4/17/2009

Lay back and think of England

With all of the centuries of British literature, all I could think of for my England-focused post was the above. In my own defense, P has been unwell with a creeping, itchy rash and a swollen, funky foot, so I'm a bit sapped at the moment. Add to this my successful run this evening (5K personal best - 29.16, yay!), my stomach swollen with fresh berries and half fat creme fraiche, and right there is a recipe for forgetfulness and lack of inspiration.

A couple or one asked after my last post why I want to leave the UK. I think I've expanded on it a bit before, but I'm not so keen on trawling my archives so I'll just summarise again. I will always dearly love the UK. I became the person I am today because of how it shaped me, my daughter was conceived in British petri dish and was born here, and there are certain aspects of the UK I think you would be unable to see elsewhere even if you combed the edges of the earth thoroughly.

I was infused with Anglophilia from the time I was a child. Something about the UK just seemed "right" to me, and I was always telling people that I would live here someday. On my first trip to the UK when I was 17 I nearly collapsed in a heap of religious-level supreme ecstasy upon seeing the majesty of York Minster for the first time. It perfectly captured what I perceived the UK to be - stuffed with wonderous, ancient history, each step an echo of a fascinating history extending thousands of years. I still feel this powerfully, and I will never cease to feel the wonder of its history deep within me. There is a castle nearby which I have been to dozens of times, yet standing at the top of its keep and viewing the crumbling stonework below continues to make me emotional.

I think that romantic notion of Great Britain is what makes people Anglophiles in the first place. It's an annoyance of mine that the unintiated only see this side of Britain, and based on that think it must be a wonderful place packed with quaint villages full of thatched roofed houses and reserved people drinking tea, pinkie finger extended. There is plenty of that, yes, and it is such a huge part of why it is such a great place. However, there are flaws, just like any country, but the floaws that I find are just too insurmountable for me at this point in time.

I live in a big city, so I know that any negativity I perceive is enhanced by the claustrophic nature of city living. This is a culture of drinking. People live for the weekend, when the primary objective is to get completely wasted - unabashedly pissing in the streets and vomiting on the sidewalk. On a Monday walk to work I am likely to pass at least 4 splatters of puke, which offsets the numerous expanses of mosaiced window glass from car break-ins quite nicely. I'm all for enjoying life, but is it so hard to pull yourself together and save the release of bodily fluids for the bathroom at home? Lest you think this behaviour is reserved for the dark hours, I only wish it was. I see drunken, loutish idiots clutching cans of beer stumbling down the road at 9am, 1pm, and 5pm on most days. I live on a nice street with a cluster of £500,000 homes (not my flat, I fear), yet still, there is that constant of a slice of life I, let alone my daughter, do not want to see.

I worry taking P up to the shop at the end of our street for a pint of milk. Inevitably, we are surrounded by groups of loud obnoxious kids shouting obscenities at people just walking buy, or drunks whipping out their business so they can relieve themselves on cars. Other than walking to work and running in the evenings, I don't feel comfortable walking on my own. I avoid large groups of chavs (I'm sorry, I know it's painfully politically incorrect, but this is what they are - at work, domain of the polite, we refer to them as "the locals") because they will either shout rude things or ask me to buy them fags.

I am aware that this just sounds like someone complaining about any city's problems, but I think it's a problem endemic within British culture at large, certainly not relegated to big cities. Yes, I could move out of a city into a nice market town, but for the most part I would have to resort to the sex industry as mentioned in my previous post in order to finance this. Moving up North due to its less expensive nature was suggested by more than one person, and it is something we considered in the past. I personally think the gap in cost of living between North and South has narrowed greatly within the past ten years, and it's not the financial cure-all it once was.

In regard to cost of living and what we could afford, it does come back to my own need to live the kind of life which has resided in my brain all of this time. I grew up in a big(ish) house, had a yard over an acre, and miles of nature to explore. I so desperately want this for P. Even up North this is hard to find within our price range combined with an ideal location. I love the space the US affords, and I think regardless where you go in the UK, that inherent sense of claustrophobia exists. I don't doubt that this is my Americanness coming through, but I suppose it's only natural that a shred of it remains.

