gone back either because my family moved away and now all live in Friesland, so that is where we go.

    Maybe I should try and have a look one day.

    PS: I can't sign in with my name and url. My google account is just a redirect.

  4. I think they need to be a little older before my three will appreciate my roots! :-)