It’s been 11 months since we returned to the UK. You can call me a math/maths genius if you like, but I figure that’s nearly a whole year. And repatriation is complete (apart from calling a ‘take-away’ a ‘take-out’ today, but these things will crop up every now and then….. 😉 ).
It’s been a while since my last post, and stuff sure has happened, like British politics went into meltdown, I went back to America-land for a week, Andy Murray won the tennis, I got annoyed about the small UK parking spaces, we encountered half term M5 traffic to Cornwall, the England football team confirmed they were shite, we watched outdoor Shakespeare covered in blankets, and it rained quite a bit.
So, yes, I took a trip back to America-land. I wanted to do it before that looney-toon Trump got his hands on it and I had to give a stool/hair/saliva sample before I entered the country to prove I was not a terrorist or related to one or about to give birth to one or whatever.
Anyway, the whole week was hot, fun and American. That’s how I’ll remember a lot of my experience in the USofA. The travel, the people, the endless cultural experiences, turning right on red, and tipping extortionately 😉 . America captured my heart and there is so much of it yet unseen; so many roadtrips and experiences for us still to have in the States – I’m not done with you get, Uncle Sam! Mark my words!
Baltimore – a city I am incredibly fond of
Back at the pool of dreams
And back in the UK, life moves on with pace and Britishness. I remember thinking when I left America I wouldn’t be able to capture the essence of all that I had done and achieved out there. But, I was wrong. America taught me many things, and one of those was to not be afraid, to chase that dream, to make it happen, to open your eyes and your heart to new experiences, and to bloody well get on with it. Nuff said.
And are there things that still baffle me about being back in England?
Of course. Things like this…..
The M5. Why does everyone go on it at the same time? Annoying.
Pasties. Cornwall or Devon?
Sunday closing for shops. 4pm. Is that still church rules?
England football team. Why?
British politics. WTF?
Trains to London from the West Country take forever. Rubbish.
And there are things I love about the UK like this…..
Eavesdropping in Waitrose
Wimbledon (the only reason I will ever sit inside on a sunny day)
Tea. Tea. Tea
And there are things I miss from the USA like this……
Old Bay Seasoning
Thanksgiving dinner/piss up
Eating out with your kids in the evening and not being frowned at
The big roads
Turning right on red
People commenting on how much they love my accent
My Americana buddies!
But, the repatriation is complete. When there is no more culture shock, no more truly comparing and contrasting the cultural differences, then you know you’re back in it. And really that’s all this UK Desperate Housewife from the USA to the UK has to say about that!
It’s been a joy to share my journey there and back again. Thanks for reading.
You might not care one way or the other that my reparation from America to England musings ceased to exist for a few months. The reason behind my lack of musings is kind of a good thing (I’ve been really busy with work) and kind of a bad thing (normality has set in).
A recent returned expat who we spent a lot of time with in the States asked me this week ‘when does the homesickness end?’. And, to be honest, I don’t think it ever does. (Note the use of ‘home’….. interesting.)
The thing is, you can immerse yourself in it all back here, (I am doing just that), and some kind of normal gradually takes over, but every day a wave of memory sweeps over me, and I think ‘Gawd, it was good…..’ It was effing good.
But, what’s been a-diddling in the land of Eng that’s worth noting?
It’s been three months folks since the cold February blog and apparently there’s a heat wave coming (about flippin’ time!), folks.
Right, in no particular order…….
May Bank Holiday was wet. Of course it was. What was I expecting?! It was made slightly more annoying by Facebook’s constant reminders that I was in the Bahamas with my lush chum Georgina this time last year.
We had the races in Cheltenham. Again. I don’t really do the races in Cheltenham. To be fair, this goes against my mantra of not knocking anything until you’ve tried it, but I’ve seen it, and it has a) crowds; b) drunk people in the crowds; and c) drunk people in crowds betting on horses. The only reason I would go is to buy HihoSilver jewellery, cos its lush.
I interviewed Jordan/Katie Price. She’s one of the most famous British Page 3 girls (ie, she has big knockers/tits). She was actually really nice, feisty and a good sport. And her tits were a bit disappointing, to be honest. (She had them reduced, I was later told.)