Those are pretty much the only reasons I want to relocate - no more drunken, destructive chavs, and a nice big house with land. Yes, yes, drunken miscreants exist everywhere, but there is more scope in the US from getting away from all of that if you choose your locations wisely. In my nearly 7 years of living here, I always have the impression that the undesirables are only a street corner away. This is where my snobbiness steps in, because yes, I want to shelter P from all of that. The "real" world is a great place which we need to be aware of, but not in the form of having to grow up too fast if you don't have to. I'm all for shielding her eyes for as long as I can. She will have the rest of her life to realise all of the crazy and disgusting shit that goes on in this world.

Just in case anyone pigeonholes me as an anti-British expat who is socially right of the Daily Mail, my list of things I'll miss vastly outweighs the things I won't. Living here has granted me a world view I wouldn't have gotten any other way. I always thought I was so open-minded and unpatronising until I moved here, when I realised how very wrong I was. I have grown so much, and what I have learned will no doubt remain with me and keep me defined as the Ameribrit I feel I have become even if my location changes.

Much as I love my American television shows, the British do factual, news and original programming like no one else. Even after all of this time I shake my head in amazement at having a primetime show on Baroque art on a main channel, frank news discussions whose aim is to make everyone uncomfortable with the truth, or a hilarious, mostly high-brow quiz show hosted by the world's most brilliant man. Just tonight I have been watching NewsNight Review (which has no US parallel, I'm sorry), followed by Jools Holland, because as you know mama likes her some fresh new music.

I will miss the media here in general. I'm already working on a way to regularly obtain my heart in written form - The Guardian. Some days I lay naked on its newsprint in the hopes I will absorb its amazingness. Nothing yet. I didn't think it was possible to love a newspaper as much as I do this one.

I will miss the people. The non-drunk, criminal ones, that is. I'm much more suited to the reservedness of British culture than the American need to have a constant conversation with everyone you meet. I don't do small talk, so in a country such as this which is a black hole for such trivialities, I'm in heaven. When I'm back in the US I am severely unnerved by fellow patrons in line that talk to me unprovoked. I'm sure I come off as socially retarded or immensely arrogant, but I just cannot cope with that rubbish.

I will miss the weather. Yes, you heard me correctly. The rain, the overcast skies, the wind - I love it all. An ideal meteorological day for me is dark skies, a hint of drizzle, and a temperature of about 48 degrees. Those people who get seasonal affective disorder because of the lack of sun - weirdos. I have the opposite, though I suppose it would still be called the same thing. Too many days of sunshine and warmth and I'm looking for a blackout blind and an ice box.

The most controversial thing I will miss is the NHS. Again, yes, that's what I really said. I think it's brilliant, and all of those American knee-jerkers ranting about an impending socialist society because of Obama's healthcare plans should know of what they speak before they cast judgments. I had to make an appointment last minute this morning for the doctor to prod P's gross foot, and by 11am I had a prescription for an antibiotic and some lotion which cost me absolutely nothing. My crazy pills? They cost me about £8($12)/month. Yes, we all know the problem I had getting those blasted pills in the first place, but that was down to the specific GP's philosophies rather than any fault on behalf of the NHS. My labour and childbirth were amazing and just what I wanted - the only people present in the room were The Dude, a midwife, possibly me, and eventually P.

I'm sure if it wasn't nearly 1am I could come up with more things, but I shall just need to bore you with them another day. My love/hate letter to Britain here is something I have wanted to do for awhile, particularly as the day we leave is drawing nearer and nearer. Well, that is, if my people (ie Americans) can give my ass a j-o-b. My hopefully-not-shit resume was just submitted last night at this time, so fingers crossed kiddos. If I find myself back in PA, I would be lying if I said I wasn't way too excited at the notion of being close to so many much-loved blogging friends of mine. Not Statia though, she swears too much. That's just tasteless.

11 comments:

Caro said...

