It’s All Good 

Over the last few months, I have felt totally unable to write anything that I thought would remotely be of interest to anyone. I’ve tried time and again to find the words to write, and they have evaded me on each and every attempt.      
I have always tried to be honest on this blog, as gloriously flaky and infrequent as it is. The only editing I generally do is to correct spelling and grammar, rather than the basic content of what has spilled out of my head onto ‘paper’, so to speak.

With this in mind, I went back over my old posts recently and found the ones about when we were newly-arrived in Australia, and how difficult it was for me to settle. We recently marked our 8th year here, and so this is my updated take on the whole journey. 

With this milestone, I decided to say in this post that I no longer feel guilt for admitting that part of me still feels a pull back to my English roots, especially at times of traditional family celebrations like Christmas and milestone birthdays. 
I find it almost refreshing to realise that where I live, and the experiences I have had here, have shaped me into a much more resilient and practical person but missing people does not mean I am ungrateful for the life I live here…it makes me human. 

For too long, I felt very wary of saying this out loud in case it came across as negative, backward-thinking or it upset other people (always my biggest concern). 

Emigration is a very different experience from person to person, (even within a family unit) and so it’s impossible and very wrong to say how someone should or shouldn’t feel towards it. 
After eight years here, I feel able to say that I’ll always be English at heart despite the fact that I love Australia and the people and things that have shaped my life here. 

I’ve heard other immigrants say that they consider themselves solely Australian now, and that they feel no connection at all to their country of origin. Although I respect that feeling of belonging, of ‘coming home’, its not one that I personally identify with, because I believe that both countries are amazing; that the experiences I have had and the opportunities I’ve been given in both places can’t be crystallised into pitting one country against the other. 

For me, put simply, I feel lucky to have lived in both places and it’s just too complex an issue for me to compare the two. Anyone who knows me well is also aware that we didn’t move because we hated the UK (far from it); we did it to broaden our horizons and push ourselves, and I think we’ve achieved that aim.

We may speak the same language, we may drive on the same side of the road, but in many respects Australia and the UK are very different places and I’m a product of living in both (but if you want a snapshot comparison without prejudice from me, Australian coffee makes its English couterpart taste like swamp fodder and the pubs are much better in England). 

I’m proud to have taken the path I’ve taken, but for me it’s not been an easy one. Yes, I live within a stone’s throw of the beach and I can plan sunny barbecues on any given day without having a wet weather plan, but I didn’t see my mum on her 70th birthday or sing Slade songs with the extended family at Christmas (we’ve done that once in the last eight years).

My personal feelings won’t be shared by everyone, and I understand and completely respect that. But I’ve finally made peace with the fact that I’ll always feel English – a little displaced, even – but very privileged to live in another country and embrace its diverse beauty and opportunities. 

Taking each day at a time and forcing nothing, that’s the biggest lesson I’m learning. And the realisation that I’m now feeling at peace with the fact that I’ll probably always feel like I’m a little ‘on the outside’ here is completely okay, too. Actually, it’s more than okay…it’s essential. 

As always, thanks for reading. Have a super day. 

Advertisements

The Homesickness Caterpillar…’Snot What You’d Think…

Once the children had started school and settled into a routine, I was left largely to my own devices. This is when the little imaginary homesickness caterpillar really comes into his own. He crawls stealthily into your ear and sits there, whispering smugly and magnifying every doubt you’ve had about whether you made the right decision to move halfway across the globe.

‘You haven’t, you know,’ he will opine. ‘You’ve just made a really big mistake that you can’t undo. Look at everyone back home, look on Facebook at their lives, don’t you wish you were there too?’

‘Look at the other people you know who have moved overseas. They’re doing well, they have no regrets or doubts. They’re all out with their new friends having a lovely time while you sit here with tears bubbling down your cheeks and snot dribbling out of your nose. Who’d want to be friends with you, Miss Snotty Blotch Face?’

The Husband would come home from work every weekday and enquire kindly as to what sort of day I’d had. Just hearing the quiet desperation in his voice, the hope that I might say ‘Its been good, thanks,’ was pitiful to witness. I felt terrible that I couldn’t love this place, as he and our children clearly did.

This beautiful, breathtaking country was not mine; I wanted familiarity and comfort. More than anything, I wanted my mum! The homesickness caterpillar was right; I was a sobbing, snotty, boring mess who wanted to go home more than anything in the world!

