IMGP2739 I am missing today: missing from my family in England. They are reuniting for the annual pilgrimage to Sheringham,  the tiny seaside town in Norfolk where my grandparents lived all their lives: they will swim in the freezing North Sea; they will build sand castles and fight against the tide; they will eat fish and chips out of paper on the beach as the sun sets. I won’t be there. And it hurts.

This is the hardest part of making a new life in another land. Or at least it is for me. We are a family of the closest kind, and we have got closer as the years have passed. The parents that I once pushed away so defiantly, have become my role models for love: still together and devoted after 49 years of marriage. My sisters with their beautiful children, their responsible jobs, their full lives: they have unerringly supported me in my road slightly less travelled. When I was recently getting a bit bogged down in the project that was not giving me joy and trying to justify the carrying on with it, my sister said to me, ‘Sal, I hear everything you say, and it all sounds so sensible and so responsible, BUT… you have fought so hard to live a different kind of life, to be free. It hurts me now to see you getting sucked back in. We are all here (in this life weighed with responsibility) because for now we have to be, but you don’t. You can keep following your heart, so do it if you can.’ She was right. In a way I fly my flag of freedom for them too.

I remember arriving in Sheringham in the summer of 2006. I had just got back from Mongolia. I parked my car up above the beach and wandered down to find my family. I stood on the promenade with its beach huts and Mr Whippy ice-cream  kiosks, and observed them for a while. My dad, my mum, my sisters and their husbands, my little nephew and nieces were playing cricket on the hard damp sand. I waited for them to spot me: my orange and red Mongolian poncho was whipping around me in the wind; I had my mad Mongolian hat on my head and my Mongolian memories in my heart; I was feeling the excitement of my first new adventurous steps combined with the desperate grief of the loss of a safe life.

I needed my family like never before. They saw me. Their shouts of welcome, their familiar bodies running up the slope, their joy at seeing me… overwhelming. Later in the dusk, me and my sisters hung around a roundabout in the park and spun on it for hours, talking and crying and talking. They said that although my sadness was strong, they saw Sal, the defiant, the non-conformist, the adventurer emerging. They said they saw the spirit of who I had been when I was 15 all over again. They knew my fight for freedom was back (after 28 years!), and that I would survive. And I heard what they said, and I believed them.

IMGP4569 One morning we three went down to the beach early to catch the in tide for a swim. Mum and dad came to watch. Us girls entered the icy water together, although me last: I hate cold! I was screaming ‘Fuck! Fuck!’


IMGP4570Mum was going, ´Shhhhh, you’ll wake everyone up!’ but laughing  at the same time, and I realised that I was happy to be screaming my feelings: telling the truth in the tiniest way in front of them, being true to myself with them, maybe for the first time.


IMGP4571I will always remember this week in my life. It was a safe  haven where I was given the love and care that I needed to take my next few steps into a world of being Sal. At that time I hadn’t danced a step of tango. That was all in the future. I was just mending a little, and getting ready to encounter my dreams.

So two years later, I am missing. And I know I am missed. And I celebrate that here. It is good to look back and see just how far I have come, and thank those who have walked with me.

IMGP4561So then, here I am in July 2006, just before my new life began. As I stood on that Sheringam beach smiling through the hurt, I had no idea that I would dance tango, no idea that I would come to Argentina, no idea that I would start to follow my heart. But that poncho and that hat were a big clue I reckon: Mongolia had granted me colour and adventure on the outside, and I was destined to grow into them and make them mine.

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