24 November 2014

Expats

What things (apart from loved ones) do you miss from your country of birth?
We miss the rain, gloom, and cloud – but that’s great because that’s why we came here! Other than that, not very much really.
______________________________________________

I knew Kevin years ago. He was and probably still is a lovely man. A Geography teacher who wrote poems and made maps. He visited Peru and the Hindu Kush of Pakistan. He was into mountaineering and ice camping and he lovingly restored his big stone house in Crookesmoor, Sheffield. Back then he had a girlfriend called Barbie who looked like Buffy St Marie in her prime but they broke up and he found a different life partner called Troy. He never had any kids.

After taking early retirement from Geography teaching in Sheffield, around 2005,  Kevin and Troy went to live in the Almeria region of southern Spain where they bought a country property and restored it. There they grow vines and vegetables and enjoy a sunny, expatriate life, a long way from home. Kevin, by the way, was raised in grim Grimsby on the northeast Lincolnshire coast.

Out in Almeria, Kevin spent a couple of years researching the geography, history and culture of his new home area and drawing from that research wrote a book about it. It has been moderately successful and that is why Kevin was interviewed for a website called "Spain Buddy" which appeals to Spain's large British expatriate community. The blue opening to this post was copied from that interview.
Tongue in cheek he says that they miss the rain, gloom and cloud..."other than that, not very much really". This is the crux of today's blogpost. It's not the first time I have encountered expats claiming that they don't miss anything about their homelands. To me it is as if they are partly justifying their new lives - renouncing what they once knew. I find this attitude as hollow as it is disloyal.

Perhaps Kevin could have said..."I miss the ambience of English pubs where I spent many happy hours with friends quaffing good English beer. I miss the smell of roasted chestnuts on cold winter nights and the sounds of fireworks on Bonfire Night. I miss the traditional folk music sessions I was in the habit of attending with my Irish bodhran. I miss the distinctive seasons and walks in The Lake District ticking off The Wainwright hills,  kayaking in the Western Isles and rambling in The Peak District. I miss English humour and the ability to communicate fluently in my own language where ever I go.. Meat pies and Yorkshire puddings, Indian curries and saltmarsh lamb, apples and raspberries and ice cream cones. Above all I miss the byways of my childhood and of my youth - imbued with memories of yesteryear, mum and dad, my siblings, neighbours and friends and Grimsby Town F.C.. Yes - those are the things I miss."

And I would also take issue with the reference to rain, gloom and cloud. That does not sum up English weather at all in my experience. We have many sunny days and warm spells and even as I write this blogpost it is bright and alluring outside. The randomness or unpredictability of English weather could be seen as one of our assets, You never know what you are going to get. Getting scorched on an Almerian hilltop might be seen as somehow less appealing.

Starting a new life elsewhere surely does not mean that you must disparage your motherland. Treachery has many forms.

16 comments:

  1. Ah, but Lord Pudding, you have made the fatal error of projecting your own thoughts onto Everyman, who is in reality no man at all. It would be good if everyone thought as one does -- or perhaps it would be hell on earth. You have done a marvelous job of describing the things you would miss -- so well, in fact, that it makes me miss them too and I am not even English. But Kevin be happy in his conceits, and all your logic and beautiful writing will not dissuade him. He misses what he misses (which is to say, nothing at all or very little) and that's just how the cookie crumbles. All that having been said, I'm very glad to call you my friend and to read your excellent blog.

    ReplyDelete
  2. P.S. - Perhaps when one leaves a Barbie for a Troy, one's brain becomes fried in the process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course you never left an Ellie for a Lolita Mr Bob. With regard to projecting my own thoughts upon another's situation I say Guilty your honour! But isn't that how we all weigh things up?

      Delete
  3. I love my hometown (as is probably quite obvious to anyone who has been reading my blog for a while), and I love Yorkshire, feeling nearly equally at home in both places. But I know I'd miss quite a few things if I moved to Yorkshire permanently, such as my parents, sister, friends, familiar paths of my childhood and youth - a lot of what you mention, actually.
    Perhaps someone who was not happy in their "old" lives does not miss much in their new lives, and of course it will always have a lot to do with the original motivation to leave one's original home. A war refugee, for instance, will probably miss his home country with more pain than we can imagine, while someone who chooses to go because they want to be with the love of their life and there is nobody back home they feel particularly attached to, will easily shrug off any fleeting feeling of homesickness.
    As for the weather in Yorkshire, I can testify to the randomness and unpredictability. It's a few degrees cooler in the summer than over here in Ludwigsburg, but I've not experienced that much difference otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right to point out that there many reasons for emigration. Thank you for yet another intelligent response Miss Arian.

