For the first 17 years of my life, I didn’t have a holiday. Would I know what to do when I escaped my inner-city estate?
This July, I spent a hot and sticky week with friends in Italy, gorging on spaghetti alle vongole and lemon granitas. But summer holidays didn’t always come so easily to me. In fact, for the first 17 years of my life, I didn’t have one. For most of my youth, as July approached and the teachers replaced lessons with games, and my classmates talked about sandcastles, ice-creams, donkey rides on the beach or driving to France, my stomach filled with dread. For me, summer holidays meant six long, hot, boring weeks on my estate in north London, avoiding menacing boys and interfering adults.
I grew up in Camden in the 1990s, after arriving in Britain as a child refugee, aged nine, from Somalia’s civil war. I had a lot to learn and quickly: how to cross the road, how to pronounce the word “congratulations”, the rules of queueing and the most important words in English – sorry and thank you. I went to school for the first time, and was thrilled to have a routine, to learn a new way to be in the world. As I turned 10, living with my mother and three siblings in a three-bed flat, I felt just how different my life was going to be – and I embraced it all.