From one city of culture to another: I am currently packing up my Dubai life for the next grand adventure in Hull.
Where is Hull, you ask? Great question.
Kingston upon Hull, usually abbreviated to Hull, is a city and unitary authority in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It lies upon the River Hull at its junction with the Humber estuary, 25 miles inland from the North Sea, with a population of 257,710 (mid-2014 est).
We are not in Kansas anymore
Now that have established the whereabouts of said city of culture, let’s address the why.
Like many things, it starts with a series of unfortunate events. My other half was inexplicably and unceremoniously let go from his job in Dubai last May, followed by a long stretch of unemployment for him and some at-work instability for me. The months following the letting go stretched out with three consultancy gigs for him, a dozen trips back and forth between the UK, UAE and Azerbaijan (yes, Azerbaijan), one wedding (ours), and more conversations than I can count about the ‘what ifs’ of our future. Hailing from the northern UK city of Leeds, my husband eventually ended up taking a job in neighbouring Hull, working for the City of Culture 2017 team.
I’ll address the somewhat puzzling concept of the City of Culture for those of you reading this outside of the UK, but first, a moment to reflect upon the complicated emotional landscape one can encounter when when one’s partner; one’s very steady, reliable, hardworking and achingly earnest partner; finds themselves suddenly without professional purpose or security in a foreign country. And me, always the loose cannon of our coupling, suddenly the rock holding the whole thing together and trying to keep aggressively positive about any and all things. Do we cancel our Spanish holiday in July? No way. Do we pull out of the apartment we just signed and paid for in the same week that this whole crappy thing happened? Of course not. Stumbling, lumbering forward towards an unknown future that neither one of us planned for, in a confusing country that isn’t home to either one of us. All the while very carefully navigating and nurturing a fragile ego that has just been told ‘sorry we no longer want you’ in so many words. File the whole thing into the Life Is Really Not Fair folder, be grateful for our good health and the many other things going well in our lives, and move on. Together.
Seville, July 2015
So back to the future, back to Hull City of Culture. The UK City of Culture is a designation given to a city in the United Kingdom every four years, for a period of one year, with the aim of fostering significant social and economic benefits for the area. So it’s kind of like the Olympics of culture, except that it’s held in places you don’t really fancy going, and there are no overly fit and attractive people on TV to ogle over for a brief month in which you take a sudden keen interest in sport.
Sarcasm aside, it’s actually kind of a wonderful thing, and I’m pleased to know that I am emotionally tethered to a human being who can give a damn about putting their heart and soul into an initiative that uses ‘Hull’ and ‘Culture’ in the same sentence. Plus, it seems to be the only place in the country where property is reasonably priced, and having gotten married recently I have finally worked out why Pinterest exists, and am planning to turn our next property into five-star Airbnb with some cunning decorating tricks that I will suddenly have more time to focus on.
Our flat will look like this, except darker, rainier and generally a bit more dismal
So onwards and upwards to Hull, whose football club supporters have taken to chanting “You’re only here for the culture” at visiting supporters. Well, so am I.
Jess will soon be finding herself a long way from home. A native New Yorker, dog-lover and yoga master in the making Jess has called both London and Dubai home. Smart, courageous and loyal, Jess jumps in feet first wherever she goes, and seeks meaning in everything she does. Join her on her journey!