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Catching up on baseball, half-listening while I do other stuff. But I couldn't help but snap to attention when I hear one of the commentators say "Pitchers are out there shagging..."

Yeah. It doesn't mean the same thing in baseball as I'm used to hearing it mean now that I live in the UK.
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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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Yesterday when Mastodon was talking about the Iranian great-grandparents that the Home Office wants to deport, and thus inevitably about the cruelty and the unsuitability of the Home Office, someone I follow said
http://whysweetlie.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-heart-secretary-teresa-may.html
This is a poem by Wes White, an acquaintance of mine who married an American. She wanted to join him here, but could not, because their income was judged too low. May was the Home Secretary at the time, with control over immigration policy.
I thanked them for sharing the poems, which really are incredible, and they replied with a bit more of the story:
The story had a happy end: after a long campaign, she was allowed in. But if it was so hard for a white US citizen married to a (very eloquent) native Brit, it's so much harder for others. I have a lot of respect for immigrants.
Obviously as another white U.S. citizen married to a very eloquent Brit, I was sympathetic anyway. But the poems really are good. There are three, "The Heart Secretary," "Teresa," and "May." The last one is my favorite.
3. May
We married on the 18th, in a vineyard in Nebraska.
Matched cummings to Breton in our vows:
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart)” stood next to “My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts” -
In yellow sun and yellow dress
you looked like Disney’s Belle made flesh.
And you do. You carry and hold that card from my deck, my darling.
But this game was written by a joker,
and the hearts are trumped
by diamonds
every trick.
I'm glad it worked out for this couple. I wish it worked out for everybody.

1/365?

Jan. 1st, 2019 10:08 pm
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My DW friend [personal profile] nanila posted something every day last year. I am totally admiring and in awe of such a feat but it occurred to me while waiting for the train home that I could try the same thing now it's a new year.

Two hours later, I'm getting ready for bed and wondering if this is really such a good idea because I could just put on my pajamas and turn off the light right now.

But even if I don't make it, I might as well write something for today.

Andrew and I got all the way to Brighouse train station, with a few minutes still to wait before our train, before his CPAP machine came up in conversation and we realized that we didn't have it with us. Our departure, already delayed longer than I'd have intended because I got sucked into a documentary called The Art of Drumming, which I'd seen before but Andrew hadn't, and it was fun to watch his reactions (surprisingly for a music thing, he hardly had to yell at how wrong it was and said he really enjoyed it), had to be further postponed while I ran back. We're just lucky we didn't have to wait a whole hour.

So I ran back most of the way, [personal profile] matgb having kindly come out with the machine after I'd rung ahead and explained the situation, saving me what would've been a few crucial minutes if Andrew had been correct in his reading of the departure boards, in which case I'd gotten back with only a minute or two to spare. As it turns out the display was apparently unreliable and we had to cross over the platforms and go up and down a lot more stairs than my lungs and legs were happy with, and wait another twenty minutes.

I'd made the round trip in the time it usually takes me to walk one way I the station! My lungs and legs are not used to this kind of exertion and made this very clear, but I'm amused that a day that 99% of had been spent glued to the couch still probably featured enough exercise in the other 1% to count toward a gym-going goal if I'd been misguided enough as to make such a thing for myself.

Not long after we got home, [personal profile] diffrentcolours brought Gary back from his overnight. So good of him and [personal profile] mother_bones to look after him, especially when they have to do things like give him a bath because he decided to roll around in poop, and interrupt their Doctor Who-watching because he was whining and pawing at D's trousers to be taken home.

I got to be a countersignatory to [personal profile] mother_bones's passport renewal application! The exclamation mark is there because I'm excited I keep finding new uses for my own UK passport (I had to put its number on the form).

Besides the usual stuff on the form I had to fill in (name, address, etc), the last box was for how many years I've known the person. I'm not entirely certain actually! My best guess is 11 but it might even be 12 now. She and D were the first friends I made in Manchester. It's hard now to remember what it was like not knowing them. Definitely more fun to think about the time since I have.

Paddy

Dec. 22nd, 2018 10:28 pm
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When Andrew said "Paddy's died," there was a big long pause before I said "Paddy Ashdown?!" it seemed impossible. Yet this single name on its own could refer to no one else in our lives.

