People who have independently, and without prompting, insisted that I am from the Caribbean, despite my strenuous arguments to the contrary:
- The guy behind the enquiries desk at NatWest the day I walked in to sign up for a student account in 1999. He was from the West Indies, and assured me I was too.
- A guy who came up to me after I had spoken in one of the UCL Debating Society’s weekly debates. He was cute, and I was mildly disappointed that he didn’t profess interest in more than my accent. “Hey, good speech. Where are you from, by the way? You sound like a Rasta.” Somewhere later on in the conversation, he asked if I smoked (I had a feeling he wasn’t referring to Marlboros), and left soon after I said I didn’t.
- A guy in a hiking group in Cappadocia, Turkey. He spoke with Received Pronunciation and had coincidentally done his Masters at UCL. He narrowed it down to Trinidad.
- My Jamaican landlady. She laughed uproariously at everything I said (this was before she recently informed me I was the most difficult tenant in the entire building. There is now little love lost between us, mostly because she is a confrontational, defensive – those two words seem like opposites, don’t they? Not with her – unreasonable cow with selective amnesia and deliberately adopted attention deficit disorder, in that she refuses to listen to you when you are trying to recount the detailed conversation you had with her in the past but which she now denies ever happened) and repeated it, highlighting my apparently unmistakable Caribbean lilt. She also went with Trinidad.
- A guy behind the counter in Jessops, on Wednesday. No prizes for guessing where he was sure I had been born or at least lived a sizeable part of my life. He kept trying to guess where I was really from. I gave him the following clues: Not North or South America, not Europe, not Africa, not Antarctica, not Australia; the biggest continent (at which point he finally guessed Asia); not Malaysia, but a place very nearby; very small, very high-tech; starts with Ssssssssiiiiinnnnngggggg, at which point he finally managed Singapore. For some reason we briefly got into conversation about hip-hop clubs. He likes Subterania.
I am a small yellow girl. I lived in Singapore for the first 18 years of my life, and have been in London since. I have never been to the Caribbean, but apparently I’ll fit in if I do.