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Andrew and I are discussing whether Oasis's "Don't Look Back in Anger" or James's "Sit Down" make worse, more ill-applied, anthems.

I have nothing but love for the grieving, and defiance at the notion that we might lose yet more civil liberties and face more hate crimes directed at Muslims and brown people. But I can't share the experience of all my Facebook friends who say they're in tears (or even coveting Katy Perry's clothes) watching the concert tonight. So strong is the pressure to perform the proper kind of reaction that I still worry someone will hate me for being callus or fine with terrorism, or whatever.

But I just felt like most of the work of terrorists, who often kill themselves or end up being killed in swift order like in London last night, is done by others: by the 24-hour rolling news and the tabloids baying for blood and the politicians happy to rescind our civil liberties as if that'll make us any safer, the national and international reaction making a city into a symbol.

I'm grateful to that article for saying what I worried only I was feeling:
It’s not a particularly amazing city or a huge symbolic target; it’s just an ordinary city that was probably chosen for small, ordinary, horrible reasons.

Of course Mancunians opened their homes and brought out free sandwiches and hurried into emergency rooms to save lives, and God bless every one of them. But they did that because they’re people, not because they were Mancunians. The vast majority of the time, disaster brings out the best in people, wherever and whomever they are. They’d have done the same in Sheffield, and we’d all be talking about the stoic hospitality of Yorkshire folk.
Indeed, it seems like Manchester wasn't "chosen" at all, it's just where the guy who did it lived. It wasn't selected as being particularly able to withstand this. Indeed, I think it's much better to believe that any group of humans anywhere could be as resilient, as willing to offer free taxi rides home, blood donations, or millions in charity donations as Manchester has been. Humans are good anywhere.

After making good points about how unlikely terrorism is in the west, and how much bigger a deal is made of it here than cities that experience these things regularly despite undoubtedly also being full of kind and helpful people, the article finishes with stuff that still makes me nod vehemently even though I've read it many times now.
The rush for articles about the wonderful spirit of Manchester is in part a desperation to fill pages before we know facts, and it’ll only get worse. “I shall not murder / The mankind of her going with a grave truth,” wrote poet Dylan Thomas of a child incinerated in the Blitz. “Nor blaspheme down the stations of her breath / With any further / Elegy of innocence and youth.”

But that’s what will happen with the children killed in Manchester over the next few days and weeks. There’s something obscene about our lust for sentimental suffering, in which the awful, meaningless deaths of children will become the fodder of tear-jerking tabloid pages. The cheap emotion of it distracts us from the hard work of real compassion, the daily grind of kindness.

Manchester is a good, ordinary city where something awful has happened. It’s full of decent people who will cope with shock, horror, and loss in the same ways people do every day, everywhere. It doesn’t need to be anything more.
"Don't Look Back in Anger" is definitely the worse song for this, in case you were wondering. Sorry.
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"It then seemed to me that the immigration system was designed to create failures," was the quote my friend [twitter.com profile] SMerlChest pulled out of this story when she tweeted it.

I read it with a panicked heartbeat (only eventually assuaged by remembering that I (very nearly) have citizenship now so this can't happen to me; after a decade of anxiety verging on panic attacks at reading stories like this, a few days apparently isn't sufficient for me to have trained myself out of that reflexive reaction). The tl;dr version is that a Canadian living in Scotland with a good job and a wife and little kids who's just been granted a huge sum of money for his academic work is set to be deported in a couple of weeks, and it seems to be only because he was told the wrong thing to do by the Home Office ages ago and had no idea until a couple of weeks ago.

My friend [twitter.com profile] elmyra quickly pointed out "Oh look, he's white, middle class, and Canadian, so media are paying attention." (They are a white Eastern European immigrant to the UK, one of the voices I'm so grateful to have in my book, so they know whereof they speak here.) [twitter.com profile] SMerlChest added that the class thing might be crucial (contrasting this with another Canadian family that got deported from Scotland recently). I said that I think having young British kids also makes this guy's case more likely to get media attention.

And as we were all talking about this, about what would actually help this man avoid deportation vs what has made this story get media attention that tons of similar stories won't get (which is an overlapping circle but not the same: the good job is in both circles, the British kids are in the latter (because British family didn't save the poor woman deported to Singapore...see, she's not white and she was a carer rather than having a proper job and don't tell me those things didn't count against her). I actually also think this story is getting media sympathy because he can claim the Home Office made this error; he himself is an innocent, falling afoul of red tape which is a particular hatred of the British for whatever reason.

As I was sort of dispassionately discussing the elements that make a good sympathetic immigration-horrors story, I didn't want to make it sound too much like I wasn't genuinely sympathetic for the man. My fledging panic attack was borne out of my awareness that the same thing would happen to me. And something that I never let myself think about too much consciously until now that it's over...I knew that if it had come to it, my story would not have gotten the sympathetic media attention that this has.
  • I don't have a proper job and for the last year neither has my husband, however British he is.
  • We're both disabled, which Britain is not sympathetic to generally.
  • We don't have any children.
The last especially: not having those babies (and yes they'd be white!) being all photogenic and British and everything to pull on strangers' heartstrings and to legitimize my presence here in a way that my childlessness cannot.