That’s Katie/Jordan on the left 🙂
This week is Chelteham Jazz Festival when all the good people who adore Radio 2 come and listen to doo-wop and Jamie Cullum. It was pretty coolio. I’d never done the festival before, and I was impressed. Sign me up for next year. (PS If anyone knows why this bullet point is over there on the right, let me know – it’s doing me head in!!)
I’ve been playing a lot of netball. Don’t make me explain that again, America 😉
I saw the Dixie Chicks in Birmingham. I wore a cowboy hat cos it’s supposed to be like country music, innit (though give me Johnny Cash any day). No one else wore a cowboy hat. It was the first time that I really noticed the difference between Americans and the British. Americans aren’t afraid to express themselves. In America, I would have been in the majority dressed like that and we’d have been rocking it. In England, I just looked like a bit of a dick in fancy dress. I also noticed, not for the first time, that British people are really uncomfortable wooping. And even if they do woop, they apologise for it.
Victoria Wood, my very queen of British comedy died. I used to use her Bikini Danfruff monologue as my audition speech for drama school. Amazing, she was.
The Queen turned 90. I was very disappointed. Wot no party, queenie? #shameonyoubuckinghampalace
Game of Thrones is shown here on a Monday night, unlike the USA’s Sunday night featurette. Lucky buggers. I now have to avoid all my American friend’s posts on Facebook for a whole like 16 hours or something ike that. Anyway, do not do SPOILERS, chums – it’s rude!
The Rolling Stones exhibition in London is amazeballs. It was like a litlte piece of heaven for me. I love these British boys. Slightly even more obsessed now, and worried that they’ll die before I get to see them live.
Rock chick at heart!
I’m doing a lot of BBC chat here in Gloucestershire. Recently we talked about what vegetables you keep in your fridge. Fascinating stuff!
People I meet in the UK think Donald Trump is a total looney toon. Of course they do! We Brits don’t tolerate his shenanigans.
We have local elections here soon. People are very concerned about potholes in the roads, apparently. Serious stuff.
I am going to play Mrs Robinson in The Graduate in August. I hope to do it in an American accent. Although I do tend to sound a bit like a drunk southern belle at times, so my American chumbelees told me….
My American friends often call me early morning UK time. That’s like 2am their time. Love them.
My friend Simon Sheridan, who is like a top banana film writer and director, made a film called Respectable: The Mary Millington Storyand I went to the London premiere in Soho, which was like the most exciting thing I’ve done since I’ve been back. And the film is incredible. And it’s available on Netflix in the UK and the USA, so if you want to learn about the British national treasure and the 70s porn industry, you know what to watch. I highly recommend it.
Simon and me with David Sullivan, who is the West Ham dude and top bloke 🙂
Harry loves pasties. Yes, this great British food from the county of Cornwall (or Devon, depending on who you ask). It’s a fave!
I was in the Boots magazine, and got advice about how not to be tired at weekends. Don’t go out so much, I suspect my mother would say!
What a dreadful skirt!
That’s all folks! I won’t leave it as long next time, promise! x
I admit, I’ve been thinking a lot about America recently. I even specifically watched a bunch of American film clips so that I could see the landscape and the cities, and all that jazz that I love, the other week.
But, no denying, there’s a touch of Spring in the English air and that means the flowers are a’blooming, and the land is looking very green and very pleasant indeed. Not being one to turn down an invitation to visit a new place, Harry and I merrily turned up at the Rococo Gardens near Painswick in Gloucestershire with a spring in our step and a wish of wonderment.
If you didn’t know (and I didn’t, really) rococo is a style of art and architecture originating in in France and Italy in the early 1700s. The Hyett family who owned the very British Painswick House and the gardens translated that into a vision in this rather amazing garden. It’s all fabulously fanciful, with breathtaking views, a kitchen garden, secret buildings, mazes and winding paths. And people flock here for the bluebells in Bluebell Walk and the snowdrops in Snowdrop Grove.
Harry declared it ‘delightful’. I thought it wonderous, captivating, enchanting.
The daffs are out!
Capturing the European essence
‘I love this land’
I think I might ask to take up residence here and write my Gothic/romantic novel. It’s such a unique, extravagant, pure setting – all rolled into one experience. One moment you’re in the heart of nature looking at a sea of snowdrops, the next you’re weaving your way through a sculpted maze. It’s an eclectic mix of ostentatiousness with its frivolous buildings, alongside the wonder of nature with its careful planting bringing attention to the resident trees and flowers.
