Influences of childhood on Uphill all the Way
The Floating Child
by Sue Moorcroft

I had what’s sometimes referred to as ‘a floating childhood’.

Floating children are often born abroad and have lived in five countries by the time they reach their teens. They’re used to changing schools, making new friends, finding their way around new neighbourhoods and watching strange television channels. They cope with change and language and culture, being careful of laws and respecting unaccustomed customs.

Until I was ten, I was an army child, and the idle question, ‘Where do you come from?’ always stumps me.

I was born near Moenchengladbach, but in a British Military Hospital of British parents and I left the country when I was six weeks old, so I can hardly claim to come from Germany. Then we were posted to Cyprus for 18 months but I don’t remember it.

Much of my father’s subsequent army career was spent in Malta. When I left at the age of eight and a half, I had lived on the island for nearly five of those years. It was the UK felt like a foreign country.

Malta felt like home.

But I’m not Maltese...

I’ve lived in the UK for nearly 35 years now but I’ve never forgotten the Maltese years and get back to the island whenever I can. I love it. I love the sun that blisters if not respected, I love the people, the pace of life, the splendid baroque buildings of Valletta, the beckoning blue Mediterranean where I learned to swim among rainbow fishes, and even riding on the orange buses. My mind is full of blue-red-yellow fishing boats, the domes and bell towers of churches on every skyline, the figs, the olives, and the cerise flame of the bougainvillaea.

As you might see, when I’m not there, a little bit of me always misses it.

It was unsurprising, then, that on one of my holidays, snorkelling gently in the waters of Ghar id Dud Bay, I began to speculate about how it would feel to live in Malta as an adult. Family in the UK, heart in Malta, perhaps? As I finned over the rocky bed, watching the seaweed and the purple sea anemones flowing with the movements of the sea, Rainbow Wrasse darting beneath me, I began to evolve a character, Judith, who would be lucky enough to live in Malta.

But then be driven to return to the UK, a ‘home’ where she had no home.

The water rocked me gently – floating again! – as I mentally paired her with a Maltese tour guide I’d been watching that morning, a laughing, confident man with a slow-burning smile. And decided just how big a catastrophe would have to be to make her leave him...

My floating childhood taught me to understand that ‘home’ can be made up of many things, people, places and love. And it’s fitting that the place I loved to call home most was the place where the story for Uphill all the Way came to me.

I hope I float back soon.

 

 
 

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