It's one thing to feel that your life might not measure up to the goals you have for it or the expectations your parents have for it, it's I think on another level to have to think about how your life compares to what the Home Office approves of, what the public will approve of if you have to take your immigration horror story to the media.

It seems like something not a million miles from the current concept in America of being "popular enough to live," getting enough people to back your GoFundMe that you can pay your medical bills. Thankfully immigrants having to appeal to the British public and/or Home Office as sympathetic less common than crowdfunding healthcare has to be in America.

Musing on this, and finally letting myself admit the lens through which I had to look at myself as an immigrant, and thinking about what I wrote here yesterday about not being happy or even relieved yet about my citizenship got me to tweet: "OKAY I THINK THE RELIEF AT BEING A CITIZEN HAS FINALLY KICKED IN."

This is why I paid thousands of pounds and put myself through this? Just so I don't have to panic, just so I don't have to think about how my life looks to the Home Office. Andrew and I don't seem enough like a family, my work is that "second shift" women do that doesn't look like work, it'll only be my nationality and my whiteness that made this as easy for me as it has been.
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Today I saw a politician (Philip Hammond this time, but it could've been any of several) quoted as saying Britain "need[s] to continue to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to these shores" and I think that was just one time too many for me with that terrible phrase, best and brightest.

I always and only ever hear in the context of a Labservative government reassuring the xenophobes (even when, like now, they have nothing to reassure us about; Britain is hemorrhaging citizens of countries that will remain in the EU for longer than the next year and a half and the Tories want to cut immigration to less than half of what business says the UK needs).

I finally realized exactly what it is I so dislike about the phrase "best and brightest" -- apart from its obvious politician-speak and doesn't really mean anything. Beyond that, I just managed to articulate this morning that I think I hate it because it's evidence of something I am always complaining about: that immigrants are always talked about, and never talked with (much less listened to). That British media and politicians mostly talk about us as if we can't hear or read what they are saying.

As an immigrant, I hear this and think: What on Earth makes the UK think it's so special it can only even tolerate those immigrants who are "brightest and best"? But it's not speech directed at me. It's directed at British people who are wary of accepting any immigrants, it's not challenging them on that xenophobia but just saying, however grudgingly, that we need a few immigrants, lads, but don't worry, we'll make sure they're only the good kind. The best.

What it sounds like from the outside is that Britain is telling all the other countries in the world: Don't even think about sending us anything less than your best and brightest! But it isn't, and it wasn't even before Brexit, doing anything to convince the rest of the world that it deserves the cream of their crops. Indeed, it's doing everything in its power to persuade other countries that it doesn't deserve or even really want their brightest or best: even before Brexit we outside the EU have suffered a lot, as any of my readers surely are sick of hearing about by now.

Still British politicians talk like the world is a labour force to be tapped if necessary. I am not the most informed person to be drawing comparisons between Brexit and the British Empire as often as I do, but I can't help think that mentality is at play here. There's this idea that the rest of the world is composed of resources that Britain can take advantage of as often as necessary and to whatever extent is necessary. This went for natural resources all over the world, but also human resources: people. Post-World War II, when Britain needed more workers, its colonies, especially the West Indies, were called on to provide them. Britain still hasn't learned the lessons about racism and exploitation that this and other such history could have taught it, and I swear this has contributed to the casual idea that Britain can get exactly as many immigrants as it needs and not one more, from exactly the places it wants them, at any given time.

As if the rest of the time, these black and brown people, these people who speak with derided accents, are patiently waiting in case they can be of service. Dutifully sending their brightest and best people out of their own countries, just as they had to send their food even when it left them with none, send their gold even when it left them poor, send everything bright and good to Britain.


May. 27th, 2017 01:11 pm
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Got the details of my citizenship ceremony! It's on June 7, so... quicker than I was expecting!

I knew it'd be a weekday, I was told they usually are on Wednesdays, so figured I could arrange for whatever friends wanted to celebrate to go to the pub that evening, but it's Eve of Poll so I imagine even then a lot of you will be busy!

Me and the Brighouses are already talking about going to watch village cricket that weekend, to celebrate surviving the election/commiserate about whatever kind of Brexity government we've ended up with. With the picnic hamper and wine and I can make a cake. It would be nice to have something like that to look forward to.

I am finding the whole citizenship thing a bit anticlimactic, to be honest. Maybe just due to my brainweasels, maybe the job interview didn't help, or maybe it's just taken so long and been so expensive and draining that I can't summon the energy to care any more.

I hoped to be more happy about this, but I expected to at least be relieved.

Maybe I'll feel better after the ceremony, but at the moment I'm just trying not to dread it too much. I don't want to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing where I think I'll hate it and so I hate it, but damn, I've never liked this idea. And now it's not an idea, it's this letter with all the information printed so tiny I got Andrew to read it. It suggests practicing the Oath or Affirmation before you get there but "this isn't a memory test!" so cards with the text on will be provided. So I'm gonna have to print it off at about 20-pt font because I won't be able to read their damn cards. I'm torn between really not wanting Andrew (or anybody) there and wanting him there for accessibility reasons, like so I don't get lost finding the place.

