I have secured an NHS dentist.
The gate agent in Manchester asked me if he could move my seat, but promised I’d still be by a window. Even better, he said I’d have the row to myself this way. As the child of an airline employee, I try to be as accommodating as possible when people need to adjust things.
Unfortunately, my empty row was quickly taken over by a couple with absolutely no sense of personal space. My first clue was when they decided they needed five seats (yes, five) between them. I marveled as the wife settled in on the two seats to my left and proceeded to put her bare feet up, wedged between the seats, resting on the armrests in front of her. A while later, she curled up on the seats and I leaned into the wall, hoping to avoid her naked toes, which she kept bumping against me. Later in the flight, I returned from the bathroom to find her sleeping on the armrest between our seats, her head and hair hanging all over my seat. She seemed genuinely surprised that I had returned and might want to sit there.
Meanwhile, her husband sat in the center seat, across the aisle, with his bags on the seats to his right and left. I still can’t figure out why he, who was clearly awake, didn’t sit next to me and give his wife three seats, since she was obviously hell-bent on napping, but hey, jerks are jerks. These were among the jerkiest of jerks in all the flights I’ve ever been on, and because I’m petty, I lied and told them I had no pen when it was time to fill out our landing cards.
On the way back, my row-to-myself was commandeered by a woman from Manchester. She has been living in the states, in a town near my mom’s house, for about fifteen years. I managed to avoid talking to her much until breakfast was served, but there was no escaping then. We had some interesting chats about living in each other’s hometowns. She couldn’t understand why anyone would choose England over America; I waver still sometimes but mostly feel the opposite. We shared stories about how much we hated the weather after we first moved. She still hates the snow. I still hate the rain. She loves that Americans are so easy to talk to and never make a show about discussing the weather. I love that Brits err on the side of minding their own business. I noticed us doing that same kind of conversational dance that I often notice between brits and americans, but backwards: she’d complain loudly about something and I would quietly try to find something nice to say, while gritting my teeth and wishing I could escape without being rude. When she launched into a story about how her husband is disgustingly rich and she can’t believe how small her (two) seat(s) were because they ALWAYS travel business class, I went back to reading my book.
Plane-buddy roulette is a very interesting game.
Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson
I have finally gotten around to reading this. I always meant to before but I was busy doing it.
In the UK, people love soft boiled eggs, so while you are there, go shopping for egg cups. There are a million styles of them and you can even buy egg cozies to go with them.
In the states, you can get special trays for serving deviled eggs, something I haven’t seen in the UK yet, but find everywhere here. I picked up a combo relish/deviled egg tray at an antique shop last night for $8.
Also at the antique shop were glass cloche domes for the garden, just like the ones that retail for $80 in the Pottery Barn catalog, selling for $20 each. It’s killing me that there is no good way to get them home and no time even to put those suckers on eBay. Ah, cheap American antiques! I miss you!
I am just a couple days from the end of my trip to Illinois, and I’m enjoying something I almost never get in the UK: thunder and lightning. It’s even better here at my mom’s house because her back room has a metal roof. It’s loud. It rains ALL THE TIME at my house in NW England, but almost never with this kind of resolve. In England, it just kind of spits at you and carries on.
I’ve had a pretty good visit home. As always, it’s obvious to me that I no longer belong here, but this time, I haven’t been sad about it. I’ve even felt kind of amused sometimes at how out of touch I am with life in the Chicago burbs. I’ve been accused several times of having a British accent, and of being too gentile for the neighborhood now. I saw two guys get in a fight about speaking Spanish, and wondered what they’d think if I mentioned that one of my favorite things about being home is hearing Spanish spoken in so many places. At the big thrift store here, they do all the announcements twice, once in each language. I was never fluent in Spanish, even when I lived in Barcelona for a while, but I know enough to pick up the general meaning.
I ate lots and lots of burritos and went to a St. Patrick’s day party. I caught up with a girlfriend I haven’t seen in about seven years and got filled in on what everyone has been doing since high school. (Having kids, mostly.) I bought an iPad, a dough bowl, and resisted the urge to load up on cute sundresses, knowing I will not get much use out of them now that ‘scorcher’ is no longer a good adjective to describe my weather in July. I tried to sit on the wrong side of the car. I explained the Eurovision song contest. I explained how tiny my house is, and followed it up with, “no, really, you don’t understand. That will never fit.”. Similarly, I explained over and over that I don’t live anywhere near London. I didn’t use cash once. I carried tea bags in my purse and asked for hot water a lot. I wondered if everyone was always this loud. I saw someone do the mitten map when discussing a location in Michigan.