Look through the flamboyance of it all and the views are incredible. Harry muttered ‘I love this land’ as he breathed in the vista from the top of the garden.
Yes, England, you are magnificent. And it still surprises me how many people in Gloucestershire have yet to visit these things so close to home. ‘I keep meaning to go there…’. I hear that a lot. Don’t say it, don’t procrastinate peeps. Do it. And definitely go and visit Rococo Gardens, because your heart will leap with joy at this fascinating spectacle right on your doorstep.
And for those Americans, or Brits in America, who keep asking for more photos of special places such as this in the UK – it’s my pleasure 😉
When I first read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men it was about 1989 and I was aware only of an America that was relentlessly feeding me the likes of Dynasty, the A Team and Baywatch. This novel was an eye- and mind-opening antidote to all that nonsensical wotnot.
This was the real America that I held in my hands, and this book, along with To Kill a Mockingbird, truly opened my eyes not only to a culture and history that fascinated me, but they both also allowed me to have an opinion about stuff. I was given free rein to discuss racism, women’s roles in society, and the nature of humankind. Wow, this was all the stuff that I wasn’t allowed to discuss at meal times at home and I flippin’ well loved it. My brain was in overdrive with this book, as I lapped up the American scenery of North California, the American colloquialisms, and the pursuit of the American dream.
So, when this show appeared at the Everyman in Cheltenham I just had to go and see it, to find out if the novel I loved could be translated into a stage play and still have the same impact on me. This adaptation of Of Mice and Men did not disappoint.
George and Lenny
Having returned from my own modern-day pursuit of the American dream, I was keen to hear American accents again, and I wanted to feel for a few hours like I was back in the USA, albeit in a 1930s California in the midst of the depression. Gosh I miss America, and to hear the opening bluegrass music elevated my soul, placing me right where I wanted to be. A simple, but evocative set, it was the backdrop for a 2 hour journey of emotions.
The moment those two guys come on stage, you’re pulled in by George and Lenny. I think we all know must have come across or known a Lenny at some point in our lives. I bet every single person in that audience was recollecting how they treated their own Lenny…
And that’s the beauty of The Touring Consortium Theatre Company and Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s stage play, directed by Roxana Silbert. It’s simple, uncomplicated acting presenting the words and narrative that John Steinbeck created, pushing you gently at first to engage and make assumptions, and then to have those assumptions pulled away from under you. It makes you think and we all need to do that at some point.
I tried not to assess the play as a GCSE student, but since half the audience were teenage kids who were obviously all studying the book, I began to wonder how they were interpreting the themes. I remember from those hazy GCSE days that the theme of loneliness was key, as well as vulnerability. I began to remember my thoughts from then….how does George treat Lenny, really? The commentary on these intertwined roles is complex throughout the performance, with moments of compassion and frustration, bullying and responsibility from George and such fascinating innocence from Lenny. The actors handled the relationship superbly.
I wish I had not known the ending [SPOILER ALERT]. I was more acutely aware of lines such as ‘you broke it by petting it’ and ‘I just want to feel her dress’. The foreshadowing in Steinbeck’s words were lingering in the audience by those who knew what was to occur, but we all were captivated, perhaps holding out hope that the ending had changed. FYI, it hadn’t.
I totally bought into George and Lenny’s dream. The more they said it, the more I believed it could be true. It’s like the stuff all the success coaches will tell you – if you visualise it, it will happen. Except, it also might not….
One of the lines that resonated with me was George’s ‘You feel free when you ain’t got a job and you ain’t hungry’. I thought about this for a long time after. How is that possible? It must be possible for someone. Then I realised my focus was also on how much I love an American double negative. Only cowboys and Elvis can really get away with them, and they absolutely work in this play because of the true-to-form American dialect, so don’t nobody say otherwise….. [see what I did there?!] It’s still uncomfortable to hear the N word, though. That will never sit right.
I love an orchestrated and choreographed set change by the cast to music and I nearly had to applaud how expertly this was done. It was a joy to see Dudley Sutton (yes, Tinker from Lovejoy!) cast as old Candy. He’s almost as old as his dog, wonderfully played by the grey-muzzled Bentley, a local dog who had to audition for the role. We melted as he sniffed out the snacks in the audience and cried our hearts out when he left.
