Wednesday, 13 August 2014

One year on

Learning new sports: it's been a learning curve for all of us
With all the kerfuffle over moving, I've omitted to mark the one year anniversary of our being back in the UK. I'm sure long time followers of this blog will have a few questions, and I bet they include:

1. Do we miss Long Island?
2. Have the kids still got American accents?
3. Are we glad to be back?

1. Number one: yes, we do. I miss people -- friends I made, the girls whose kids started school the same time as mine did. I felt truly bonded in a community with those people, and I haven't yet felt that in the U.K. Meanwhile, the people whose kids all started reception together here seem to be bound together in their own little club that I feel I can't join. I don't know how long that's going to take; I'm hoping the new school year will bring new opportunities to make friends at the school gate.

I also miss the place itself. At the moment I seem to be experiencing a Long Island summer vicariously through Facebook; the beach trips, the Fourth of July parties, the barbecues, swimming pools and summer camp photos. I miss that we can't just go to the beach for the afternoon. The park is nice, but on a hot day, it isn't quite the same.

Perhaps a part of me will always miss it, a bit like I miss the Hong Kong of my childhood. But in a way, that's nice. I do want to remember it, as it was four years of my life - -four precious years, when the boys were little, that I don't want to forget.

 2. No, they haven't. After three terms of British school, my boys sound as much like little London schoolboys as anyone else. It's amazing how fast it went. All that remains is the odd word or twang. Littleboy 2 referred to the "movie theater" the other day, rather than the cinema, on our way to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. Littleboy 1 wondered if there would be any "new students" in year 5. I think a British kid would have said pupils, or children. They also still use the word "regular" to mean normal (as in, is that a regular sandwich or a toasted sandwich?). But in all other respects, they are little Britons. They play football and cricket and rugby now, not soccer and basketball and baseball. (Although they do still play Dodgeball, at school - that's one really nice thing about their school).

Both have settled into school well, although Littleboy 2 now changes school to his brother's school as he enters year 3. The coming year, with them both in the same school, should be much easier for me, and hopefully nice for them, too.

3. In a way, yes. I feel as if when I left, I had a bit of a downer on England. I never felt homesick, not really, and I never wished myself to be in any of the British places we'd left behind. But maybe this was a coping strategy? Now I'm back, I appreciate how beautiful some of the places we regularly go in this country really are. The Lake District, Anglesey, our family place on the Berkshire Downs.

And I do like London. I like that tonight I can be in the centre of London watching a play (of which more later) within an hour of leaving the kids. I like that I still go for meetings in the heart of Soho where the creative industries still thrive. I like that I (occasionally) get taken to lunch in a Jamie Oliver restaurant or a cool new gastropub. But I also like that we're surrounded by green fields and sports clubs down here in Dulwich/Crystal Palace -- it's not quite the Long Island coast, but it has its own pleasures.

What else? I like the Guardian and Radio 4 -- and being part of the debate. I know that you can get these things in America, but it's just not the same, and you feel as if you're one step removed when you're listening to John Humphries rather than WNYC.

Finally - perhaps the most important thing -- there's family. Since being back, my father has come round to our house once a week to spend time with us, and the boys have delighted in getting to know their grandfather really,  properly well (rather than just during those rather overexcited times when he was visiting us for a week). The boys have seen all their cousins throughout the year, and their other grandfather on a pretty regular basis as well. There's no substitute for that, and with the older generation now entering their seventies, I'm well aware that we must make the most of these years.


Was Living Down Under said...

Lovely. It's amazing how quickly the children adjust isn't it? My children's Aussie accents were gone within a few weeks of us moving home.

It took me well over a year to finally feel I was "back home".
Although my little girl started school the year we moved back it wasn't until this year that I finally started feeling I was a part of the community.

I will always miss living near the ocean. But there is something to be said about the four seasons that we experience here. And I think family is the biggest reason of all to stick around. I love that my children have developed strong relationships with their grandparents and cousins. You can't really put a price on that!

About Last Weekend said...

I love the newspapers and telly shows and radio in England and the people - so miss the people. Though I really love how Americans can make everything into an occasion whatever it is!!

Iota said...

Four years! Gosh, was it really?

I think the second year in a new place (or a 'returned to' place) is much easier. Much much easier. Suddenly, you're not the newbie. So at the school gate, even though this is your second year, you will appear to all the new people as an old-timer. They don't know if you've been here for one year or seven! Also, you just relax a lot more, as you know what each school event involves.

Re accents, and American vocabulary, I've found that lots and lots of words that I think of as American have made the trip over the Atlantic. 'Movie' is one. People seem to use that interchangeably with 'film', and when we left for America (2006), that definitely wasn't the case. I'd say the same for regular/normal too (but perhaps just for size, as in regular/large/huge). It's as if a load of words went over the Atlantic ahead of us! I kept a list, actually, which I must use as the basis for a blog post.

And yes, you can't replace regular (in its first meaning) time spent with family, instead of intense spurts.

PS Have you seen the film/movie Dodgeball? It's hilarious, and suitable for all ages (if I remember right).

Iota said...

Lovely to hear you so happy.

MsCaroline said...

The new place sounds perfect. I was just thinking about you the other day and wondering how the house hunt had been going (yes, I'm behind on my blogging - both reading and writing) and how things generally were a year in - it was like you read my mind. I agree with Iota - the second year will definitely be easier. Love that the boys are building relationships with their grandparents, too. Priceless.