"Time and Place," Tina Warren, The Sunday Times. Full article can be found here.
"It was the late 1970s and I was seven years old when my parents decided to move from Scotland to live in America for a few years. My father is American and wanted to return to his roots, so my mother offered to give it a try. My twin sister Madeline and I were whisked off on this great adventure. First, however, we had to negotiate the worst plane journey I’ve ever experienced. We were sick so often on the flight from London to Michigan, the captain came back to see us to make sure we were okay.
When we arrived, we were greeted by our uncle with a big smile and an Arnie’s salt-beef sandwich. I’ll never forget that sandwich. It has to be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. It was our introduction to American life.
We lived with my grandmother in a suburb of Michigan called Clarkston. We were shy but, being children, we soon adapted. The street was named after a native American chief called Sashabaw, who had walked a trail across the land where the house was built. I was intrigued by stories of his adventures, so unfamiliar but fascinating and exotic were they to a small child.
But new America was just as awe-inspiring. Everything was bigger, brighter and more colourful than I had been used to. The house had air-conditioning, which whirred into life in the summer, much to our amazement. At weekends, we visited vast shopping malls decorated with huge fountains; they were like something you’d see in Las Vegas. Our next-door neighbours had a swimming pool, which made us feel as though we were living in Hollywood. These were things we’d never seen in Scotland.
My grandmother’s house was the smallest and oldest on the street — a cute, wooden, detached bungalow that was picture-postcard American. I shared a room with my sister and we made it home quickly. It was a simple room with white walls and lots of natural light.
We spent most of our time outdoors. The house had a huge garden surrounded by fruit trees, which produced the most delicious apples and cherries. It was a great place for children. We were able to ride our bikes up and down the huge driveway. It was a street of long drives full of shiny and what would now be considered classic cars.
The seasons were extreme. It was burning hot in summer and during winter we regularly waded through waist-high snow. When the ice froze on top of it, it was possible to walk across it.
It wasn’t all fun and games. I hated school. We were put in a year with children who were a year older than us, for some bureaucratic reason I’ve never fully understood. My sister coped brilliantly — she’s the brainy one — but I struggled to catch up.
In other respects it was typical of what you’d expect from an American school. The children seemed sophisticated — they all had boyfriends and exotic, international names. My classmates were all friendly and the teachers liked us because we were quaint.
We picked up an American twang almost immediately and I still have letter-tapes we sent to relatives in Scotland that are testament to my Michigan drawl. I try to remember what it was like to speak with a different accent but it all floats away in a feeling of nostalgia.
I was happy to go back to Scotland when the time came, because I missed my extended family, but I have lovely memories of Michigan. When I think back, I always imagine sitting on the porch watching the ants scuttle about their business in the hot sunshine.
I see myself as Scottish but I have retained that American flair for showmanship and glamour, which I think comes through in my love of burlesque. Club Noir, my venue, is in part inspired by the Minsky brothers and American burlesque from the 1930s to the 1950s. I love beauty and I love the exotic and the best bits of American culture have always been that for me — even as a child."