It's a cliché to say there are people you just take for granted as always going to be around. But I guess I had been doing exactly that. I didn't even know it, until I no longer could.

I hadn't even known he was ill. It's another cliché but Paddy seemed invincible: tough as anything. There's a quote from what now has to be the Lib Dems' other beloved departed leader, Charles Kennedy, doing the rounds again today: "Paddy Ashdown is the only party leader who's a trained killer. Although, to be fair, Mrs Thatcher was self taught."

As always at this kind of news, your mind flashes back to the last time you saw the person. The last time I saw Paddy, he was telling The Joke at gleeclub. Glee is the Lib Dems' singalong, held the last night of every federal conference and it is traditional for Paddy to tell The Joke. I'd been hearing about this for years but since I'd only been able to go to one gleeclub before this and apparently I'd missed it then or he hadn't done it then, I was excited to finally be able to hear The Joke. (Which itself is a shaggy dog story; that's not the point. The point is how he tells -- told -- it, and how much everyone loved hearing it: It requires an empty bottle as a prop, and when I snuck out of Glee early, not long after he'd done it, I saw the person whose wine bottle he'd used this time bragging about this fact, and I don't know anybody else who could make someone feel special by grabbing a recyclable out of their hands.)

But only after I'd savored that memory a little did I remember the time before that that I saw Paddy Ashdown.

It had been the day before that gleeclub. Right after that immigration debate where I gave that speech, my first at conference, standing up to the party Establishment to ask my fellow Lib Dems to be more humane to immigrants, particularly disabled ones.

And it'd worked. I'd been so sure it wouldn't that I cried with relief when the vote passed. And I was still crying a few minutes later when we were all standing up and trying to get out of the hall after it was finished.

And suddenly this afternoon I remembered Paddy Ashdown being one of the first people to come up and congratulate my most visible colleague, James who'd summated the amendment after I'd proposed it, and me.

I told Andrew this and he said he didn't know that. I hadn't mentioned it to him; I'd pretty much forgotten it myself. As soon as I said it I was less sure it'd really happened: I had still been suffering from that earlier anxiety attack before I spoke and my brain doesn't form good memories then. It feels surreal and dreamlike. I was very glad that one of the first memories a friend shared of Paddy was of him congratulating James and me! It meant I hadn't dreamt it after all.

James tweeted about it very eloquently:
I only got the chance to meet Paddy this year, just briefly - but I'll very much remember him giving a warm congratulation to @hollyamory and I after a tough few days fighting to improve @LibDems immigration policy.

"You really nailed it", he said.

I intend to keep doing so.
At that point, [personal profile] po8crg reminded me that opposing the (national) establishment on immigration was one of the first major political acts he did as leader, when he stood by the people of Hong Kong all being able to enter the UK. A 1989 NY Times article about Hong Kong immigration quotes him thus:
Paddy Ashdown, leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats, has condemned the political consensus over the Hong Kong issue. ...
''This fawning before unstated popular prejudice does no credit to our leading politicians. It may not in itself be racist - but it feeds off and adds to the already dangerous level of racism within our society.''
It's true and it's important and it's still perfectly relevant today. (I take a harder line myself: I do think the fawning is racist, but it's still worth pointing out that pandering to the lowest common denominator of popular opinion is both a cause and an effect of inarguable racism.)

[personal profile] po8crg also pointed out that Paddy was still fighting for British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passport holders to get right of abode in the UK last year, twenty-five years on.

There, so Paddy said, “I know what BN(O) stands for, it stands for Britain says no.”

I'm proud to be someone he approved of when it comes to an immigration policy.
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The UN's International Day of Migrants is December 18, so [personal profile] marjorie_bark asked me to write something about this today.

In March 2017, a group of End Deportations members blocked a deportation flight from Stansted Airport.

Just last week, this Stansted 15 were charged with "endangering the safety of an airport," under anti-terror legislation brought in after Lockerbie so it carries huge potential sentences: up to life imprisonment. All for stopping a charter flight from taking off in a peaceful protest.