Now, let’s talk American accents, and I have no legs to stand on here, because my American friends all said that my accent tended to travel from the Deep South, all the way up to Boston, and settle drunkenly in Philly. I was not consistent, unlike these cast members. Lenny’s (Kristian Phillips) was spot on and George’s (William Rodell) didn’t falter (once he’d got his tongue round those tricky vowel pronunciations), but Curly appeared to have spent some time in the Bronx. He was bringing on the gangster somewhat, but it kind of worked for the role of the absolute terror that Curly is. Candy might also have lost his accent slightly somewhere in the Atlantic, but who cares –it’s flippin’ Tinker!
Dudley Sutton as Tinker
And back for a moment to my audience. There’s nothing more amusing than seeing a bunch of British teenage boys blush and flick their hair and snigger in embarrassment at the line about Curly’s hand staying soft in his glove of Vaseline for his wife’s sake. Gotta love that line, unless you’re a 15 year old boy at the theatre with your teacher….
George and Lenny is like a bromance of sorts. God love those boys! You know it’s all going to go haywire when it is declared the ranch they get to ‘ain’t no good place’. But, selfishly hooray for me, there are cowboys! And I am a sucker for a cowboy. Slim got my vote as the hot one on the ranch – he can buck his barley in my direction anytime. 😉
But here I am using my coarse English humour to avoid the matter at hand. And that matter is those boys, and especially that big guy and ‘nice fella’ Lenny who just wants to live off the fat off the land and tend to his rabbits. Gawd, the dream speech got me with its beautiful simplicity. It’s the American optimism that I love to hear, just woefully and tragically misplaced, and sensitively performed, in this play.
The issue of women is a tough one in Of Mice and Men. Initially, we view Curly’s wife as a bad person and a tart – in fact, we are told as much. But the truth is much deeper than that. Like Lenny, like George, like Crooks, she is lonely – in fact the loneliest of all, potentially. They are all rejects in their own way, and this is illustrated and performed in a spiritual way by each character. I struggle with the role of women in what I call the ‘olden days’. What kind of life did women have back then? It angers me, and saddens me, but Saoirse-Monica Jackson brought some much-needed depth to the unnamed character of Curly’s wife. So significant that she has no name, and yet she has such a big, American, Hollywood dream that lies unfulfilled.
And then Crooks, showcasing the racism of the time through his being ostracised from the men’s quarters. But he’s reading. Note that he’s reading – a subtle nod to how smart Crooks (Dave Fishley) is. A fella who’s pushed out of the society he lives in, but who has got his wits about him, I adored this performance, and his accent was like honey on pancakes. It’s he who is effectively at the bottom on the heap in this play, but he’s learned to manage his status. Society ranks those that it casts out – Crooks, Curly’s wife, Lenny, George are all in this jumbled pyramid of outcasts.
My view is that every child and every adult in every land should read this book and see this magnificent stage play. It should be law. Read it, see it, think about it. What would you do? How could you apply the positive leaning from it in every facet of your life and grow a better, more tolerant, appreciative, understanding society? How and why do we judge so and from where is hatred born?
Of Mice and Men show is powerful, and tear jerking, and all credit to the cast for evoking such emotion. Those were real tears on stage and in the audience. Yes, be warned, there will not be a dry eye in the house.
The show runs in Cheltenham at the Everyman Theatre till 27 February and is then on tour across the UK. Spread the word #miceandmentour @TCTcompany @theatrecloud
Turn off the TV and go and see this show, wherever you are.
This is my third installment in Cheltenham. It was the year of 2000 when we first landed in Cheltenham for my [then-boyfriend-now-husband’s] work. Sixteen years on, I am slowly beginning to understand this town, and, happily, to enjoy it. Woohoo!
We were young and slightly confused in 2000 – that is, confused about what we were supposed to do here, and who we were. We found ourselves at that awkward stage between being university students still and playing being grown up, and not actually knowing what ‘being grown ups’ meant. Oddly, I think we both thought it predominantly meant we should enjoy DIY. Truth is we didn’t, and we were also utterly crap at it!
Cheltenham town – it is kinda pretty ain’t it though?!
