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Yes I know there might still be a Brexit but it's not today and gosh am I relieved about that.

I told Facebook I was celebrating by going to get a prescription re-filled. Ha. I really celebrated by being able to have a normal day.

I forgot my pencil case so for today's phonology tutorial I took notes with a pen I found in the bottom of my bag. I noticed an EU flag on it and saw it was advertising a thing called Propeller that I've never heard of (I have no idea how this pen got into my possession). The flag was there next to "European Regional Development Fund."

I made a tiny bit of progress on a big uni project, walked to meet [personal profile] diffrentcolours for lunch because I had time and the weather was nice. We sat in the sun and and sandwiches (three cheese and chutney on toasted ciabatta for me) and lush chocolate cake. We talked about the European Parliament.

I went to see [personal profile] mother_bones and she said she'd been to the garden centre where the owner had taken such a large order of bog-standard terracotta flowerpots. It took her three hours to get them unloaded. She orders them from Italy now because hey aren't made in Staffordshire like they used to be. When she found out the Brexit deadline had been extended, she put in another big order.
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I didn't go on the march to stop Brexit and mostly I don't mind because I don't want a sodding people's vote, I never want another referendum again. I just want to stop Brexit.

Best protest sign I've seen is a nine-year-old's, covered in drawings of dinosaurs, that says "Brexit will wipe us out like the comet!" Though [personal profile] matgb and/or [personal profile] miss_s_b (I can't remember now) were telling me about one that said "Lancashire is better than Brexit," with a Yorkshire rose on it.
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My computer crashes every time I try to do a pivot table. So I can't follow along in the tutorials where we learn how to do the data analysis. So I am confused and frustrated.

And somehow it seems even more unfair that this is for a big project due on the 29th of March, Brexit day.

After the second week of a totally baffling and thus terrifying tutorial, I went to the library ocmputers that have magnification software and tried to follow through the worksheet with that. I really didn't have the spoons to go from one of those things to the other, but I only had an hour before my tutor's office hours and if I couldn't understand it or do it, I had to know in time to be able to go and ask her.

It turned out I did manage okay. I still don't understnad why I put which feature in which bit of the pivot table (I think this comes down to my haziness on independent vs. dependent variables still), but at least when I follow the examples it looks like it should. I need to remind myself how to do a chi-square test too, but that doesn't need to be today.

Yesterday was the most scared I've ever been of a no-deal Brexit, but today isn't actually much better. Even the petition thiat's giving people the only sense of a voice they've had in this shitstorm for almost three years -- so starved are we for some actual democracy that we're following the numbers on the petition as if they're our own heartbeat.

A sympathetic friend, on hearing about my uni project deadline, said "Sorry but nothing should be due on Brexit Day. Business as usual is entirely inappropriate." It already feels inappropriate. Everything from going to the shop to making plans for any date in the future to looking forward to even the most innocuous things like baseball season starting is so fraught it's exhausting.

And with nothing at all that seems uncomplicatedly good in my life (not even baseball? not dogs? (yeah because I'm worried about food and medicine for them too), my mental health is in tatters. I know there are people who are just ignoring it, but I have never been able to be one of them. Brexit has contributed to disordered eating. I'm having nightmares and anxiety attacks because of it. The vote is the reason Andrew gives for his mental health reaching the point that he had to quit his job, sending our microworld into chaos the same time the macro one was for the whole country.

I was thinking about all this on the bus home, and when when I got home someone shared an article about how Ichiro finally has to retire. She said, getting teary about Ichiro, it's fine, Ichiro forever. And I did too, but honestly less for him, amazing as he is (And he is: "Already half-out of the batter’s box, as he connected with his inimitable slap swing. Wildly rounding third as he went first-to-home on a double. In right field, making the frozen-rope throw to third that never stopped catching runners by surprise, no matter how many times they’d seen it.") But because Ichiro makes me think of my brother, because a 45-year-old baseball player is a link between the world I live in now and the world Chris knew about. A year ago I realized this, and I finished that will "Now I'm going to be sad when he retires." I was not wrong. But it had to be today I found out?

All the tears I hadn't been crying all day made their appearance then.

But! If you're like me and will feel better if you're doing something, [personal profile] kaberett has e-mailed their MP to encourage them to support revoking Article 50, and has kindly shared the text of that e-mail in case others would find it helpful not to be starting from a blank page. I know I do.
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A friend shared this article, and it's disgusting how much more sympathetically it's reported when it's a white guy rather than a brown woman. He gets to miss his mum and pasties.

My friend shared this to point out the disparity, and one of his friends, presumably in an effort not to be racist, said neither of them should be allowed to return or to keep their British citizenship.

And it just makes me so mad. Yes it would be great if we could end borders and stop treating citizens differently than everyone else. But in the meantime, revoking citizenship is incredibly serious. Being an immigrant in the UK has taught me that 99% of people born with UK citizenship have no idea what it really is, how to get it, or what it entitles a person to.

My modest proposal is that anyone who wants to revoke anybody's citizenship should have to write a damn essay on these topics.

Because now, people talk about it like its just a way to say "you smell and we don't like you." Citizenship is much too serious for such uninformed commentary.

