I’m not quite sure what I expected from our trip to the UK. There were the obvious things, seeing my mum and her partner; seeing my sister and her family; catching up with as many friends as we could cram in to the trip. That part was definitely a success. We managed to catch up with more friends than I’d commonly see in a year. I notoriously suck at seeing people, so friends often end up going quite a while between visitations – and wonderfully friends made the trek in to London to see us – or offered us somewhere to stay… or made themselves available when we were free.
Then there was the element of visiting places – that we did pretty well on too. We managed to head into Hart’s bakery, we eat at Flour and Ash, we haunted the V&A, we visited the Eden Project, and we hit up tea shops and bookshops (and had a fabulous conversation with the owner of Mr B’s in Bath)… that was all good.
I think the harder thing, the thing that’s more of a what did I expect or hope to achieve thing was…well. There was a definite hope that the trip would prove that we were right to make the move to the US. We long ago stated that we would give our time in the US a minimum of 2 years before we make any kind of judgement about whether it was/is a good plan or a bad plan. I think I really hoped that going back to the UK would make me feel like I’d made “the right decision” when we moved here. Kind of “Oh yes, it’s nice here, but I don’t really miss it that much” kind of thing.
Of course, that is an unrealistic thing to expect.
I do miss the warm embrace of the Britain’s built environment (mainly I mean the buildings but also toilet cubicles without gaps around the doors), and of the UK safety culture (the cheery announcement from the travelator that you’re nearing the end and should prepare to step off, warning signs adorning every surface) and while I enjoy the beauty of the US natural environment, I also still love the UK’s centuries of cultures that have manipulated the landscape.
So I knew that stuff I’d miss. And of course, we didn’t really have contact with the political stuff that encouraged our departure. The privatisation and dismantling of the healthcare system and the welfare state, the demonisation of immigrants… All that is not obvious unless you’re in contact with immigrants, or working in the healthcare system.
We just flitted about the place enjoying the nice things that we like to do. So in that respect it’s hard. But in the end, I think the thing that was most discomforting was every bit of news about Trump, watching the Electoral College fail to do the one thing that it’s there to do. Listening to the appalling things being said, or suggested. Continuing to understand what this means for the US.
And the gradually building realisation that we don’t know what we’ll do if this doesn’t work out. The UK is no longer somewhere we want to be. I don’t want to live in a country were surveilling every citizen is the norm – and neither major party opposes that. But I’m equally aware that I’m a brown queer immigrant in a country that’s just voted in an incredibly right wing vociferously racist president who’s put KKK connected people into positions of power. While my passport might have the Queen stating I should pass without let or hinderance, and I continue to hold the image of her turning up and kicking arse for me, the kinds of people who object to my being in the country and my existence are also the kinds of people who shoot first and ask questions later.
That makes me nervous and it makes me uncomfortable. And it makes me hesitant to put down roots. We’re building a house because, apart from the fact that we both want the experience, we’ve also bought land. It’s land that won’t sell without something being done to it. But what happens after that feels very much up in the air at the moment.
And I hate that. I hate that because we spent the last 8 years going “Oh, we’re going to move” and I thought when we got here that might stop. But no.