Protests have been planned for today in many UK cities, including Brighton, Glasgow, Lancaster, Leeds, London, Liverpool, Nottingham and Sheffield as well as Manchester, which I'm planning to go to (5:30 to 6:30 at St. Peter's Square, if any other locals are interested; as for the rest I fear most of the details are on Facebook).

The event information says
For International Migrants Day on Tuesday 18 December, activists from all over the UK will stand in solidarity with the Stansted 15, a group of people who stopped a secret charter flight from deporting precarious migrants to destitution, persecution, and death. On Monday 10 December, the Stansted 15 were found guilty of terror-related charges. Amnesty International called the verdict a crushing blow for human rights. We are using this day to raise awareness of the plight of the Stansted 15 in addition to local migrant-rights issues in every city participating in this national day of action.

We believe that this draconian ruling was designed to thwart direct action against the UK government's brutal and violent treatment of migrants. This country’s racist and xenophobic immigration policy is rooted in its colonial history. This history continues with the mistreatment and exploitation of migrants in detention, a regime of sexual and physical violence that has resulted in over 43 migrant deaths inside ten immigration removal centres since 2000. Even when not detained, borders cross the everyday lives of all migrants, especially asylum seekers who live in enforced poverty, forbidden to work and housed in appalling privately-run accommodation. State hostility is further embedded in schools, universities, the NHS, charities and housing authorities, with employees conscripted to become border guards, making precarious the lives of so many non-EU and EU migrants and those who were born in the UK but were unable to regularise their status because of opaque immigration rules and high visa fees. The violent colonialism of the hostile environment was exposed this year by the horrible treatment of the Windrush generation, many of whom were brought to the UK to help rebuild the national economy after World War II, raising children that were born in the UK. After living in the UK for their entire lifetimes, members of these communities have found themselves cruelly detained and deported, without the ability to contest their cases.

On Tuesday 18 December, we will use our collective voices to stand in solidarity with the Stansted 15 and with all migrants, such as the women detainees in Yarl’s Wood who continue to #HungerForFreedom.

Helping migrants and stopping detention and deportations from happening in our communities is not a crime! We demand an end to the the hostile environment policy, an end to immigration detention centres and an end to deportations!

To support the Stansted 15 and End Deportations, we urge people to wear and/or make signs in pink in solidarity.
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I started writing a huge detailed essay about my interaction with the Lib Dems' policy motion on immigration, a proper how-the-sausage-gets-made thing that was very cathartic but also full of things I shouldn't say -- both because they're not really fair to talk about in public but also because it'd be boring or confusing to anybody who doesn't care enough that they already know anyway.

To turn several screens of text into a single clause, it turned out that the part of the proposed immigration policy the leadership were digging their heels on was the part most personally affecting me.

It's a close-run thing, because one of the amendments was about reducing the fees to cost, not to let the government continue making huge profits off of ordinary people. I would never have been able to pay for citizenship on my own, and yet there's still something that has affected me more than the many thousands I've paid out (it's esitmated to cost £7,000 to pay all the application fees involvined in immigrating here now, but it was only ("only," she laughs bitterly) about half that when I did it because they're hiking up the fees so much every year).

But another of the amendments was about something even closer to my heart. No Recourse to Public Funds )

So our Home Affairs spokesperson, an MP and former cabinet minister, got up to propose this policy motion and speciffically mentioned as a point of pride that we'd only have No Recourse to Public Funds for two years and how disabled people would be okay because there would be exceptions for them... and then people started talking about the amendments that had been chosen for debate. The first two were very good but I confess to not remembering the speeches because I was so nervous.

I wasn't nervous about public speaking, which I love doing. I had been excitesd and honored to have been chosen to propose this amendment, suddenly most important because it was the one that had all the resistance while the others were not being opposed by the leadership. I felt I was representing Lib Dem Immigrants, of which I was a founder member a year ago, and all my friends and colleagues in the party who wanted as much liberalism in our immigration policy as possible.