Anyway, the point is that we arrived in Cheltenham not very sure about who we were, nor what this provincial town had to offer. Coming from a diverse area of London, I was pretty blown away by the causal racism that was openly offered to me on my first night out. ‘Oh you’re from London. Lots of black people there. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I’m racist. It’s just we really don’t want them living here….’
This was 2000. Cheltenham was, I think, pretty pants then. I never really understood the place, and we never really connected. The town didn’t really know if it was a high street, a place to eat, a cultural venue, or a racing town. In turn, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I immersed myself in the local theatre scene, made some friends through work, and plotted my escape. We returned to London in 2004.
In 2007 we came back to the Cotswolds, avec baby. This time around, Cheltenham offered me new things and I was more in tune with my headspace. Things were-a-changing in Cheltenham, and I was glad to be along for the ride. It was cool, we had a good time, met some great people, and I played netball. We had grown up, and so had Cheltenham.
Then, boom! Off to the USA we decided to go. I get itchy feet and I needed to walk on some different grass for a while, and so three years in the States happened, and we relished every moment. How on earth would I cope coming back to suburban England? And, more specifically, back to Cheltenham….? I felt very, very apprehensive about coming back to the same place for the third time…..
Did I mention I loved living in the USA?!! 😉
But here now, in 2016, I think Cheltenham and I are in a good place together. We’ve matured, neither particularly gracefully, but we’ve found ourselves, and this time we’re connecting. I’m lucky to have work that allows me to socialise with diverse groups of people. I’m finding things out that I never knew existed and am part of networks that are welcoming and supportive. Cheltenham has grown culturally, and is, thankfully, much more diverse in its outlook. It’s definitely more exciting, more developed, more socially aware, and more socially responsible. And I’m beginning to enjoy rocking it in Cheltenham.
Rocking it in the Cotswolds this week are…..
Juicing in Cheltenham
One of my favourite things about the States were the juice bars. Oh yes, they were a ‘thing’ and were aplenty! However, I wondered if I would find somewhere to replicate my love of juicing, which, as you might know, is ultra-trendy for detoxing purposes.
Thankfully, smashing chap Dan Fivey owns a juice bar Not Just Juice in the lower high street in Cheltenham (more on that area of town in my next installment!) where you can order 1, 2 or 3 days of juicing online. I opted for two days of juices with the intention of flushing out the new year excesses.
Dan’s juices are designed to supercharge your body. You drink four juices a day and you can choose from, amongst others, Chunky Monkey: peanut butter and banana; Do the Splits: banana and strawberry; and Very Berry: blueberry, raspberry, strawberry. Delicious and delightful, and very detoxifying.
I, for one, am very glad there’s access to juicing here in Cheltenham. That’s progression, folks!
The Cotswolds Countryside
Ah, the English countryside in the Cheltenham/Cotswolds area! How do we love thee…?! Er, like loads!
These pics say it all!
Devil’s Chimney, Cheltenham
British boy in the British countryside
Closeness to Oxford
Oxford: possibly my most favourite town in the whole of the UK and only 50 mins from Cheltenham (note to hubby – yes, I’d like to live in Oxford one day!).
There is something about being in a university town that I just adore. Plus, in Oxford, when you sit in the University chapel café it’s very much like being on the set of University Challenge. I imagine. Another bonus is that it’s half way for me to meet my London chums!
So, one of the things that America loves about Britain – apart from The Queen, One Direction and the way we say ‘brilliant’ – is our good old fish and chips. I’ve seen and tried American variations of this British cuisine, but it never really had an impact on my tastebuds. Plus, fries just ain’t chips!
So, who’d have known that the home of the very best British fish and chips in the whole of the land is right here in little old Cheltenham?! See, I’ve repatriated to a town with a world-class chippy. Can’t beat that!
Simpsons – winners of the v best fish ‘n’ chips, innit!
Simpsons fish-and-chippers Bonny and James Ritchie are the delightful owners who believe that the best fish and chips should consist of good old, no nonsense natural ingredients… fish, potato and batter – that’s it! Their batter has no MSG, salt or bulking agents and absolutely no artificial colours or flavouring. That’s quality fish and chips, folks!
Haddock and chips 🙂
On our first weekend back here in Cheltenham our friends had us round for supper and were very excited to share Simpsons fayre with us. And rightly so – as far as fish and chips go, it really is the dog’s bollocks, as we Brits say 🙂 If any of you lovely American peeps ever come to stay, you know you’ll be eating here!
