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England Revisited, or A Return To Blighty

"...you've still got English charm
Oh England, you're my home
My heart's heart
Crashing thunder of love..."
- The Levellers England My Home



The Story So Far...

Our intrepid hero, having travelled to foreign lands and helped slay the dreaded Rabbit of Caerbannog, decided finally to return to the shores of his youth, there to pay homage to family, friends and old times.


The past twenty months has been mixed indeed. To recap, following the handfasting on Hampstead Heath (5th February, 2005), my lovely fiancee Christine was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I was already committed to travelling over at some point to get married, I made the seemingly rash decision to fly out and nurse her through the early stages of her treatment.

Little did I suspect what would happen. It quickly became apparent that I couldn't leave her, so we decided to marry anyway, although I had none of the relevant paperwork, visas, permissions and whatnot to stay in the US. It was a risk, but one I was happy to take. We were married on 1st May, 2005.

In time, we progressed through chemotherapy, new bank accounts, a house move, radiation treatment and the processing of immigration paperwork. I became the proud holder of a "Green Card" (not green at all) and a California Driver License (Driving Licence, really). I got a job, working in the local Food Co-operative and we finally moved into a house we felt we would stay for more than a year, and started to unpack boxes.

During this time, I'd not been back to Albion's fair shores, or seen my parents, still at home in Nottingham, and neither enjoying good health. We managed to get into a financial position where I could fly home for a while to catch up with old friends, see my folks, and have a real pint of beer in a real pub. And so after some delay, here I am.

The timing was changed a couple of times, notably to include a visit to Bristol for the birthday nodermeet.

Bristol Is Calling...

First stop (after eating a Twix - a great delight after nearly two years of American "chocolate") I was collected by the lovely Richard, who whipped me off to almost-as-lovely Swindon and the delightful Marina, who fed me tea, baked beans on toast (you cannot believe how good they are) and persuaded me to nap. Then it was off again, to Bristol for the general celebrations.

Highlights:

  • Arrived Ela's flat to discover no-one there.
  • Figured they'd be at the Tobacco Factory.
  • They were. Found myself lionized, Was good.
  • Drank a pint two pints nearly three pints of lovely beer. Real pints, too, not those nancy, mamby-pamby American pints.
  • Hugged everyone several times, it was so good to see them.
  • Back to the house for Pass the Parcel, Pin the Beard on the Rabbi and assorted other games.
  • Discovered that Roger and Ela were both pick-upable. Picked both up.
  • Discovered that Richard has strong arms and back, after he picked two of us up.
  • Had a great time, greets to the whole mob.
  • Crashed out at Huset, Matt and Haje's place.
  • Came back to Nottingham with Roger and Sam.
  • Saw Mum and Dad (both alive and at least tentatively kicking).
  • Went shopping, shocked an old friend by arriving at his door without warning.
Not exciting enough for ya? Well, I'm still jet-lagged, my sleep patterns are shot to ribbons, as is my throat. I'm sore, and I blame second-hand smoking and the damp of the English Autumn.

Homesick? Yes

But I am having fun. I'm gathering the things I wanted to take home with me. Things I'd missed, that aren't everyday shopping in California, like pork pies, tiddy-oggy, Christmas Pudding, Yorkshire Tea. Books that I can't get in the US, like Tove Jansson's series about the Moomin family, Teh Grauniad.

I'm shocked to find how narrow the streets are, and how fast people drive, disturbed to recall how different the service is, how hard it is to make eye contact. It's good to see old houses though, pretty, colourful tidy little front gardens, good to see double-decker buses everywhere, great to ride the tram. I appreciate, however that shopping trolleys here has castors (not just wheels) at the back, for added maneuvrability manoeuvrability. I shudder at some of the changes (another set of lovely old building goes, another glass-and-ferroconcrete building in its place), rejoice at others (old, deserted building coming to life as city housing).

I talk to Christine every day, and Tess too, when I can. I miss them, and yes, I am homesick. Much as I still do love my country, my home town, home is where the heart is, and right now, mine is being pulled back over the Atlantic.

Return to America

Inevitably, I will return. On 22nd November, in fact. I'm headed for London this Sunday, and flying on the Wednesday morning. I'll be meeting Christine at Detroit airport and headed to her cousin's for Thanksgiving (my third...) After that I'll be driving up to see Wiccanpiper and his family, before finally taking the plunge and hitting the road in a pick-up truck I'm buying.

Brace yourself, Kevin, you have almost 3,000 miles through the US again. This time, South to Interstate 40, hopefully to meet with Jet-Poop and others. And at last, back home. Home with my family.

I realised that some of me has now been Californicated. But mostly in a good way. I've come to appreciate the attractions of both countries, warts and all, and I'm pleased to be headed back again.

Will I miss England? Of course I will. That Leveller's song is whirling through my head even now (along with others, most especially that great Flanders and Swann tribute to Englishness, A Song of Patriotic Prejudice. I'll miss the architechture, the sense of history, the greenness and even the drabness. It's what formed me, made me, and it's still who I am.



Special thanks to: The Debutante, K9, TheLady, Sharq, ascorbic, Albert Herring and his wife, Shelagh. Also thanks and apologies to my father and mother.
Love: You All

Norris the Gnome

Norris was indeed a gnome. He was a small gnome, about a foot tall. He had a white beard, a red conical hat and wore a red coat. He also carried a lantern (which didn't work).

He arrived on what I think was probably my 15th birthday — give or take a couple of years — for some forgotten, presumably humorous reason. Bought, I found out later, from Torquay market for 99 pence, he took up residence on a shelf in my bedroom for a few years until I left home to go to University.

As a young student, living away from home for the first time, I spent my time doing what most young students do: getting drunk, smoking, doing stupid things and thinking I was cool. On the particular floor of the sixteen storey building that I lived in, a common occupation, for the first few weeks, was to sit outside the lift entrance — constantly stopping it — waiting to see who was there when the doors open.

One day, there was no-one in the lift and so, for some reason, I decided that Norris the Gnome may enjoy a trip to the top floor and back. So I placed him in the center of the lift floor, commanded the lift to ascend to the 16th floor and sat back.

Watching the lights above the lift, it seemed to have risen, uninterrupted to the top of the tower. I waited for a moment and called the lift back down.

15... 14... 13... 12... 11... 10...

There was a slight pause at floor ten. I wonder if someone got in?

9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 2 and the doors began to open...

The lift floor was covered in broken bits of gnome.

HORROR!

Over the following weeks, no amount of investigating could uncover the identity of the Gnome-Killer. The first website I ever built — deleted, alas, ten years ago — was concerned with providing a memorial for said creature.

One day, a few years after the gnome incident (and six-and-a-half-years ago now) I found a little website called Everything2. I made an account with a crap name and created a few crap writeups (five of which still exist). Wanting a fresh start I sat in front of the Create a New User page wondering what to write. "Norris! After my poor departed gnome!" I thought.

Norris is a bit crap, though. Let's embellish it a little. I know! How about Sir Norris! Yeah, that sounds cool ;)

Six years on, I've lost contact with my friends from that time — both the giver of the gnome, and those that were there at its destruction. I dropped out, and have since gone to a different university to gain my bit of paper. E2 is pretty much the only link I have left to a time in my life when, looking back, I was much different to the person I am now.

Not that that's a good thing, or a bad thing. It just is.

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