So on Monday night we headed down to our old stomping ground, Slough, where I had booked what turned out to be a quite stunningly strange hotel. The place looked ‘okay’ in the photos, and had okay reviews, but when we actually got there it turned out to be quite, quite odd. In what was clearly once a pair of large 1920s/30s houses, they have converted the rooms into hotel rooms. The one we got was vast and had the feeling of every expense having been spared, but wanting to look like no expense had been spared. The dado rail had been damaged and a matching but unpainted section, inserted. The wall had very faded framed prints and a giant mirror above the bed… Pelmets with thick brocade curtains hung above plastic-veneered-chipboard cabinets. The light on the table was powered by a 4 socket white extension lead sat on-top of the vast dresser. There was no link between the tiles in the bathroom and the laminate floor in the bedroom – just a gap… The bed had been screwed back together, badly, with random off-cut sections of wood, but was the same nasty plasticy veneer that if you stood well back looked a bit like lacquered wood. If you stood back and squinted you can imagine that it looks good in a photo. In person though, it’s just a bit strange. The room was absolutely vast, and we rapidly discovered that one of the light/ceiling fan combos had been involved in a self-cable-tangling incident which rendered both the light and the fan inoperable – and made half the room very dark. Aided by the fact there was only one bedside lamp. The other fan operated with roughly the smoothness of a tin of ball-bearings being gradually tilted from side-to-side.
You might wonder why, at the tail end of September, we’d want fans. Because it was the temperature of the sun.
And the coup de grâce was the can of Foster’s lager perched high up on a picture rail type affair. I’m not sure if it was open or closed, but it suggested a certain lack of attention to cleaning. When we mentioned it, and the faulty light, they were keen to point out how it was the largest room in the hotel. But that wasn’t really our concern…. Anyhow.
So the visa interview was simples. There were a few questions… when were we planning to go, where were we planning to go, and when did we get married. It all went fine until the last one when an overwhelming mind-blanking level of panic hit me and it took quite a while to work out, from first principles as it were, when my beloved and I got married.
Particularly because my the one thing my brain managed to pull from the fog of adrenaline was that it involved a 10, so I started counting backwards from now, got to 2010 and then went, no… that’s definitely not it. Then I went (in my head) “shit! bought the house in 2k6, met Kathryn in 2k7, that means we married at the end of 2k8!”…leading to something along the lines of “2008! October…2008… 25th! October! 2008!”
Something like that.
I think the woman looked at my panic stricken face and decided it really wasn’t worth asking anything else, and if she did I might just explode from sheer panic. Still.
It’s a weird process, because at least for the spousal visa classification, you don’t have to queue outside, you just get queue-jumped through the masses, then you slink inside and into the pavlovian-response-training-chamber.
You’re allocated a ticket number, then a giant display pings up numbers (along with a chime) telling you which window to go to. Which means that every time it chimes you have to look up and go ‘is-that-me’. Which at some points is fine, but at others the chimes are going off every few seconds, making you look like some kind of deranged prairie dog as you try and relax by reading, or at least, by not staring directly at the screen continuously, but then have to look up every time it pings. And, next to it is a screen which I think gives you helpful advice about how to prepare for your day, and also (I think) tells you just how awesome the US and the Embassy are, but was semi-functional on our day, with 2/3 of the instruction display screen off and the remaining 1/3 saying helpful things like:
in all cas
which was at times very amusing and at times slightly unnerving. It’s a weird mix of boredom and anxiety that’s really less fun than it might be, but actually is not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. Given my health history I was expecting a tedious bunch of a billion questions, and got none.
At any rate, everyone we dealt with was very nice. The first guy told us we wouldn’t need the Affidavit of Support from Kathryn’s mom, but the person who assessed our application said we did need it. That was fine, though, because we’d asked that it stayed in and so it was right there in the pack.
She flicked through a few things, ticked a few boxes, then said “Congratulations” and explained that the visa and passport would be returned by their special couriers in around a week.
So we are, in fact, moving to the US.
We celebrated this in the traditional way, by going to an exhibition at the Science Museum about the USSR’s space program. It turned out to be an amazing exhibition, featuring some truly incredible things, including Soyuz and Vostok capsules – including the one used by Valentina Tereshkova. Looking at the mechanical complexity and the complete lack of computer technology… these things went to space. These things took people to space and back. Engineering models of Sputnik, and of the Lunokhod 1 lunar rover… It was just astonishing to see these things together and up close.
My only disappointment was I saw a gorgeous poster from early in the program, just after the launch of Sputnik, and was really excited about getting it – because one of the ‘explainers’ there was telling me how they had lots of great swag (we’d had a long chat about the differences between the single person Vostok and the 3-person mission Vostok, and she’d explained what the writing on the side says “Man inside, please help him get out” or words to that effect, along with extraction instructions before getting into selling me stuff)… but when we got to the shop – it’s clearly related to the one they’ve designed the logo for the exhibition of-of. And all they had was the variant with the exhibition name splashed across it. Not the ‘In the name of peace’ version.
Annnyhow. Then we thought we’d try and score tickets to Photograph 51, a play about Rosalind Franklin, on in London at the mo, with Nicole Kidman as the lead! We failed… instead we got tickets to another theatrical production and so we meandered around the environs of London killing time, before heading to see Tipping The Velvet (the musical) in the evening. The second act seemed to flow better, and the lead actor seemed to find her feet more. It just felt smoother and a bit less clunky. Anyhow, they seem to have had a lot of fun with it, and it’s totally not what I was expecting in that they play the script for comedy…
…which isn’t how I read the book.
It was also pretty cool seeing a play in a theatre with a very percentage of audience members being queer. No pandering to the white cis-male needs here.
Anyhow, so that was our awesome day. We now just have to finish selling the house; our solicitors inform us that everything’s gone to the buyer’s solicitor now, so hopefully we should be in a position to exchange contracts soon. If everything works. At which point we’ll be able to book flights and shipping for our stuff.
So, err, we’re moving.
I need a word that means Scary-Cool.