Tomorrow, I’m hoping to do some last minute shopping (hello, exchange rate working in my favor finally) and catch up with my brother for some Chicago style pizza. I can’t believe Giordanos went out of business. I’m also hoping to squeeze in some good old american pancakes, too. I miss pastry as a breakfast option!
Things I am looking forward to in England: my dog, my cooking, my husband, and the ability to do most everything without a car.
I got singled out and searched at the airport this morning. Seems the foil wrappers on the box of Tunnocks tea cakes looked funny on the X-ray, ha!
I am going to Chicago for a few weeks on Monday and made sure to stop today to get some of my favorite tea, lest I have to go without it while I’m away.
My paperwork was all approved and I got my greencard today! I got it twice, actually, because they spelled my name wrong on the first one. Now I have two in my passport - one that has CANCELLED stamped all over it, and the proper one. I bet it causes confusion for every border crossing in the foreseeable future!
I think I was more nervous than when I got married. It’s so hard to explain sometimes but I feel like all I have done for three years is wait for this day to come, so I could feel OK about settling in here and building a life for myself. I know that’s a very pessimistic stance, but I’ve never been able to shake that feeling that any day, they could just send me back if they felt like it. I need people to explicitly give me permission for things, rather than to imply it.
For my last visa, I had to have a sponsor (Mr. Tea) who would promise to feed and house me and make sure I’m not using up public money or making a nuisance of myself. If your sponsor divorces you, you have to leave immediately. If your sponsor dies, you will have to argue for your right to stay and continue the life you had planned together. Love it or leave it, there is no third direction until you get your greencard, at which point the world opens up and any choices you make to stay or leave or move are wholly your own again.
In practice, this changes absolutely nothing for me, but it means a lot in my mind.
Mr. Tea was looking for the building number today in Liverpool and I laughed and said just to look for whichever one had all the funny looking immigrant types coming out of it. In a bunch, it’s pretty hard to miss our myriad of features against the pale english types strolling up the pavements.
Through the metal detector we were sat in a very crowded room full of families. There were only a small handful of couples making a bid for permanent residence. Everyone else was there seeking asylum. Basically, this makes them refugees. To ask for asylum, you must have left your country and be able to prove you are unable to return for fear of persecution, torture or inhuman or degrading punishment. Only 19 out of every 100 people applying for asylum get it. Another 9 out of those hundred will be granted residency on a humanitarian basis.
The other 62 get sent back.
I had a good five hours in the queue today, and I spent it looking around at these people and wondering what their lives were like before they came to the UK. How did they get here? They must have been very brave, to come to a place so different and far away and expensive. I complain a lot about the costs and heartaches of moving to a new country, but I did so entirely by choice. I cannot imagine coming here under other circumstances. I’m so very lucky. Lucky to have been born where I was, with what I had, and lucky to have had a path strewn with good people all along the way. Lucky, lucky, lucky and grateful for it.
My little sister asks, “What are Boots points?”
Boots is basically like a Walgreens. You get a loyalty card, which earns points when you shop. Except UK loyalty cards are actually cool, and actually reward you for shopping. US loyalty cards usually just earn you good coupons/vouchers, but if you earn enough Boots points, you can just spend them like actual cash.
A Nectar card is the same idea, only it’s accepted at about a billion places, like Amazon, Ebay, Sainsbury’s (groceries). I can even get Nectar points for paying my gas bill, and I do! And double points for where I have my home insurance.
See, the mere fact that I can explain this to a curious american who has no idea what I’m talking about should mean I get to stay.
We decided once here that the real test for citizenship should be that when you walk into the UKBA office, they ask if you want tea, then make it wrong on purpose. If you complain, you fail. If you drink it politely and pretend like nothing is wrong, you’re in!
Instead of doing all this nonsense immigration paperwork and making a million copies of stuff to prove that you’ve been living together at the same address for the last two years, you will simply present your Nectar and/or Boots Card and statements to show you’ve accumulated enough points for a small spaceship.
There is no way a human being could have as many Boots points as I do without actually living here for two years. None.