I think I’ve tacitly mentioned that two months ago, I returned home to the UK after an 18 month stint over in Spain. If you follow my column on Running In Heels, you will know this. I hadn’t intended to stay any longer than a year, but you know how life rolls sometimes… Anyhow, when September arrived this year, it was well and truly time to come home. More than anything, I was viscerally homesick.
Now, I’m not a well-travelled person by any means: ‘experiencing other cultures’ previously didn’t go much further than an occasional ten-day holiday. However, after getting home, I took a couple of months regrouping with my family back in the Westcountry, gathered my thoughts and generally got myself back in the UK groove. This was harder to do than I expected: resisting the urge to siesta everyday and eat dinner at 11pm proved antisocial for my family. Anyway, last week, I finally returned to Brighton. After having been as far removed from all of my friends and a life jam-packed with gigs, bars (where there’s no confusion over what I’ve ordered unless I’ve drunk too much to speak properly), fashion, coffee assignations, people making jokes I can thoroughly appreciate, planetariums (I’ll tell you about that another time) and stuff that most people would generally refer to as ‘life’, repatriation – despite living overseas for just a year-and-a-half – has surprised me.
What’s struck me (apart from the weird looks I get from people: I explain more here) is how I’m actively having to re-programme my thought patterns and habits to adjust back to life at home and life back in Brighton – the place where all my favourite people (with the exception of my London-based fans) are. So, by way of subtle self-reflexive CBT, I thought I’d share with you the everyday things I’m having to re-learn now I’m back in the land of the living. And I’d be curious to know if you’ve had a similar experience where elements of readjustment on returning to your homeland took you aback at all…
1. Technological advancement. Seriously, I felt a bit like Austin Powers defrosted. So, I get back from the continent and I’m on the London Underground. For one, there’s a brand spangly new East London line that I’m sat on, having missed its opening, enjoying pouring over the joyous orange obliques that recognise the likes of Dalston and Shoreditch as bone fide stops. But it’s not actually the East London line I mean when I mention ‘technological advancement’: it’s the sea of smartphones every single person aboard the respectably full carriage was consulting (you can do this because this line’s overground – just like that little section of the District Line). My six-year-old PAYG Sony Ericsson beeps as a text comes through. I weigh up my sense of pride as I deliberate taking my ancient handset out of my bag and opening the message. I do in the end, and I assume the aura of an iPhone owner recently thieved off and reply to the incoming text with a theatrical eye roll as navigate my retro brick’s buttons. I alight the train wondering whether I masked my mobile shame well enough, or indeed whether I made it more obvious, while reeling with the memory that to see someone using a smartphone 18 months ago was a novelty; not at all ubiquitous.
2. Mobile telecommunications. On the back of the above, actually using my six-year-old PAYG Sony Ericsson brick again has taken some lengthy getting used to. It was hardly eons ago that I was dropping a friend a quick line to double-check the time of a hook up or texting a chum a ‘how do’. But while I was in Spain, my trusty Ericsson became virtually obsolete. I never felt connected enough to Spain to invest in a Spanish mobile, which was good news for my right thumb and eased my sense of instant gratification (the manana ethos helped this also), but poor on return to the UK when incoming messages were more or less unanswered for days; simply because I’d forgotten that replying straight away was totally an option. For a couple of weeks, I’d answer incoming calls gingerly, holding my phone to my ear like a confused grandmother might do. Now, however, I can call my friends for chats that don’t cost an arm and a leg; get involved in round robin jokes (I love these – shoot me); and dust off that old virtual phonebook that has had its contacts lie dormant for far too long.
3. Efficient Public Transport. Not wishing to dwell too heavily on tube trains here people, one thing I certainly had beaten out of me while abroad was considering public transport as a realistic option to get from A to B. In short, there basically wasn’t any, and what little there was was downright incongruous. To be fair, while I was hanging out with my folks in Devon recently, the nearest one got to public transport was an occasional hedge cutter. However, back in the city, I’m oddly excited at how I’m able to jump on regular buses that take me anywhere I want to go (within the city of course; I too would chance a ride to the moon also) or trains that whizz me for cheap to the outer limits of the district. I can even hail a cab if I so wish. Re-establishing mobility in this way is tantamount to meeting the Tooth Fairy for absolute real.
4. Cooking. Now, this might seem mega strange given that I was living in a country which takes exponential pride in its cuisine. But it’s precisely that reason that I utterly lost my love of cooking while I was away. Nay, I completely lost my nerve. I don’t mean to sound critical of foreign cultures, but if you’re looking to have your confidence taken down a peg or two, offer to cook a meal for a bunch of Iberian people. I guess that being British inherently stands me in great stead to not just be open to world cuisine (you only need to walk down the main street of any British city to know that in this country, everything goes, and I love that fact) but to actually enjoy eating it too. In Spain (excluding perhaps cosmopolitan Madrid and Barcelona), Indian cuisine was big news, but that was more or less as far as it went. So when I rustled up Thai Red Curry for eight friends one night, I was left baffled by how my signature dish seemed to leave everyone cold, despite perfecting its piquancy. I began re-evaluting my enjoyment of cooking for other people when at one point during the preparation process, I had six Spaniards standing over the pot, stirring it (and breaking up the lumps of monkfish I’d added to it) and cross-examining me with suspicion on what I’d put in it. That’s just one example; in more recent news, I double-think making a friend a sandwich these days for fear that their face will drop in distaste as well.
5. Getting Things Done. I previously alluded to the manana ethos: well, I fell well and truly victim (for want of a less dramatic word) to its enticing ways. The odd thing was, my boyfriend and I would often exasperate our Spanish friends by insisting on seeing to business as and when it arose. If I’m honest, I often need rallying to sort my shizzle out, but by comparison, I was as good as Nicola Horlick on double espresso. Mindful of the fact that our British (and perhaps slightly Germanic) approach to sorting stuff out ruffled our Spanish counterparts’ feathers in the wrong direction from time to time, we took stock and held off with our sense of over-efficiency. Fast forward back to the UK, and I’m seriously struggling with myself to get back on the ‘do it’ train. Everyone’s so busy and organised! I’m late sorting my tax out because I’ve simply forgotten to do it; I’m pushing deadlines to the maximum limit; and it took me a week to unpack the first box in my new digs… If anyone knows where I can get an urgency shot, please let me know. Many thanks, and it’s good to be home.