I was about to say "if they fail their essay it's their citizenship that gets revoked" but honestly, no. It's not even fun to joke about, and if I believe the rights should be universal I have to let even uninformed bigots have them.

A few hours later, another friend shared this shitty bit of clickbait: "People who put milk in tea first to be stripped of English citizenship."

Imagine thinking that there's such a thing as English citizenship, I thought when I saw this. But that, it turned out, was the point. A representative example: "While perpetrators won’t be deported from Britain, they will have their citizenship downgraded to Scottish or as low as Welsh if it’s a repeat offense."

See, this is English people talking to themselves. Citizenship is something to joke about; this is a perfect example of how right I was to say that people talk about revoking citizenship as if it's a playground insult. The word "deported" is used so flippantly that it imperils civil society. Above all, these things are talked about merely as a means to enforce intra-British power dynamics. The fact that this was shared by a Welsh friend who doesn't like tea doesn't change the fact that people who've had to attain UK citizenship or who have ever had cause to fear deportation are not the audience here.
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The other day, swastikas were graffitied and a car was torched, both next to the mosque (which is so near to my house I saw the scorch marks from the car almost as soon as the dog and I went on our walk a couple mornings ago).

But also. People drew over the swastikas and there was a demo on the village green today (sadly run by the SWP but we can't have everything).

And I don't know whether to feel good that my community shows up to color over fascism with sidewalk chalk or just disgusted that there are National Front symbols there to be covered over in the first place.

National Front! I have the same temptation as everyone to go "what decade is this?!" but that's because I grew up learning the lie that social progress is inevitable and we can take for granted the victories of the past.

I did.

I don't any more.

Manchester

Sep. 29th, 2018 01:27 pm
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I don't understand how I've lived for more than a dozen years in a city with such an ego about itself (especially concerning the Industrial Revolution), that brags and makes all kinds of claims for its exceptional status,and yet I didn't know until today that Australia calls its bedding, towels and suchlike "manchester" because they used to get it from Manchester.

This seems like just the kind of anecdote the local museums, tours, and other purveyors of history would love: an indication of Manchester's global influence and whatnot. And I love museums and local history so I'd think I'd have known that by now...but it wasn't even anybody in Manchester who's told me now; it's a friend who used to live in Australia.
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I am so relieved England lost their men's football World Cup semi-final.

It's not like how I'm glad when I tease my friends about England men doing badly at cricket (I manage to be from a country that doesn't even really play cricket and I still fail the Tebbit Test). It's a totally different thing. I was really dreading an England win tonight, because them getting into the World Cup final, win or lose, would be bad on every level.

Because English football breeds violence and jingoism and there's already far too much of those. There's already too much exceptionalism in how England (Britain, but mostly England) thinks about itself. Brexit couldn't have happened without it.

Still I do think of those domestic violence stats I've seen all over social media; maybe you have too. A 38% rise when England lose. But 26% when they win. I'm sorry for the people who had a horrible night. I hope they don't have to dread the men's football World Cup final so much now.

Every friend of mine who shared that poster or made any similar post on Facebook had one guy in the comments complaining about it. One even said it was racist against the English, despite many people pointing out that a campaign made in England pointing out English statistics to an English audience is going to focus on England (and of course it's not possible to be racist against England but I didn't even go into that; this is telling for how white people think about racism though, we generally treat it like it's just a mean word to call somebody).

Most complainers didn't go as far as bleating they were victims of racism but they were all "not all football fans"ing. So eventually I got fed up and wrote this in one of the sets of Facebook comments (modified a little now to add stuff I wanted to mention but forgot):
I think the defensiveness of football fans needs addressing too. The fragility.

I hope the way that some react to statistics like these domestic violence ones indicate that they understand how serious and bad this is. But mostly they're just quick to distance themselves from it.

And I think they do that because they fail to appreciate that their experience as fans is very different from that of non-fans."I've been going to games for umpteen years," great, but that means you don't know what happens to people just trying to exist in a city centre, walk anywhere or cycle or use public transport, while football is going on. That means you're not a target in the way we are.

That means you probably don't know my friends and I have to warn each other about derby days, World Cup games and other big matches, so we know to avoid going into town. When I worked at a hospital, the results of Manchester derby games had to be part of the handover because they had such an impact on people's mental state, and how much fighting we could expect.

None of that happens for rugby or cricket matches or even women's football, just men's football.

Football fans are an in-group who doesn't believe how different the out-group's experience is, and I wish there was some way to get that across to them.
I'm just not interested in listening to football fans about this. I think they should listen to my friends and me. We all have stories: pushed off their bikes, punched in the guts on the way home for work for not looking sufficiently happy after some big win over Argentina, Andrew constantly having his beard grabbed and once being prevented from getting off a tram at the stop he wanted and then shoved off at the next one, I was bodyslammed into a wall while getting off a train and had such a panic attack James nearly missed his last train home to look after me.

Yes I know there's more to football than public drunkenness and violence and entitlement and bigotry but I'm sick of having to argue with people who don't understand that those things have become entangled with football in England, so I'm glad England lost.
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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.

Ceremony

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.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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.

Snark

May. 6th, 2016 10:28 am
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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!
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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!"
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
[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.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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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