I'm glad it will be over soon, anyway.
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I owe Dreamwidth a much better post about this, but I also want everyone to know: today I found out my citizenship application had been approved and my passport and other important documents have been returned to me.

I'm not officially a citizen until I do the ceremony, which I should find out about in the next week or so. (While I continue to want no one there for that, I'm very happy to have as many people as want to and can, in a pub nearby waiting for me to be done with it.) But this is basically it. Done now. Until a few years ago, this would have made me indistinguishable from a person who's British because they're born in Britain. Our previous, immigrant-hating Home Secretary changed that, but it's still pretty good.

I am so grateful to all the people who backed my Kickstarter to make this application possible, to my friends who signed my application as references, to everyone who's told me that the UK is better for having me in it, and especially for Andrew who's into his second decade of tolerating the expense, stress and diminution of his own rights in his own country as the spouse of a foreigner. And that's even before the day-to-day horrors of me not letting him buy the hundred-quid six-CD set of one album that he doesn't like all that much anyway, and suchlike.
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This morning, [personal profile] white_hart shared a quote from C.S. Lewis:
"If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."
If we'd been much later, it'd have found Andrew and I on a tram home from a lovely night out.

One of Andrew's friends who lives in Australia was in Bury doing some work, and invited us out for dinner with him, his wife and the people they'd been working with all day, recording an audio drama for a podcast. It was a lot of fun, and it's always good to see Andrew enjoy himself in social situations, especially ones where people tried to guess his second-favorite Beatles album.

And because his friend was in Bury, we got a train to town and then a tram to Bury. Chatting idly along the way about how long it'd been since we'd been to Bury, having flashbacks at the tram stop that we used to use all the time when I first met Andrew, what kind of commute I'd have if I got a job I applied for, which would involve one of the tram stops along the way. On the way back, we were nearly half-asleep.

The tram went through Victoria station, right next to the entrance to the arena, about an hour before the bomb.

I went home and almost straight to bed. I already had an e-mail from my mom asking if I was all right, when I still thought this might have been a speaker blowing up or something that had spooked people. We were surprised she'd heard about it so quickly (if my parents knew how, I'm sure they'd set up a google alert for "incidents in the UK" and e-mail me about all of them, but barring that I have no idea how they manage).

I did not tell her I'd been on a tram going past there an hour before.

This morning I woke up to another e-mail from her asking if Andrew's family (the only other people she knows in the country) were okay, and it was all I could do not to tell her that I couldn't imagine any of them being at at an Ariana Grande concert.

No, those are for kids. I can't handle thinking of all the teenagers' parents today.

I woke up to other e-mails too, one from my old "blind teacher" who I hadn't heard from in years. People in North America had been fretting about us while we slept. FB and skype messages too, when I hadn't even thought I was logged into skype. By the time I read and could respond to them, the people who'd written them were asleep, hopefully not too worried about us.

One of those North Americans was awake, and upon hearing that we and ours are fine, said, "YEESH thank goodness yet it is still awful so be kind to yourselves PLEASE, eh?"

I hadn't thought of this as something I needed to be kind to myself about, but I replied to my friend, "Such a sad demographic to lose people from: the pictures being shared around social media of people who are still missing are of fourteen, fifteen year olds. I am having to be a bit careful around it actually for all the mentions of grieving parents, which inevitably remind me of my grieving parents saying no one's kids should die before them. I hope the strangers do no mind that my eyes are wet with tears for me as well as for them."

In his invariably lovely way, he said, "Of course that's what grieving is all about, dear Holly. My loss is your loss, your loss is mine. We're all in this together, though most of the time we don't see it. For you to think of your own family in this way shows a great respect for what other people are suffering with: connect us all together, connect you to me and me to you."
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This is so obvious but I don't think I've read about it anywhere.

It's pretty well understood in my circles, which involve a lot of disabled people and a lot of politics people, that disabled people get a lot of shit from the DWP.

Very few people realize how strikingly similar am experience immigrants can have in dealing with the Home Office.

There really are a lot of parallels. Look at this Guardian article I read today:

It starts right in the subhead.
the Home Office is driven not by reason but by keeping numbers down.
And it just goes on.
Not only is the Home Office understaffed and under-resourced as the result of public sector cuts, it is also under pressure to deliver whatever results the government needs to stand any chance of meeting its immigration targets
The guiding Home Office principle seems to be reject first, ask questions later, and in the meantime hope the applicant does not have the connections or resources to appeal. Immigration lawyers have told me that officials were at one point being incentivised, on the basis of how many applications they rejected, with Marks & Spencer vouchers.
the Home Office in particular, and the immigration system in general, has long made decisions not on the basis of merit or reason, but as a way of filtering out as many applicants as possible – either via exhaustion of resources or impossibly high barriers.
If the waiting or the rejections or the appeals don’t exhaust the anxious applicant, the costs involved in protecting themselves from the relentless machine surely will.
Already there are reports of EU citizens being questioned about their right to use the NHS, and concerns about poor and elderly people who may struggle to fortify themselves against whatever ultimate decision will be made about their status.
these deficiencies yield great consequences for ordinary people who suffer when a bureaucracy turns brutal. It has also revealed the extent to which immigration law is damaged by populist thinking and underfunding.
Having tried and mostly failed to get blood out of the stone that is the DWP, I don't relish dealing with another system that is similar in any way (and I heartily wish I'd been able to do this while Andrew still had a steady and quite healthy income, because I'm terrified of how expensive this could be... I know I Kickstarted the money for the application fee but, as this article alludes, anything that doesn't go perfectly smoothly will cost a lot more).