Chips and champers!
And the cheeky duo Bonny and James have appeared on the other British institution that is GMTV telling their story and sharing their success. Good for them – they’re a big name in town and last night they had a good old knees up in their very lovely chippy (wots been all done up and has a real 50s vibe) with all sorts of fish and chips to nibble on from their menu – and champagne of course, so that was a super special treat.
In fact, fish and chips and champagne needs to be a new British tradition, cos it rocks. 🙂
British things are all around me! I’m in the land of Englishness! And what kind of things have been totally British recently?
Well, loads of Americana chums have asked for pictures of old English-y stuff. You got it peeps!
Tewkesbury Abbey. It’s like super old.
An ice cream van selling Mr Whippy. In January. 🙂
A ha-ha wall. Cos when you fall off it and everyone goes ‘ha-ha’ 😉
An old pub. This doesn’t have TVs in the bar. Imagine that! 😉
Sticky toffee pudding – or stoffee ticky pudding as we call it 🙂
You are welcome, my friends!
I particularly hope this amuses my American and my British friends who are still snowed in in Maryland because of the snowstorm Jonas. Now that was a snow dump! We got the tail end of it today in the Cotswolds, apparently. But when it came to us, it was just rain. Lots of rain, naturally!
Whilst the genius that was David Bowie was referencing America in a different context in his iconic song, I can’t get this lyric out of my head. It’s a blend of his Britishness, his love of NYC, and his many references to America in his songs that have caught my imagination and perhaps inspired this essay. (You might need a cuppa for this one – it’s long, and slightly contentious!!)
Yep, this is UK that I am living in again and this is definitely not America.
And, during my time back in the UK I’ve noticed and listened to many British comments that make direct reference to the fact that they’re very happy that this country is not America. Whilst I’ve always acknowledged many of America’s failings that I experienced or was aware of, and alluded to some of its more odd, amusing or problematic characteristics through my blogDesperate English Housewife in Washingtonduring my three years there, I am still stunned when I hear Brits let rip at the USA and Americans.
Over the past five months I’ve heard many Brits comment with real negativity about the country and its people. Yes, there is a slightly racist brush which we Brits feel it’s okay to sweep across America.
Oh, I get how the brashness and the commercialism and the bright lights and the fear of those middle States taking over the politics might be a cause for concern, or how ripe certain topics are for scrutiny and that these naturally and legitimately can bear the brunt of our very British wit and sarcasm, but there is also often a real condescending, superior tone from many Brits which I’ve witnessed, especially when I say I used to live in the USA.
You know, that tone. The one that’s saved for looking down on someone who you think has got it wrong, someone who isn’t very classy, someone who doesn’t live up to your standards, someone who you think is dumb, or inferior. You know, that bullying tone.
And whilst it is very clear that, when America sticks its head above the parapet and does make great big dickhead mistakes, or is unjustly arrogant, or there are issues that we feel need to be resolved faster and with more balls – the gun issue, gay rights, race issues, or abortion (for instance) – the country does lend itself to general piss taking or mocking, or is a cause for concern in our modern society.
But, otherwise, what I hear is just bullying.
Yes, yes, I know the USA has positioned itself as a super power and is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and should take it all on the chin, but behind that facade, there are deep-rooted issues and vulnerability. But we Brits like to bring people down. It’s part of us, we say – that’s how we roll. Or is just tiresome and slightly xenophobic? Think about the most successful person on TV, or in your life, that you know – as a Brit, don’t you just love to bring them down? We don’t big them up, we don’t often say ‘you’re amazing, carry on being amazing!’. No, we don’t do that – or, at least, not enough. I bet many a Brit would be loathe to admit that they secretly don’t want that successful person to succeed. We naturally support the underdog – that’s the way we’re inclined. And America is not, nor would it want to be, the underdog.
Are we slightly jealous that once upon a time there was us, the British Empire, and then, well, there wasn’t….? Maybe that’s just history. But our relationship with America is complicated. We’re kind of cool to have you on our side and all that, but we laugh at your commercialism, and your CocaCola, and your obesity problem (Britain – we have one too, you know!), and your guns, and your ‘uneducated’ states in the middle that we don’t really know the names of but mock anyway. Yes, the sweeping stereotypes we like to place on America.
