Well, we’re rapidly approaching the 2-month mark: in just a few short days, Jeremy and I will be able to celebrate having survived our first 2 months in England. In hono(u)r of this occasion, I thought that perhaps I should take stock of some of the things that have changed in my life during these past 8 weeks. I don’t mean big things - like the fact that I’m living in a completely different house in a completely different city in a completely different country with completely different people. I mean more subtle, everyday sorts of things. Not really important things, but things that I’ve made mental note of recently. Things that just seem to have happened of their own accord, with no previous planning or deliberation involved. Things such as this:
1) My consumption of cheddar cheese has increased a thousandfold. I know I keep mentioning the cheese thing, and I know it sounds ridiculous, but if you could only comprehend the depth of my love for cheese in general and cheddar cheese in particular, you would perhaps understand. In other food areas, I have discovered a great fondness for Marmite, that bizarre, salty, vile-smelling, unbelievably potent, thick brown yeasty goo that people spread on their toast here. From what I hear, you either love it or you hate it, and I love it. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I love it.
2) I am now also in love with the BBC. I watch both BBC1 and BBC2 on TV, and I listen to BBC Radio 4 all the time. The BBC has great documentaries, serious news, and no irritating commercials to have to sit through. I’m so taken with it all that I will even be a good citizen and get a TV license in order to help fund the BBC. I want to work for the BBC. It’s just so darn classy.
3) Speaking of BBC Radio 4, I’ve started to listen to the radio a lot since I’ve been here, which is something I never did in Germany (because the radio stations were all atrocious). There’s a radio in our kitchen which is permanently tuned to Radio 4, a station which doesn’t actually broadcast any music, only talking: news, chat shows, comedy shows, plays, etc.etc. I have the radio on whenever I’m in the kitchen, and more and more I find myself just sitting at the table with a cup of tea to listen to some show or another. I guess this seems strange to me because I’ve never really listened to radio like that before, and the whole thing about just sitting and listening to a radio show (especially a play or something) seems so old-fashioned-but it’s a good kind of old-fashioned, like something that people really don’t do anymore, but should.
4) I’ve started drinking more tea than I ever thought possible. It sounds so cliché, but it’s true. It seems like any time two or more people wind up sitting together in one room in a house for more than 5 minutes, someone will suggest having a pot of tea. I’ve decided that the British consumption of tea must be related to the weather: when it’s cold and damp and grey, there’s nothing like a steaming cup of tea to drive off the chill.
5) I’ve managed to not get run over when crossing the street - meaning that I’ve gotten used to everyone driving on the other side of the road. Unlike London, Brighton doesn’t have “look left” and “look right” painted on all the crosswalks. You have to figure it out for yourself here, and I think I have.
6) I’m managing to figure out English money-I don’t mean how it works, I mean what the individual notes and coins are. This may also sound a bit funny, but don’t underestimate the helplessness that one can feel when one is trying to buy a newspaper or a sandwich, and one has to stand there and study each individual piece of currency before paying, because one cannot tell which coins are 20 pence and which are 50. I’ve gotten better; the coins aren’t really a problem anymore, but I still have to look carefully at the bills before I hand one over, because I’m not completely confident in my ability to tell a 10 pound note from a 20 pound note. And until I become really familiar with the money here, I am still going to feel like a bit of a tourist.
And in general, I’ve managed to more or less shake the feeling of just being on vacation. It’s still a bit weird to be here, but I think that it’s weird because it’s not weird. I think that I was anticipating that the move and the first few months in Brighton were going to be this big, traumatic thing, or that I wouldn’t be happy here right away and I would want to go back to Freiburg, or that I would simply feel completely and utterly out of place here.
But none of that has turned out to be true. Okay, the move was stressful, and the actual leaving bit was horrible, and the anticipation of the leaving bit was probably the worst of all. But now I’m here, and I feel just fine - and that’s kind of freaking me out. I keep waiting for the catch. I’m starting to think that I’m never entirely comfortable unless I have something to gripe about.
But I’ll put my eternal pessimism aside for the moment and simply take pleasure in the fact that I’m two months into My English Life, and England has not yet driven me crazy. And considering the fact that I am fairly easy to drive crazy, that’s really saying something.