13 February 2008

4 Years in Engerland...

13 Zeus - Year 87 (Poundian Calendar)

Seems really tough to believe...four years ago I boarded a plane at Logan Airport in Boston and roughly six hours later, landed at Heathrow Airport near London and never went back. Probably the bravest thing I've ever done so far in my fairly short lifetime.

Luckily, my Dearest was at the airport waiting for me and we embraced like we had when we first physically met just six months previously. I had my fiance visa and I was legal to stay in Britain...for six months anyway. We had to get married within that time, or I would have to leave again. We did and I'm still in Britain (with a 'permanent leave to remain' visa now--how's that phrase for a headscratcher?).

I had planned to escape from my birthplace, Connecticut, for quite some time. I grew up in East Hartford--a factory town just across the Connecticut river from the capital city. I suppose it was a nice town when I was very young--summer days seemed endless and the winters, though very cold, always brought plenty of snow for forts and sledding (or 'sledging' as it's known in Blighty). It was far from idyllic, but it was all I knew and so I tried to make the best of it. As I grew older, though, the town seemed to lose a lot of it's charm--this wasn't helped by the main employer, United Technologies/Pratt & Whitney, reducing it's workforce by a third. They would reduce it even further later on, effectively decimating the town's population as a lot of families moved away to go 'where the work is'. It's possible it wasn't that bad--as some of you may be picturing a Grapes Of Wrath scenario, but East Hartford just didn't seem the same.

My home situation occasionally became less than ideal as well--I won't go into detail, but I considered running away more than a few times. A couple of times I actually did, but only got to the next block before fear and the realisation that I didn't have any clue of what to do or where exactly to go, forced me to go back to the house to face my parents' jeering and the knowledge that I couldn't actually go through with it. In hindsight, I suppose that seems the wiser choice, as the horror stories of life on the streets abound and I probably would've ended up as just another statistic.

For a while in my teens, I planned to join the military and I figured that was as good as any plan to leave. I changed my mind, however, late in high-school and concentrated on college--preferably out of the country (the British Isles was my top choice). With my less-than-stellar academic record and non-existant portfolio (I was pursuing an architecture degree), I had no chance of getting accepted to Cork Technical College or a trade school in Dundee. I was accepted at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and I decided to give it a shot. My father reluctantly agreed to pay for the first year only--but that was good enough for me at the time. Soon, I was ensconced in a cruddy studio apartment on Huntington Ave., with a room-mate from some small town in Massachusetts. For the first time in my life, though, I had some (relative) FREEDOM and it was such a liberating feeling. Whatever hardships I had to go through, at the very least I had no curfew, I could hang out with who I wanted and I didn't have to go to church on Sundays. That was a big deal to me then.

The money eventually ran out in my second year and I thought about staying on in Boston, trying to get a full-time job instead of going to school--but again, I wasn't sure where to stay and thought it best to journey back to the folks' place. All through my 20s, I would think of ways to get somewhere else. A couple of friends moved to Madison, Wisconsin and I briefly considered it, only the harsh winters put me off (one of those friends eventually moved back to Conn. himself). I thought about moving back to Boston, after finishing my studies for an associates degree and then remembered how expensive it can be. Another set of friends headed off to New York City and while that seemed exciting--the money factor caused me to hesitate (I also thought N.Y.C. might be a bit too crazy for me and I like trees too much to live there for any length of time). I really wanted to go to California, but I couldn't find anyone else to go with and found I was too cautious to sell all of my stuff, pack up the car and point it toward the West Coast. I at least managed to get out of my parents' house by moving into a series of apartments in East Hartford and Manchester with various siblings, friends and work colleagues.

I visited Ireland and England in the late 90s and rekindled my interest in possibly moving to either place, but the chances seemed very very slim. When the 'Noughties' rolled around--I found myself back in E.H. and back at the folks' house. Most of my friends had moved away or had got married and started families...even most of my siblings had left. I had that "down-and-out" feeling--the sensation of being stuck in a massive rut. I revived the California plan and was seriously thinking of putting it into action--when Pixie and I met (in virtuality).

Even then, I just thought "Oh, it'll be nice to have a friend in England, so I can go over and visit more often." Well, things worked out quite differently, I'm very happy to report and so I left to be with her 4 years ago. I thank her for choosing to remain in England--so I could get out of the U.S., though I would've stayed in Conn. if she had wanted to leave the UK. Of course, I would have wanted to leave Conn. eventually anyway--and hopefully she would agree to that.

So here I am - enjoying life in Britain. It was a bit of a learning curve and still is, in some ways, even for a self-confessed Anglophile like myself. That whole "separated by a common language" cliche actually does come into play at times. Perhaps I'll discuss that in another post...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing some of your story with us, my friend. I'm really pleased for you that you find England a 'green and pleasant' place to be. The coolest bit of all, of course, is the coming together of Pixie and your good self.

Mrs. Bear likes the TV show, 'The Gilmore Girls' and we always got the impression of Connecticut being the ultimate leafy haven. Shows you how telly distorts reality. I suppose it's abit like Americans thinking we all speak like Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins'!


The Purple Gooroo said...

Cheers, Bear - yeah, getting together with Pixie has been the best..and I am enjoying life in England!

I suppose I came across as a bit harsh about Conn. - there are really nice places there, especially out in the country bits of it and down by the shore...I just didn't want to live my whole life there. I had good times in Conn. and met really cool people, but eventually I grew bored of being there--there just seems to be not much going on and the local music scene is atrocious (well, to me anyway)...just a wasteland of tribute bands and mediocre metal groups. It may have changed since I left..but somehow I doubt that.