We Brits, with our heritage and culture and etiquette and constant nod to the age of ‘better days gone by’, do we see America as that ‘new money’ place? Is that how this one goes? Silly, immature America that got the money and built the big house, but which will never quite shape up to the expectation of our esteemed order, because it doesn’t ‘have history’ (I beg to differ), and it doesn’t, quite simply, have class (again, I beg to differ).
Don’t get me wrong, I love Britain and am very proud to be British. I love British culture, theatre, our sense of humour, popular music, art, London, the general cultural vibe – that’s my favourite thing about Britain. And I love America. I love its different cultures in one country, its embracing of arts, its genuine desire to better itself, its sense of politics, its new-worldness. And I love the two countries’ differences and their similarities, and I recognise both of their flaws. What I don’t love sometimes – and it really does grate – is the attitude that some Brits have to the USA and Americans, because it does reveal an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance.
There is a perception that all Americans are ill-informed about anything outside their own country, and pretty ignorant of where other countries are, and any facts about them. Of course this is going to be true in some areas – I liked to share facts about Europe and the UK in general with these peeps who didn’t have a vast knowledge. But, in truth, my knowledge about the USA was pretty minimal when I went there. I mean, it was mostly based on West Side Story, Fame!, The Wire,Dallas and Deperate Housewives, for goodness sake.
America is a big old country, and it still makes me smile when I hear the NATIONAL travel news on Radio 2 in the morning here in the UK, whilst in the States my Baltimore radio station would only do the traffic report for a certain length of the I95 (which goes from NYC to Florida) based in their immediate area. That’s just how it works. It’s a big place!
The American people that I met and hung out with on the East Coast were warm, friendly, very very smart, progressive, classy, educated, open-minded and intuitive. They created a fantastically spiritual, welcoming, intelligent environment for me to live in and I thrived on that.
Some of the comments that I’ve heard recently left my jaw hanging slightly. Yes, the crass open-gobness of a Brit who’s obviously been injected with some American non-culture. That’s me!
Many of the comments I’ve heard have been based upon media perceptions and ignorance, and possibly a mix of fear and snobbery.
‘Oh I don’t think I could cope with living in America.’
‘Have you ever been there?’
‘No, but I wouldn’t want to.’
‘Why’s that? I had a great time.’
‘I think it would be….too “American” for me….’
Who said ‘people fear what they don’t understand’?
They were right.
Some Brits actually appear quite horrified that I enjoyed living in America so much. In fact, they seem slightly disappointed and mortified that a fellow Brit feels this way, and no doubt come to the conclusion that I must have been taken there without consent and consequently brainwashed by some American cult. 😉
One fundamental difference about being there in the States and being back in the UK is realising just how much Americans love us Brits. They do. They flippin’ love us (most of them, anyway!). My American friends were always wanting to know more about Britain. Americans I met found us intriguing, they were always asking questions about us and about our culture (and not just Downton Abbey and One Direction and the Royal family!). The Americans I got to know welcomed me, brought me into their community, they were warm and friendly, and they made me feel I belonged. And, honestly, they made me feel special. Do we do this to Americans, British people – do we? Do we see or hear an American in our community and make them feel special? If not, we should.
David Bowie was right: this is not America. Right on. And you also know what, America is not Britain. And that’s why I was so very glad to live in America for a while. But now I really am glad to be back – and in part due to the fact that the positivity I enjoyed over there in the States is actually happening right here, right now, in my little bit of the world in Cheltenham, The Cotswolds. You see, much of the work ethic and philosophy that I’m experiencing in the business community in Gloucestershire, of which I am now part, is based on many very American sentiments. It’s all about making the change happen, living and fulfilling your dream, overcoming the hurdles, bigging up people and supporting their success, not drowning yourself and others in criticism, and networking and embracing new people and new ideas.
So, I’m glad to be back in the UK at what is a very positive, driven time – and it appears there has been an injection of American culture that’s making its mark in the UK, and, whether folks like it or not, I get the impression it is here to stay for a while!
Finally – don’t we tell ourselves, like we tell our kids, to accept everyone; that one way is not right and the other way is not wrong, but that they are just different…….? I like the sentiment about taking a moment to appreciate each other and our differences. We should do it more.