But now that Christmas is out of the way and I have a nice long stretch ahead of me where I don't expect to need my passport, it's time to put the final touches on my citizenship application and send it off.
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Sunny train window, the Train Picnic triumvirate of sandwich, snack and drink, new podcast. I am happy.

I think the joy of the triumvirate goes back to school field trips, the pleasing deliberation of the lunch packed as neatly as possible and taken with you, somehow making you want to eat it on the way there just because you know what it'll be and how nice it'll be.

The podcast is The Matter of the North, bittersweet now because listening to this first episode reminds me of having caught it on first broadcast, a week or two ago, when Katie and I were still planning to go to exactly this part of the world for a much-needed little holiday in October: Lindisfarne and Durham seemed perfect for a history nerd like her and an Old English lover like me, the perfect confluence of these things at a near enough ‎location to be cheap. Or so we thought, but it ended up being prohibitively expensive so we've had to abandon this plan, though I'm sure we'll work something out at some point.

It's especially disappointing because listening to this gives me an unbearably strong desire to visit these places: Hadrian's Wall, old ruins, cathedrals and coastlines, everything. I'm confused by the geography that's being narrated to me and I want to understand it better.

Somehow stories about the rest of England don't give me the same wanderlust. They're interesting, but I'm happy to leave them be. Somehow these northern ones -- and the Celtic bits of Britain --‎ are different. Evocative, and oddly familiar considering I'm from so far away and don't know anything about them really. 

To be topical at the beginning of this episode, good ol' Melvyn mentioned that this "referendum year" is a good time to do this (as if he isn't obsessed with being from Cumbria all the time...) and I think he's more right than he's willing to say. Because the campaign and especially the result has been yet more fodder for the arguments many of my Scottish friends and acquaintances are making that pit them against us which I have some sympathy with, but the Tory England they describe seems as foreign to me as it does to them. It seems terribly important to me that Manchester and Leeds and other northern cities were heavily Remain; we'll be dragged out of the EU just as unwillingly as Scotland.‎

Of course, the next episode of this podcast‎ I listened to is about Vikings, and of course the huge influence they had on this part of the country. The continuing vocabulary, attitudes and so on might explain why such an unfamiliar landscape can feel so familiar to me. I worry that's a bit of a reach, though: my grandmother's mother forbid her and the other children from learning Norwegian, even as her father sang hymns and lullabies in Norwegian (as well as English; I heard a recording of him at his wife's funeral, many years after he was gone himself), read his Bible in Norwegian, and gave the children Norwegian nicknames. My grandma doesn't remember what they were, though, and doesn't know a word of Norwegian. (Unless "uff da" counts!)

Still, [livejournal.com profile] rosamicula told me when she met me that I sounded like her friend Kjersti from Norway‎, and indeed I grew up knowing Kjerstis, and Bjorns, and every class in my school was full of Andersons and Carlsons and Knutsons‎.‎ Our jokes and our explanations and our vocabulary are different, even from the nearby states or parts of our own (apparently only Minnesotans play "duck duck gray duck" instead of "duck duck goose"?)

I liked that one of the academics talking about the Viking places and times in England started out by saying there must have been Viking women as well as men, for the language to persist as long as it must have done to be such a big influence in names and places. (There's a wonderful meditation on this in an excerpt from a Norman Nicholson poem, which googling led me to here after it was mentioned in the program.) So often it is the women, in charge of small children, feeding us lullabies and nursery rhymes that influence our language and our thinking on a level nothing in later life seems to reach.
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I have a stock answer for anybody who finds out I'm American and asks (out of politeness or incredulity, it ends up the same) what brought me here.

"My husband's British," I say. "And he thinks Manchester is the best place in the world."

1:49 this morning is the first time he told me he was sorry for bringing me here. "I thought when I married you I'd be taking you to a country where you'd be safe."

It broke my heart.

He hasn't stopped apologizing since. And my heart hasn't stopped breaking, for all kinds of reasons but this chief among them.

I love the UK. I love living here. I love being an immigrant, for all its miseries and horrors. I am surprised to find what an integral part of my identity this has become.

But of course, most of all I love him. I love the lives we've worked so hard to build together.

That anything, or anyone, could make him, the naturalized Mancunian who resists all my complaints about the weather and about how nice Yorkshire would be, could make him apologize, is almost as bewildering as it is enraging for me. He's 100% convinced he's brought me to a fascist country, where I'll be less safe as an immigrant, as a disabled person.

Considering, of course, how bad the country I'm from is on such things, I think at first he's exaggerating; my heart doesn't just break but feels like it'll shatter when I understand that he is not.

Goddamn anyone who makes him feel like a failure for marrying me and working so unbelievably hard at keeping us fed and housed and as happy as possible. I couldn't ask for anyone more committed to my happiness than he is -- not my parents, certainly not me! -- and goddam anything that makes him doubt or question or regret that.


