I have lived in England for one year, and I am not any closer to being British than I was last September. I have absolutely changed, but I am still a Canadian living in the UK. Something about living in England makes me feel rebellious. I am not the only one who feels this way, Husband has experienced similar feelings. Shortly after moving here, I felt the need to dye my hair as dark as possible. There are tattoos being planned, I do not follow all the recommended schooling trajectories for my children. Some of my "rebellions" are small. I do not hang my washing outside, because it seems too much of a hassle and my children would no doubt pull it down anyway. I do not iron, I didn't in Canada either, but it seems that more people are dedicating their lives to ironing clothes here in England. I tip more than I should, it's the Canadian way. Once or twice I drove the wrong way in a parking lot, it was probably more of an mistake than a rebellion looking back. I enjoy telling people that I love the inclement weather because it puts them in a panic, I know that I am not supposed to do this, but I cannot resist. Sometimes, when I first meet someone, I tell them my name straight away to watch them squirm (Brits rarely tell anyone their name when first meeting- too personal). I drink coffee more than I drink tea. The one bout of homesickness that I experienced, was entirely unexpected. I was driving home from the school run, when "Don't Fence Me in," sung by Bing Crosby and the Andrew's Sisters came on the radio. I burst into tears and no doubt frightened my boys in the back seat. When Mr. L asked me what was wrong, I blurted out, "ALL I SEE IS FENCES!" And honestly, there are fences literally everywhere. So, as a free spirited individualistic Canadian, this world of uniforms, rules, and fences, is not always comfortable for me.
Other than my (could have been predicted) mild case of rebellion, it's been fantastic living here in the Cotswolds. Every morning I wake up and look out the window at the adorable brick houses in my neighbourhood and the Manor just beyond, with Union Jack flying, and think of how lucky I am to be here. I then turn on the bathroom light by pulling a string and decide if I want to burn or freeze myself as I brush my teeth and wash my face (nearly all sinks in the the UK have separate hot and cold taps). I open the window to get some fresh air and literally stick my hand outside to get a feel for the temperature, as there are no screens on windows in the UK. I then get dressed, wake up the children, and put in a load of laundry- because if I don't put in a load of laundry every day, I will have damp clothes hanging all over my house, a load of laundry takes about a day to dry (no tumble dryers in the UK and we already established that I am too lazy to hang outside). My *middle child recently told me that I am good at "getting dressed up and making breakfast." You know what? Everyone needs to have a legacy, and I AM good at those things. So, I make the children breakfast, which is apparently one of my top talents. I take the milk out of our tiny fridge. I have been told that we have an "American size" fridge, because it is from the floor to the top of the cupboards. I have been to the United States of America, many times, and this UK fridge is about half the size of what you would call an "apartment size fridge"/small fridge. So, not really comparable. After eating breakfast and unloading the dishwasher, it's time to open the door and pack all the children in the car. You must have a key to open any door in your house, from the inside, and all the doors have different keys to keep things interesting (we have 3 house keys). Windows can also be locked and require specific keys to open them. This all seems to be quite a fire hazard, but also very safe in the case of burglars. I then load all the children into my car, my oldest son can sit in the front seat because the 3 booster seats barely fit in the back and children can sit in the front seat of a car here. It's like I've gone back to my childhood. When I was first driving around, getting used to having the driver on the right side of the car, I kept thinking, "why is that child driving a car??" Only to later realize that they were (obviously) passengers. I drive to school on the left, dodge parked cars as needed, navigate multiple roundabouts, and park right up on the **kerb facing whichever way I please.
When people ask me, "You alright?" I still feel mildly alarmed/offended for a moment. Do I not look alright? Is there something on my face? I do realize that this just means, "How are you?" but I am still not used to it. The other day, I asked the girl behind the counter at Greggs, "How are you?" She just blankly stared at me and nervously giggled, I am quite sure that she had no idea what I was talking about. We are all speaking English, but some things definitely get lost in translation nonetheless. Luckily, I rarely have to talk to anyone in a shop because most of my food shops are done online and delivered to my door (yes, even wine). I also have an Amazon Prime habit, which means I just order whatever we need from my phone when I think of it and it usually arrives the next day. I do not miss shopping. At all. And I actually buy less this way. Husband and I ordered the twins new beds in the middle of the night, in our room, on a phone. Beds, mattresses, bedding, everything. SPOILED.
One of my main problems here in England is that when I read my children a book published in the UK, the words don't rhyme because I don't have a British accent. Example,
Some years passed, 'til one cold day
a girl called Beauty passed that way.
Her hair was tied back in a ***plait,
Beneath her favourite woollen hat.
If you were reading that with a British accent, you likely don't see the problem. That being said, I have NOT picked up an English accent. I am not Madonna. My children say a few words with an accent, but most of the time sound fairly Canadian. It's the British lingo that we have embraced, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes by accident. British pants, trousers, chips/crisps, the back garden, the cinema... these words are creeping in, and I don't mind a bit. I really surprised myself (and Husband) the other day by pronouncing H in the British way. It was a little terrifying.
To commemorate our first year in the UK, the local authority has decided to completely change the way that recycling is organized and picked up. This was just as I had figured out a system (that involved a weekly run to the recycling point, organizing between bins, and ripping up a lot of cardboard). I still get to rip up a lot of cardboard, but I now I must put it in a bag and separate it from paper, and I will still need to take a weekly trip to the recycling point, but now I will be bringing a different item. Or something like that, I need to more closely study the 8 page booklet they sent me in the mail. England is wonderful at overcomplicating things and being so very polite while they do it.
England is beautiful, and endlessly interesting, and I absolutely love it here... most of the time.
*I don't know if you can technically have a middle child when you have 3 children and twins, but, by 2 whole minutes, Mr. L wins that title.
**Possibly my favourite British spelling. Canadian "curb" just isn't as cute.
***I realize that this isn't the best example, as this word has too many possible pronunciations (according to my Google search these pronunciations are also steeped with controversy). I most definitely favour the American pronunciation. If I find the energy, I will search out a better example... please don't hold your breath...
For those interested, I found two more "only rhyme if you have a British accent" moments in kid books! Maybe I will just keep adding as I find these. Maybe this is purely for my own enjoyment.
1. from Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Here comes a boy in a warm woolly scarf.
"An arm for my snowman!" he says with a laugh.
2. from Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort
They like them red, they like them green,
Or orange like satsumas.
But best of all they love the sight,
Of Granny's spotted bloomers.