      Delete
  4. I think you are reading too much into the "blue quote" myself ~ when I moved from Brisbane back to Townsville (in the dry tropics) ~ I seriously got sick of warm days, blue skies and no rain for 365 days a year. I would have loved to see a cloud in the sky, a rainy day or two, a storm ~ even a cyclone ~ instead of the endless bright empty huge blue skies and heat.

    Don't underestimate the power of a "short blue quote" to add punch to the interview ~ on a Spanish website. Perhaps he said all those other things but they wouldn't distil into something so catchy and controversial.

    Surely I don't have to teach you about Critical Reading 101.

    P.S. ~ surely treachery is an outdated law in the UK these days?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops Carol, I always thought that "not very much" meant "not very much". How silly of me to believe that. As for treachery, it is still on the statute books in England. What is this "UK" thing you refer to?

      Delete
  5. I think I get your point, Mr. Pudding. Perhaps one may truly not "miss" many things from another place, another time......if one's definition of "miss" is that you long for it again. But surly, one thinks upon and dwells a little on things and memories from those past places and times. One's brain would have to have turned to mush if a certain face or a piece of music or a specific sound of laughter or a potent smell did not remind one of someplace or sometime in the past and make one miss that moment in time and space.

    I have never lived for a long period of time in another country but have lived in many places in this country and have left family and friends many times. There are moments of time when I "miss" or have longing for people, the skies brightness or lack thereof, the layout of the land, the cultural heritage of the people and their homes and food and everyday lives. And, I think because I remember and recall that my life is much richer and my contentment greater.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Longing for and missing are indeed different. Thank you for these reflections Madam Thyme.

      Delete
  6. Apart from our overly wet summer last year
    I kinda like our middle of the road weather

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our climate is maritime because of the Atlantic Ocean. I think it has been partly responsible for forging British sensibilities.

      Delete
  7. It's reports like this that give the UK the image of rain and gloomy weather. Admittedly we always visit in Spring and Summer but we were happily surprised by the weather after always reading about how much it rains.... and anyway you don't get the lovely green without a bit of rain ! Like Carol I don't really think that's what he thinks. It's just the flippant answer that people ( and he is not the first to give such an answer ) rather than delve into deeper thoughts and emotions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ireland is The Emerald Isle because of the rain it gets but compared with the tropics, The British Isles actually get very little rain.

      Delete
  8. Probably not treachery as he probably doesn't spend all day slagging off England - just gives his opinion when asked for it. I can see where he's coming from as it's pretty much the same for me, in that I just simply don't think about England during 99% of my life here (in Catalonia). If I'm happy here, I'm unlikely to give my past that much thought - which, on the other hand, doesn't mean I don't like England or have anything negative to say about it.
    If pushed to answer the same question; I miss green grass everywhere, the BBC (though less and less recently as I'm going off TV), the culture of pop and rock music ingrained into everyone and everywhere, and early nights.
    But when I put everything onto the scales, the benefits for me of my new life are clear. What I don't miss from England is the stress - Christmas shopping in September indeed!
    Yes, annual rainfall is higher in Barcelona than London, the only thing is all the rain falls here in huge downpours on half a dozen days, rather than a bit every week - I haven't checked the statistics for Barnsley, the last time I was there it was raining gold dust.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course you became an expat by accident all those years ago Brian - ensnared by a Catalonian lady - like a fly in a spider's web! I am glad that this post has given you some food for thought though in your blog and in meeting you you never struck me as somebody who had sneeringly disowned his homeland.

      Delete
  9. This is the country of my birth...Australia...and who I miss from the country of my birth are my late mother, my Nana and my brother. (They were all sticklers for punctuality, too...so they shouldn't be late!)

    I'm the last of the Mohicans....

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.