Truth: I have had a challenging relationship with the repatriation process over the past five months.
I’ve been saved from going completely doo-lally in many ways by being able to find joy in my work, writing, and sport. I’ve discovered and been able to reconnect with a bunch of people who are positive, full of energy, and spirit, and who harness the same aspirations as me – to live life fully and have adventure and who keep their values at the heart of what they do with open hearts and minds.
And I might sound like some nutjob hippy who’s come back from the USA to the traditions of Blighty, but as I have always maintained, my journey in America was a spiritual one, and what I learned there about others and myself is key to how I now approach my repatriation.
That said, I’ve not been able to write much about my repatriation recently. Positively, I’ve been wrapped up in my work, which I love, but on the other hand, I’m not sure what to write about anymore because I’m not sure how I feel about it all. I’ve read much about the repatriation process in order to understand it better.
‘But the deep, dark secret of the expat experience is that coming home – repatriation – can be even harder than leaving.’ Read more….
‘….an assignee’s [expat’s] experience abroad will change his or her outlook on life; similarly, events in the lives of friends and families may have changed them as well. Even assignees returning to their previous communities and old lifestyles find that things are somehow not quite the same as before. Generally, the longer people have been away, the longer it takes to feel completely at home on their return. It is easy to see how feelings of loneliness or isolation can set in. For many, it takes a full year of holidays and festivities before they feel fully re-established back home.’ Read more….
‘Re-entry to a country of origin can actually be more stressful than the outward transition.’
‘Repatriation is quite often not supported as seriously as the outbound transfer and even neglected.’ Read more….
Right now I’m all about inspirational quotes to boost me on my way through the repatriation fog.
The issue I feel with repatriating is that I always want to experience new things and when you are repatriating sometimes it feels like you’re going backwards, doing the same things that you did before. And right now I’m not sure those past elements feature in my new journey that I have a passion to forge ahead with. It’s a conundrum I’ll just have to work out.
2016 will breath life into my adventures with the British spring and summer round the corner – both super pleasant times of the year, which I am sure will give me more positive opportunities and adventures to blog about.
Well, certainly not the grumpy bloke at Cheltenham railway station who should so not be in customer service, that’s for sure. Or the old dude who thought that it was okay to tell me that anyone young/not white/has tattoos/ etc is not fit to be part of the British community, and that all Americans are fat and stupid, whilst in the Waitrose coffee line…..argh!
But, reassuringly, this week I’ve found some of the great Great British peeps who don’t use passive aggressiveness or rudeness as a communications tool. Yes, that really is a Very British Thing. 😉
The top banana peeps
I met a taxi driver in London who was so funny and friendly, I wanted to do another 40 minute trip in rush hour London traffic. Yes, really.
I met a bunch of women who didn’t care about material things and were bored to tears by Black Friday nonsense. Hallelujah to that!
I met a gentleman who was a poet, leukemia sufferer and all-round go-getter of life. He struck up conversation with me, which, let’s face it, Brits, is v v v unusual! It rather took me pleasantly by surprise 🙂
I met working women who are strong and fierce and work hard and want to do different things with their lives. They rock.
I met people who laughed and smiled and joked in the great British way I remember. We need more of that!
And I work with truly inspiring British people who love all things British and are as supportive and innovative as it gets. That’s a huge bonus 🙂
Talking repat language
I also met a British expat who had lived in the States for 8 years and was now back in the Cotswolds and was having a hard time adjusting to the British way of life again.
She spoke a language I understood. We spoke of the ‘grieving process’ of repatriating, the difficulty with friends whose lives have just gone on, the British reserve, the way kids are NOT accepted in social situations / restaurants, and how the mindset and lifestyle is totally different when you’re living in the USA.
Sigh, I can’t waffle on about this for too much longer, but it’s true, and there it is. The repatriation is still tough to get to grips with and it’s hard to always be positive, but I refuse to miss Uncle Sam and my life there too much!
Very British Christmas
Some friends in the States have asked me to share very British Christmas things.
So, here you go……
To be clear – none of the above is happening now! It’s basically just raining now. Grey skies and all that! But, British people are looking forward to this, and yes, it does look charming and idyllic, but if you followed my Desperate English Housewife in Washington blog you’ll know that snow totally messes with my head, so I’ll stick with the incessant rain for now!