18.12.2005 10:25 - Ice-Cream Confessional
Some may wonder why I have made myself forever a foreigner, by living in another country so long that I feel foreign in England.
The truth is, I am a foreigner. Always was.
About eight years ago, I found out about my true parents. I'd always known I was adopted. Unfortunately our cultures are filled with stories of orphans and adoptees who turn out to be something special : Oliver Twist, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter spring to mind as three current attempts to milk the legend further. What our cultures don't do is tell stories about orphans and adoptees who grow up to have a perfectly normal life - which is a bit silly, really, as filling the highly imaginative mind of a child with visions that they might just be something special all along is probably the high road to misery in later life.
It also comes as a big shock to find out your true origins. Take it from someone who did.
My origins can be described as follows:
It is 1965. My mother, a first-generation Irish immigrant whose name is Violet, happens to go to a summer fair in Kingswinford. At this fair she is taken with the young sicilian serving ice-cream from a van. He is also taken with her, and one thing leads to another. They are both Catholic in upbringing, the swinging sixties are more at that point the bereft-of-sex-education-fumbling-your-way-along sixties, and AIDS is more than twenty years on the horizon and birth control is not nearly so easy to come by as you would believe. so on that fateful evening I am conceived in the back of an ice-cream van. I suppose it's just as good as being found under a gooseberry bush, and probably has a wider range of flavours, although the possibilities inherent in a 99 flake is probably pushing this way beyond boundaries of decency.
Being the quiet type, and not one to push himself forward, I remain undetected for two months. However, my presence is eventually felt. Arguments flare. Violet has brought the family into disrepute. Abortion is out of the question - it is illegal, and, even if it was, would lead to excommunication by a vengeful church. The alternative is bad - a messy and illegal backstreet abortion, or worse - the home-made variety, both often ending with the death of the mother. The father has fled back to Sicily. Only one choice is left open. Adoption.
The baby enters the world shortly before May 1966. He is temporarily given the name Patrick in the adoption ward, as it is quite a popular name at the time, due to the actors McNee and McGoohan. He will grow into a stocky little child with hazel eyes and great big bog-hopping feet, the result of his irish inheritance, but with the short build and dark hair of his italian ancestry. Despite this, he will have difficulty buying smart shoes. Horses, despite his ancestry, will not like him. His mother's name is added to the birth certificate, but censored later by the adoption agency. The father's name is not placed on the certificate. He is only identified as being of Sicilian origin, and as refusing to be identified, having returned to his own country. In the coming years, the adoption agency will be wound up, and the records incinerated to "protect the innocent".
Jerry Hall named her daughter with Mick Jagger Georgia May, to denote the time and place of her conception. It's a good job the adoption agency didn't work that way, otherwise I'd have been known as August Van Fairground.
So, that's me. Half-Irish, half-Italian, half-baked. It also explains why I'm suspicious of Italian Ice-cream shops. Make sure the guy behind the counter washes his hands, you never know what he's been up to.