There’s no place like home

For somebody who isn’t remotely patriotic, has no celebratory mugs bearing images of the Queen or Prince Edward, and wouldn’t be able to tell you which way up a Union Jack flag is meant to be even if you paid him, I have to say that ‘being British’ is something I enjoy and am proud of. OK, so I’m not willing to defend our violent colonial past, our role in the Iraq conflict or our responsibility for the meteoric rise of the Cheeky Girls, but on the whole I have to agree with Grand Lake Ink and her assertion that “I think I won the lottery of life being born British.”

Britain has many faults, regardless of who has political power at any given moment. And any country which has more votes cast for a pop talent show than for a general election should always consider a long hard look in the mirror. But it’s also an incredibly beautiful place, with (as one American friend once put it) “Roman shit and old stuff everywhere”. And there’s at least an attempt at a duty of care towards its people, which you can’t say about many countries.

Of course, being away from your homeland only heightens those feelings of affection. It’s not out of any lack of love for New York either – if any city can put you in a Christmas mood, it’s this one. But emigration kits come equipped with rose-tinted spectacles. If I was in the UK right now, I’d be moaning about the weather and bleating about the failures of the economic system. Instead, I sit on the subway dreaming wistfully of low-lying moisture laden clouds and fog, and an interest rate that’s at least above zero (for the moment, admittedly).

The strangest thing about not being in Britain is that it makes you pine for things you never bothered much with when you were there in the first place.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a biscuit as much as the next man. And the man next to me right now is called Mr McVitie. But back home I’d probably go six months without eating one, and certainly wouldn’t buy them in a supermarketgrocery store. Now I have vivid dreams involving custard creams and bourbon biscuits, and I’d kill for a Garibaldi.

Similarly, the Christmas spirit has me longing to go to a pantomime. I haven’t been to a pantomime since about 1987, when Angie from Eastenders played a thigh-slapping Aladdin alongside Derek Griffiths from Play School and Play Away at the Pavillion Theatre in Bournemouth. But right now, I’d be more than happy with a slapstick cry of “he’s behind you” and the last five minutes of fame for a Big Brother star from three years ago.

Earlier this week, the pangs reached a new low when I found myself in the kitchen making Cornish pasties from scratch. Without a recipe. I have never made Cornish pasties in my life. Love them though I do, they’re a convenience food that you pick up when you’re hungry. Making them yourself is much less convenient, let me tell you. Back home, there would be more chance of me eating pencil sharpeners than there would be of making my own Cornish pasties, but here it just seems like a perfectly natural thing to do.

Anyway, enough of this. I’m going to see Oasis tonight, and I’ve got no idea where I’ve put the tickets.

8 thoughts on “There’s no place like home

  1. Silverback

    I’m sure hearing a shout of “he’s behind you” is the last thing you want on the NY subway.

    “Oh yes it is………….”

    I’m 3 months into my 6 month winter trip here and don’t miss much in the food line…..well maybe jaffa cakes if I’m pushed. Oh and decent fish and chips, and maybe jammie dodgers – ok need to stop this now.

    But I agree with you on the instant patriotism thing though. I don’t normally ‘have it’ but when someone here so much as utters a Brit put down, I’m out with my lance and getting on my high horse…..neither of which are easy to store in Florida, I can tell you.

    If I don’t say it any other time, I wish you a very Happy Christmas and thank you once again for your informative, amusing and most enjoyable blog.

  2. Expat Mum

    Oh, no, you didn’t? Etc.
    But listen, if an American had said s/he had “won the lottery of life” being born in the USA (Hey, that’s a catchy title) we’d all be hurling into the nearest bin wouldn’t we? How come?

  3. Milo

    Is always interesting to read about it in others. I lived in the US (as a student) and also Japan (as my first job) and it’s always the same. Us British love nothing more than to moan incessantly when we’re on our own shores, but take us off our island and we pine for the motherland and all that goes with it.

    Is an interesting phenomenon.

  4. Apsidal

    What I miss – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – is High Streets. I love knowing what shop I should go to and knowing that it will be there. I love being in a shopping environment where virtually every shop is relevant to my life (as opposed to North American malls where every store only has relevance if you are living some weird, nebulous life…or are a woman). I miss charity shops and Boots and WH Smith. And M&S – where are you when I need you. I don’t miss Woolies, so that’s all right. In my High St back home, there is a choice of Costa, Cafe Republic, Caffe Nero and a couple of independents. Here there’s Starbucks on every level.

  5. Cocktails

    What is it about biscuits? I don’t eat them much generally in any country, but everytime I’m back in Australia I rush out and buy packets of the damn things (iced vo-voes and tim-tams anyone?) because… well, just because I can.

  6. RoG

    How true.
    One of the first things I missed when I left the UK was Tesco. But here’s the irony: I NEVER once shopped in Tesco when I lived in London. (Not as an adult, my mum did shop there when I was a kid). I hated the idea that one in every eight British pounds is spent in one supermarket and I was contributing to recreating another evil UK-based Wal-Mart. But Manhattan’s expensive and lousy ‘grocery stores’ left me crying out for a Tesco Xtra or Sainsbury’s Local or whatever they’re called.
    As for M&S? I absolutely hated M&S as a child and thoroughly enjoyed their difficult period of dwindling sales and shrinking profits through the mid-90s to early 2000s…but on a recent visit to London, I only went into one food store and revisited it at Heathrow’s Terminal 5….just in time for the excellent mince pies, ooh.

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