May. 6th, 2016 10:28 am
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Sort of sweet watching my Scottish Green friends (of which for some reason I have several, maybe because it's a better party than the England & Wales Greens?) being devastated that apparently-good women candidates missed out on actually being elected -- which made me think yep, now you know how the Lib Dems already feel -- and baffled/terrified/outraged at where all these Tory voters came from -- which made me think yep, now you know how the north of England already feels!
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From our U.S. correspondent, Holly:

"For years I mocked the Americans mercilessly for telling me my accent was so sophisticated," said some lady named Fiona, "and that was certainly something I never got back home in Liverpool! I kept telling that joke about us being two countries separated by a common language. After I was asked what 'bum' and 'chips' mean, I got a lecture about the dangers of linguistic prescriptivism and a demand to pack my bags."

"My test just consisted of listening to an earnest white Midwesterner say 'fanny pack' without giggling," a bloke called Kevin said, "and I failed. Of course! It's disrespecting my heritage to expect anything else!"

"Sure," said Alex, "it's funny to tell the Americans they're not speaking proper English. But if they start using our own rules against us and decide we have to say 'bathroom' when we mean 'toilet,' just so we can stay here in the land of the free refills and the home of the fuckoff big cars, that's taking things too far! You can't even use 'fuck' as punctuation here," he said, clearly on the edge of breaking down. "People get all upset. But...but the petrol's so cheap!"

Then he loses his battle against the sobs. "Gas," he says sadly. "I mean 'gas'! Not petrol! Don't make me go back to Milton Keynes!"
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[personal profile] haggis and I went out for lunch. (Yay! It was so nice to see her again.)

When the waitress brought our food, she asked if I wanted any sauces for my salad. "Salad cream?" she suggested.

I politely declined, but when she left muttered "Salad cream! Bah. Stupid Britain."

[personal profile] haggis laughed. "It's not just the Queen, huh?" We had just been talking about the odious [twitter.com profile] cleanforqueen campaign (my take: if the Queen wants my scruffy bit of Manchester to be clean, she can give some of her millions of pounds to pay more council street cleaners).

I fear I could make quite a long list: it is indeed Not Just The Queen.
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I realized the other day, as you do on a bus when you aren't thinking of anything much, that it's almost exactly a year from now that my U.S. passport, the one I got soon after I moved here, expires. For years I'd been hoping that, by the time I had to replace that one, I'd have a British one to go along with it.

For various logistical and personal reasons, it'll make my life substantially better if I can get British citizenship by about this time next year.

I was and remain immensely grateful for and touched by all my friends' offers of setting up and contributing to a crowdfunding thing to pay my fees for applying for British citizenship, even though I had to turn them down because Andrew wasn't comfortable taking money from our friends.

But he came up with a solution that sounds like fun. He'd feel much better about my getting the money from people if I sing for my supper, and suggests I write a book about being an immigrant and all that kind of thing. Which I'm happy to do anyway, because I'm still faced with a lot of surprise that I didn't automatically become a citizen when I married a British person and similar huge misconceptions about how the UK treats non-EU immigrants.

I've already written a lot of stuff about this of course, and I'm going to look into what of that I can re-purpose for a book, as well as adding in other stuff I never wrote about and whatever else needs to be part of the story, like some of Andrew's incandescent responses to immigration rhetoric, and other immigrants from outside the EU if they'd like to share a bit of their stories too: this is about a lot more than my story and I'm aware that compared to many I've had a very easy time of it despite feeling mentally, emotionally and financially hollowed out by the whole process. Which of course is not over yet.

Andrew's done a Kickstarter for one of his own books, and has kindly agreed to sort out all that side of it out for me, and I will let interested people know more about this as soon as I can.

In the meantime, he says he's happy to start setting that up today, but he needs "a title and a picture" first. Not necessarily a title for the book, he says, but for the project. "Like, 'Holly's Immigration Adventure,' or 'My Struggle.' " Neither of those seems quite right to me (too jolly, too fascist) but my own best idea so far is 'Baroness of the Moon' which I don't think is very good, either.

So, feel free to help crowdsource the title too!
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"Southerners don't even think 'good' rhymes with 'blood'!" Andrew announced, no doubt something he learns from the internet he's glued to every waking moment. I've been busy tidying so if there's a context for this I don't know what it is.

When my brain finally gets around to processing this I say, "...They don’t!"

To which of course the only reply is to shout both words, because volume and repetition will solve everything. 

Then a terrible realization dawned on me. "Oh, God, this is gonna be like how you think I'm saying the same ‎thing when I say 'rum' and 'room,' isn't it?" That one went on for ages, and it was such a long time ago -- maybe even before we were married? -- that I hoped we were done with it...

..."for good," I was gonna say, but no. Turns out it's still "for blood"! Ha.

The shape of my mouth is different and everything, I now notice, when I say these words. It wouldn't be the first time my dialect aligns me with the south of England (I prpnounce "scone" so it rhymes with "phone" too). 

