Thursday, 15 November 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

In ‘Cheers’ it was a good thing. Going to the place where everybody knew your name. Trust me when I tell you that it isn’t always a good thing.

“So you’re ‘So and so’ – I’ve heard all about you.” That was the start of most conversations during my first few weeks on the island. In some ways it’s kind of cool. You feel like a little bit of a celebrity.

You realise pretty quickly though that if you’re the hot topic of gossip on the island there can’t be a whole lot going on. If what I’m doing is the most interesting thing on the island then that’s pretty scary.

But gossip is definitely one of the national pastimes for a lot of people on this tiny island. Unlike a lot of places though it isn’t malicious. It’s mostly just boredom.

Most people here don’t have T.V’s, so instead of watching the soap operas, we watch each other.

Secrets are impossible. If you’re going to start dating someone, you might as well put out a memo.

“Attention all,

Joe Bloggs and I are going on our first date on Friday at 7pm. Don’t forget to bring the popcorn.”

It might sound like I’m bitter. I’m not – honest. I don’t exactly date so I’m more likely to be the one bringing the popcorn! But it does make it hard sometimes to just do the things you want to do. It’s easy to feel judged. It’s easy to feel that if you do something crazy, just once, you’re the talk of the island. What’s the Terry Pratchett line - ‘A lie will race around the world before the truth has got his boots on’ – feels very true here sometimes. At other times it’s like the world’s biggest game of Chinese Whispers. With each telling of the story it gets exaggerated and expanded to the point that it’s barely recognisable as the truth.

Having said all that, the everyone knows your name thing does have its perks. It’s hard to feel lonely on an island when no matter where you go there is always going to be someone you know, someone to talk to. I’ve also never lived anywhere with such a strong sense of community, of togetherness. Just recently we had our Pirate Festival with a big parade of floats. It sometimes seems that there are more people taking part in the parade than watching it – but to me that’s great.  Everyone joins in, everyone gets involved, and the day really is about the community.

So, long story short, some days I wish I could be anonymous – some days I wish there was a crowd to lose myself in, but mostly I love being on an island where everybody knows your name. Because even though I’m single and ‘alone’ – I’m never lonely.

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