I had immense support throughout this time. A long standing friend who I had ‘met’ virtually through an emigration website was a source of common sense and comfort through my tears. She is English but had lived in Australia for fifteen years at that time, her daughter not much older than my own children when they had moved.

She seemed to have an uncanny knack of knowing when I was at my lowest ebb, no matter what time of day it was. She would phone out of the blue, beginning by asking me how I was. She did not believe me when I lied that I was fine, and allowed me to talk freely about how I felt and then reassuring me I was normal.

She is a very plain speaker, and doesn’t allow you to believe that you could fail. She made me laugh many times despite myself, and I know if she’s reading this now, she knows who she is.

Other people came equally to attend my exclusive Pity Party for One, offering sympathetic and sensible advice, or even just asking how I was that day.

To all of these people, and you know who you are too, I am immensely grateful. They number everyone from Mr and Mrs S, who you met early on in the blog, to my mum, sister, in-laws and friends of old who could see through my protestations of being ‘fine!’ as easily as they would through a fishnet stocking.

Even DM, my old friend and one-time boss who is not renowned for his outwardly soppy side (except where dogs are concerned), checked on me a couple of times via Facebook. He may not remember this but I do, and I always will.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, none of the people who feature in my blog have asked for their inclusion in it. I have therefore tried to allow them some degree of anonymity by choosing alternative identities for each of them.

Amy Pond, to whom you’ve also been introduced (but who will be undergoing a name change in the coming instalments because she “doesn’t like just being the Doctor’s bloody sidekick’) provided many much-needed laughs and company. As a new Australian arrival herself, I hope that I was able to support her as well as she did me at that time.

However, I’m not yet sure whether I should allow Amy to choose her own blog name, or whether I should throw it open to suggestions. I may even pick another name for her myself, in which case she may wish she’d stayed as good old Amy Pond…but we will see where that takes us next time!

Little Boxes, Full of Lego…

Emigration necessitates living with the very bare essentials around you in the time it takes for your shipping container to arrive in your adopted country of choice.

Accordingly, for three long months we managed quite well with just four purchased camping chairs, one cutlery set, four glasses, four plates and four cereal bowls. A borrowed sofa, TV and washing machine, plus a tiny fridge with an ice compartment the size of a toddler’s shoebox completed this picture of domestic frugality.

We became adept at pretending to appreciate instant noodles, canned food and sandwiches. The arrival of visitors meant that chairs had to be used on a strictly rotational basis, and that tea had to be consumed quickly in order for the next person in line to be allowed a drink before the overall visit ended.

Living on such a scaled-down level means that you learn to appreciate what you actually have. You also begin to wonder what on earth you managed to pack into a whole shipping container that you clearly don’t really need in order to live from day to day.

Well, as it turned out for us, our chosen shipped paraphernalia consisted of the following eclectic items:

Our squashy leather sofa (the older it gets, the more comfortable it becomes)

Our fridge freezer (which, having survived the three-month journey across the world’s seas, suffered the indignity of being dropped and dented when the delivery man tripped over his own feet on the doorstep)

An enormous box of Lego, which no-one could remember the urgency of bringing

…and other than some sundry items of no note whatsoever, that’s basically it.

It seems, dear readers, that when we began the process of what to take with us and what to leave behind, our brains fell out and were unknowingly replaced by runny blancmange.

In essence, we gave away – yes, gave away – perfectly good bicycles, furniture, tools and the lawn mower. We asked our parents to store treasured framed photographs, my wedding dress, more tools, important furnishings and our brand new tent.

Two months before we left for Australia, my husband proudly presented me with a sat-nav device, which was loaded with UK maps and for which any Australian maps would cost more to buy than a new sat-nav. So he gave that to his dad, too. It now has the dubious honour of being “The Worst Birthday Present Ever Received”.

We look back now and wonder what on earth we were thinking of. We are reasonably intelligent people who are able to form words into sentences, and steps into walking – so what went so badly wrong?

We have come to conclude that we were suffering from some form of temporary condition affecting all reasonable judgment, along with a possible desire to keep something of ourselves in our home country.

Although most emigrants do not give away their essential items and retain Lego on an industrial scale, I think that most will agree that at some point along the way, their brains have also fallen out and been replaced with runny blancmange.

I am comforted by this knowledge and anyway… when all you have are camping chairs and instant noodles to keep you occupied, Lego comes in very handy indeed.