I hear a distinction between these two words that he doesn't, and that's fine. Because some people's linguistic capabilities really do develop in such a way that they retain or lose certain sounds; most remain separate but a few that don't get used enough to be worthwhile can get elided together. "Cot" and "caught" sound the same to some English speakers and different to others.‎ There are many and varied examples of this phenomenon of people who hear and speak a variety of languages.

But then there are also people who insist that their way is Right and all others are Wrong and Inferior. 

It's much easier to be one of those, I think, if you basically have always lived in the same place. ‎

"Good! Blood!" Andrew said again.‎ "Goodbloodgoodbloodgoodblood..."‎ ad infinitum until it was time for me to leave the house. Which, thankfully, was only a few minutes later!
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I'm worried my transformation to a Northerner was complete: several days this week I was outside in a t-shirt while other people were wearing warm coats and two days in a row I got asked, by someone bundled up and shivering, the magic words that bestow northernhood on a person: "Aren't you cold?"

It's always been me asking, until now! I've never been on the other side of this question! I am always cold! Andrew thinks my feet break the laws of physics by being colder than they have any reason to be! (Although I think that may still be true, actually.)

I don't really think I'd like to feel Northern. But I do like not being cold all the time.
hollymath: (Default)
...and how it's different from what British people mean when they tell me they don't feel British.
I tweeted this yesterday morning, and a couple of things happened. First, a bunch of people kindly retweeted it. That led to some "fun", like the guy who told me everyone was welcome here and if I didn't feel welcome it was my own fault and why wasn't I more grateful that he was welcoming me (which, bless them, seemed to shock and horrify my friends with his rudeness, whereas I thought I'd gotten off lightly to have only attracted one of the well-meaning Britsplainers and not any of the proper nasty bigots...#everydayxenophobia, eh?).

Anyway, the retweets also elicited this:Now, I've heard "I don't even feel British" from people who are, technically, British a lot. Pretty much any time I talk about my status in the UK, I'm met with this. When I was fretting over having to take the awful Life in the UK test, co-workers and in-laws were always intrigued by my book of practice questions but when none of them -- all native Brits! -- could answer them, they inevitably laughed it off by saying that having to take a test like this was itself an un-British thing. The think-pieces about "what it means to be British" work along similar lines: it's like "the true meaning of Christmas," something a certain kind of person likes to noodle about and everyone always comes to the same conclusion about: it's not only impossible to pin down, but that very ineffability is part of what makes it so great. Et cetera.

Through no fault of his own, Daniel's tweet made something snap in my head. It wasn't the first time my articulating how hostile I find "Britishness" and how little I feel it's anything to do with me got this kind of reaction. Indeed, I don't think I've ever talked about this without one or more friends -- and very close friends! and partners! -- saying "I don't feel that British either."

Of course people are welcome to affiliate themselves with "Britishness" as much or as little as they like. But I think they can't help but mean something very different by it than what I mean when I say "I don't feel British." I certainly empathize with Daniel's reluctance to align himself with some of the actions of his country's government -- of course I do, I'm from the U.S.! The first time I visited the UK in 2004 I was delighted my accent so often got me mistaken for Canadian because I'd have much rather been from a country that wasn't determined to bomb the shit out of all the brown people.

But even if I were to say "I don't feel American" when I don't agree with its government...it is in my head an entirely different thing to what I mean when I say "I don't feel British." And I kind of despaired of being able to explain this at all, much less in Twitter's character restrictions, so I just said And this got the responses it always does: people born in Britain who've lived here most or all of their lives saying they don't feel British and "feeling British" isn't a meaningful phrase to them. They're good people who I know love me, but things (temporarily!) seemed to be getting worse instead of better. I doubted my ability to explain to myself what bothered me about this, much less to loved ones whose identity I might be treading on, much less on Twitter.

But I figured if I was going to try, I might as well try it on James -- poor guy, these are the perks of being my partner: more unrefined unsolicited thoughts! .And I added this, more generally. And he understood it better than I understood what I was saying myself at the time, because he's good. Yes. Luxury. Unavailable luxury. This I think was the description I'd been groping for. It was the kind of luxury that means white people don't have to think about race, cis people don't have to think about gender, non-disabled people don't have to think about accessibility, and so on. (A point something like that was made by [twitter.com profile] pickwick.)

But it helped a lot to see someone else saying that, and not having to say it myself. This is true not only for personal reasons of it feeling so nice to be understood and have my perspective valued...but also because it's not just my identity that people feel free to argue with, it's also any opinions I might have about theirs -- like the guy who said Britain is welcoming and if I don't think so I'm wrong -- he told me "rubbish" when I challenged that, but he didn't say anything to the British people allying themselves with my side of the argument. So it's nice to have James saying these things partly because he makes me happy but also he doesn't run such a risk of attracting the kind of animosity I would have to worry about if I said the same things. And not only can Twitter randoms argue with it...the Home Secretary can argue with it. A nasty headline or a few minutes of Radio 4 on the subject of immigration can ruin my mental health for the day. I know my passport says I have Indefinite Leave to Remain now, but I don't really believe that. You can be working illegally, or more difficult to give a job to, once the passport that has your ILR in it expires. You can be deported if your British spouse isn't making enough money. The ILR stamp in my passport says I am officially "Settled" in the UK, but I'm really not. I'm decidedly unsettled, that's just how the system wants me, and that's what I mean when I say I don't feel British.