Oh I'm with you on the space thing - I grew up with nearly 2 acres to run around in and anything less seems small. I'm kind off resigned to the fact that baby T will only get that when visiting his grandparents though.

Betty M said...

I fantasise about the big rambling house with big rambling garden and safe, outdoorsy life for the kids. It is achievable in the UK with affordable sums of money but the places where it is are not necessarily the places with the jobs (I'm thinking rural Lincolnshire, Northumberland, bits of Derbyshire, North Wales, bits of the South West, rural Scotland etc). If you are both in the university sector it should be easier than for some given they are all over the place.

But you are lucky in a way as you have great choices - you have here, the US and Canada - you will find the right place in one of those for sure. It may take a bit of moving about before it is the right place but speaking as a child who moved about a bit myself P wont mind in the slightest even if you find it wearing.

I am totally with you on the chav culture - I don't understand it at all. Where do they get this sense of entitlement to be vile and crass without ever showing any decency to anyone else?

Oh and I'd read wherever you are located just had lousy coverage in the Isle of Wight (which would tick a lot of the lovely places to be a kid in boxes too).

Molly said...

I understand.

And look forward to having you in the same country as me, even if we will still never see each other because you won't venture anywhere where the temperature is warmer than 60.

You may like Louisiana for a few days in January, however.

OvaGirl said...

it's something too about places and situations we can tolerate pre-child I think. Good luck with it Pru xx

Eva said...

If you end in in PA, stay away from this college town -- because your description of drinking sounded a lot like living in a college town! =) I used to always want to move back to a US city, but now post-kids I definitely am happy to be in a smaller (though clearly not perfect) place.

Lut C. said...

It will be funny to hear P speak with another accent after a little while. You'd better tape her now, so you can let her hear later. :-)

wheelsonthebus said...

the alcohol culture is very different in the uk. we once found a pile of feces with a thong on top on the sidewalk.

Magpie said...

I hope your resume goes over swimmingly.

nutsinmay said...

Fingers crossed for you.

Oh God, the British thing with drunkenness. Ugh. UGH. I grew up in Italy, where getting drunk is considered an embarrassing, stupid, ugly thing to do. How I loathed British teenagers when I was sent to school over here.

I also grew up with SPACE - a large farm in the mountains, surrounded by ruralness and with views of more mountains, where you could walk for hours without meeting a soul, and climb trees and fall out of them again. I now live in a flat the size and shape of a railway carriage, though luckily it smells nicer than a railway carriage, and no garden, and I wonder, sometimes, do I mind? Answer, no, not really, but I WOULD IF I HAD A KID. So.

I'll miss you if you go though. It'll be so much harder to just, suddenly, one day, turn up at your place of work and monopolise your lunch-break. For I totally intend to do that one day. Oh yeah.

Oooh, ooh, word verification is 'phases'.

erinberry said...

You may know this already, but the Scottish equivalent of a "chav" is a "ned", and boy are they prevalent there.

It was interesting reading this post, because when John and I got engaged we had to decide where to live: the US or the UK. The contrast in affordability of housing was one of the biggest reasons we chose the US; we have a five bedroom home in a nice neighborhood here for the same price a very small two-bedroom flat would cost in a not-great area of Glasgow. And I do get claustrophobic in average sized British flats or semi-detached homes like my mother-in-law's, not just because of the size but the fact that every room is typically separated from other rooms with a door, even living rooms. I grew up in an open-plan 60s ranch on 3/4 acre.

The weather and darkness also figured into our decision in a big way. I'm not like you in that sense: Constant gray, wetness, and cold depresses me, but not nearly as much as the darkness in winter does. John, too, was anxious to go somewhere where sunshine was not a novelty.

Incidentally, my mother-in-law arrives from Scotland tomorrow for a two-week holiday! She's going to be thrilled with the weather we're having.

erinberry said...

P.S. I agree about the NHS. I've gotten UTIs during two of my trips to the UK, and both times I was seen right away for free and only had to pay 5 pounds for antibiotics... And I'm a foreigner!