My well-meaning chums who've never lived anywhere else and think passports are for holidays rather than for when a family member dies or might die...they might not feel British because they disapprove of the actions of their government, but at least they can vote. They can stand for election and try to improve that government. I can't. The label they'd toss away carries privileges and securities I can only dream of.
hollymath: (Default)
1. Marmite- love or hate?
I don't actually love or hate Marmite. I wouldn't go out of my way for it but if it's on something I'd otherwise like to eat, I'll still eat it.

2. Marmalade- thick cut or thin cut?
I do hate marmalade, actually.

3. Porridge- made with milk or water?
I genuinely don't understand how anybody could prefer water, unless they were dairy-free generally.

4. Do you like salt, sugar or honey on your porridge?
Blueberries. Or bananas. Or peanut butter. Or maple syrup. Or raisins. Or ground cinnamon, or ginger. Honey or brown sugar are okay too, but not on their own.

5. Loose tea or teabags?
Either, but I buy teabags because my teapot didn't survive the move. The fact that I haven't bothered to replace it in the last year and a half indicates how bothered I am about this. But I like the faff of loose-leaf tea when I'm out somewhere that has all the nice cups and saucers and pots and milk jugs and sugar tongs and whatnot.

6. Where on your door is your letterbox?
Waist height and not vertical, as per regulation. (It jams rather than going flippy-flappy and I'm sorry to say it does have bristles, but these are not things I had any say over.)

7. What's your favourite curry?
Saag paneer.

8. What age is the place where you live?
Approx. 115, as it was apparently built at the turn of the century.

9. Where do the folks running your local corner shop come from?
Somewhere in the Caribbean I'd guess, by the accents. I've never asked specifically.

10. Instant or fresh coffee?
Instant coffee is made of mud and gravel, you know. Americans make coffee in pots and everyone drinks it, so there's not the demand for instant.

One of the most expensive things I did when I moved here was accidentally make Andrew stop drinking instant coffee. He was welcome to it but I wasn't touching the stuff, so bought Proper Coffee, which he started drinking too, and eventually realized it is far superior, and then wouldn't drink instant. When we had no money and he was going through like a bag of coffee a day, this was expensive indeed!

11. How far are you from the sea?
~35 miles, according to Google (I had no idea, so I looked it up.)

12. Have you travelled via Eurostar?
Not yet! I'd love to, though. Both my fondness for trains and my hatred of air travel would on their own be sufficient to make me want to.

13. If you were going to travel abroad, where's the nearest country to you?
Ireland is probably closest, whether i"m going to travel abroad or not! #subjunctivecasepedant

14. If you're female (or possible even some males) do you carry a handbag?
Yeah. I need somewhere to put my cane when it's folded away, if nothing else.

15. Do you have a garden? What do you like growing?
I do have a garden. I'm not growing much at the moment, except a few herbs. I like to grow things I like to eat.

16. Full cream, semi skimmed or skimmed?
Full cream!

17. Which London terminal would you travel into if going to the capital?
Props for being a thing about "Britishness" that doesn't assume everyone's already in London! From here I go to Euston, though I'm already starting to prefer the Grand Central trains from Brighouse, which take me to Kings Cross. But I prefer Euston as a station, compared to the inaccessible mess of Kings Cross (generally, the newer something is the more difficult I find it to navigate).

18. Is there a local greasy spoon where you live?
Yep. Does fried bread and everything. A nice contrast to POD and Trove and the gentrification they symbolize.

19. Do you keep Euros in the house?
There have been a few rattling around for a while, but not in useful amounts and not intentionally. I never have chance to use them except in the occasional airport.

20. Does your home town have a Latin, Gaelic or Welsh alternative
Manchester's name comes from the Latin, Mamucium or Mancunium (which is where we get the adjectival/demonym Mancunian from, something that confused the hell out of me the first time I heard it...though I don't know what I was expecting: it's not like "Mancastrian" or whatever would really be much better).

In Welsh, apparently this is Manceinion. I couldn't find a Gaelic variation.

21. Do you have a well known local artist or author?
Hm, maybe one or two! Mostly musicians who are not to my taste.

22. Do you have a favourite Corrie character?
It took me a second to even understand what this question was asking me. Not having a TV since I moved to Britain means I'm completely doomed, which is a shame because we get a lot of pub quiz questions about Coronation Street.

23. Are your kitchen sink taps separate or a mixer?
Mixer. This is one of those things you wouldn't even have to ask in the U.S.; it's so rare to see taps (or, faucets) that aren't.

24. Do you have a favourite brand of blended tea?
I do, actually; I'm a huge fan of the Co-op's 99.

25. What's in your attic if you have one?
A few suitcases, a few musical instruments, the remnants of what look like a just-started attempt by previous owners to convert the space into something useful that were stalled for whatever reason.

26. If you go out for a cream tea, what jam do you like on your scone?
Strawberry or cherry. NOT raspberry. Not blackcurrant either, blech. I miss grape jam.

27. Talking of scones- scon or scown? Jam or cream first?
Scone! Cream first.

28. Barth or bath?
Thing is, the way I say "barth" isn't the way anybody says "bath." That non-rhotic thing does my head in. But I say bath.

29. Carstle or castle?
Same again. Castle.

30. What flavour of crisps do you favour?
I like wanky ones like vegetable crisps or those multigrain things. I don't exactly favor Doritos but I do crave them sometimes, especially if there's hummus in the house that I can dip them in. This is probably about as close as I get to a guilty pleasure (normally I don't believe in feeling guilty about what brings one pleasure...but I wish I didn't like Doritos).

31. If you go to the chippie, what do you like with your chips?
Cheese, or curry sauce. With curry sauce I like half rice half chips the best, though.

32. Take away, take out or carry out?
I don't know what this question is asking me. I call it takeaway now because I'm surrounded by people who do. I didn't in the U.S., I called it takeout then. Or, really, just "pizza" because that's what it usually was.

33. If you have one, what colour is your wheelie bin?
Grey (though sometimes Andrew calls it black so then I call it black to avoid (further) confusion) for non-recyclables, blue for paper/cardboard, brown for plastic/metal/glass. And I guess there's a green one for garden/food waste, but I have a compost bin (also left by previous owners) so I don't bother with that.

34. What colour skips does your local skip hire use?
Yellow, I think?

35. Do you celebrate Guy Fawkes?
What, as a person? No. I like bonfire night, though, but that's just because I like fireworks and funfairs.

36. Dettol or TCP?
I genuinely have no idea how to answer this question. I know what those things are but I don't know what I'm being asked.

37. Do you have a bidet in the bathroom?

38. Do you prefer courgettes or aubergines?
This question happens to be about both two vegetables that have different (non-French!) names in America -- zucchini and eggplant, respectively -- and the two vegetables that are the bane of my existence. Both turn up in a lot of veggie options in restaurants, and I can't stand either. But that used to be true of mushrooms too and I made myself learn to like those (thereby opening up many veggie options!), so I'm sorta trying to do the same thing for courgettes/zucchini now. But I don't think there's much hope for the aubergines/eggplant.

39. In the 'real world', do you have friends of other nationalities? Which nationalities?
Ha. Most of my friends are of other nationalities!

40. Do you have a holy book of any sort in the house?
Principia Discordia.

41. Do you prefer a hankie or tissues?
I don't carry a hankie but I like them because my dad does and I like when he used to give it to me as a kid; made me feel looked-after.

42. Are you a fan of crumpets? What do you like on them?
I'm okay with crumpets. I've only ever had them with butter.

43. Doorbell, knocker or both?
Our front dor has a knocker.

44. Do you own a car? What sort?
Between the blindness and the dyspraxia, we are not a car-friendly household. I have a National Concessionary Travel Pass and a Disabled Railcard now, though!

45. What sort of pants do you guys prefer? Y fronts or boxers?
Wearers of the traditional masculine underpants of my intimate acquaintance tend to prefer boxers, or boxer-briefs. I like boxers; they're comfy.

46. Anyone still a fan of suspenders?
In the American sense of the word, several people I know -- including my boyfriend, who said "no" to this question -- wear suspenders all the time. But in Britain those are called braces, and suspenders are for holding up stockings. I...definitely know someone who's still a fan of suspenders. I don't usually bother, but they're handy when my tights are getting ragged and I cut off the top bit and wear them as stockings.

47. Do you have a favourite quote from the bard?
I have a sentimental attachment to "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit."

48. Do you like toasted muffins?
Yes? This set of questions is making me hungry.

49. Do you think a traditional trifle should contain jelly?
Things I nearly gag at the thought of include jelly (or, Jell-O) and trifle (which even if it doesn't contain jelly has custard in it, blech), so I don't think I am qualified to answer this question.

50. Do you attend regular religious worship? Of what kind?
I attend irregular religious worship when I'm visiting my parents. If my mom can be bothered to go to church when I'm there (which is increasingly rare), I'll go with her as it's the only way to catch up with a bunch of those people. But I'm not religious.
hollymath: (Default)
1) The lovely pub landlady pulls our two pints and says "That's £6.20 sorry about the price," without any pause at all. The immediate apology for what doesn't seem to me a bad price at all for very nice beer, and the assurance that she's not charging us any more than she needs to, both make me grin and feel like I am in the right place.

2) When the train to Huddersfield finally arrived, a couple of loud young white guys were standing nearer the train door than me, but when it opened and the people who wanted off had gotten off, one of them turned to me and said with a sweeping arm gesture, "go on, love." This kind of thing happens to me regularly now because of the white cane, but usually it's an offer, an invitation. This time, it sounded like I was being scolded, like I should already have known I would get on the train before they did. I scurried up onto the train, a little unnerved but also amused to have been demanded to submit to their chivalry.
hollymath: (Default)

By Morag of Manfeels Park.

Of course, the particular reason I've been crying has been this:
hollymath: (Default)
Oh I love Andrew.
I see we now have at least two MPs. Good. Two is enough for a leadership election.

Starting tomorrow, we will regroup.
Damn right. I'm scared and I'm angry and I'm sad but I'm determined to make things better, as soon and as thoroughly as I can.


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