But that wasn't why I was nervous. I was nervous because I'd just had a panic attack and I'd worried it was still obvious on my face that I'd been crying. )

The silver lining of this horrid brain/body overload was that I had exactly no time or energy for worrying about actually speaking. I got up on that stage worried about exactly two things: was my face still red/blotchy from crying and was I going to fall down the stairs getting on/off the stage. (Of course there was step-free access but I couldn't see it and reasoned it must be somewhere behind the stage, probably dark, and that dark/unfamiliar places would be less good for me than dealing with the three or four steps everyone else was using at the front of the stage. Plus the hall aide was Zoe, a friend of mine, and when she asked if I would want help getting onto the stage I felt good about saying yes, so she just walked with me and I didn't fall down the stairs.)

But even with goals like that I don't think I could be faulted for a lack of ambition. I am an ordinary member; I've never spoken at Conference before; I'm not on important committees and no one important knows who I am. And yet here I was trying to tell people the MP, former cabinet minister, who'd proposed this motion was wrong on this subject and that I was right and that people should vote for what I said I wanted.

And they did.

As Lib Dem Immigrants told our members today,
we as a party can say: If you're married to someone British, you should be able to live here with them. No ifs, no buts, no means-testing. This is in contrast to the policies of the Conservative and Labour parties, and we urge them to follow our lead. As we campaign for Equal Marriage for LGBT+ couples, so also for mixed-nationality couples.
Like all our conference speakers, I was on BBC Parliament, so I've put the video from that feed, and a transcript of my speech, here if anybody is interested in even more detail than I've burdened you with here.



Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
So except for my parents finding out, here's another reason I've been a little bit cagey about being poly:
The number of foreigners getting British passports plummeted from 194,370 in 2012 to just 123,229* last year, following a tightening of the rules for bringing over family members and a steep increase in the cost of applying.

The most common reason that submissions are rejected, however, is a rather vague one. Since 2012 the number of applications thrown out under a “good character” clause has doubled. In 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, this was the cause of 44% of all refusals.
...
Yet the definition of bad character is extraordinarily broad. The guidelines list characteristics that “should not normally, of themselves, be relevant”, including drinking, gambling, divorce, promiscuity and “eccentricity, including beliefs, appearance and lifestyle”. But, they go on, somewhat ambiguously, applicants may be rejected if “the scale and persistence of their behaviour” has made them “notorious in their local or the wider community”. The Home Office was unable to say how many of the 5,525 people rejected for their character in 2016 were turned down for being persistently and notoriously promiscuous. Lawyers say notoriety is very seldom invoked.
"Very seldom," and I realize that white privilege and English-speaking privilege will mean I am probably less scrutinized than another sort of poly person would be, but still. Polyamory wasn't something I was going to do national BBC interviews about like I did about being bisexual (or disabled and unemployable, for that matter) because it's pretty much the definition of promiscuity in some people's eyes. Particularly when my legitimacy as an immigrant was obtained by virtue of me being married to a British citizen. I continually had to prove that marriage in order to progress through the stages of visas, residency and citizenship.

I'm aware it's unlikely, but even a small chance wasn't worth the risk of having my relationships associated with my name to anyone I didn't really know. It could easily be argued that my "appearance, lifestyle and behavior" are "eccentric," or that I'm "notorious in the local community" if you ask certain members of the WI!


* One of those is me!
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I've just started sharing stories like this on Facebook with exhortations to abolish the Home Office (something I think I also suggested in my immigration consultation response). But this article is a little different from the ones I usually

We see stories like this, about someone facing deportation for the flimsiest mistake or aracane technicality, on a regular basis now. This is a great case for getting sympathy and public interest, because it's about an East Asian (a minority that suffers from a more benevolent racism), a man, with a rich family, and who wants to be a GP.

If the Graun were writing this story, as it usually is the only paper that seems to talk about things like this, that'd probably be all we ended up knowing (along with the arcane details, especially the ones that include huge sums of money, and a good quote or two about how awful the process has been). But this guy's from Manchester so it's the MEN writing about it. And the MEN is actually pretty good at actual journalism, and I really like how this story is written.

First, as it points out right in the headline, this is a particularly horrible thing for the Home Office to do when the NHS is so short of doctors.
the NHS is planning to spend £100m to bring in 3,000 GPs from abroad to alleviate shortages here. Recruitment agencies will earn around £20,000 for each successful placement in England.
Twenty grand for each GP! Where are the posters of babies that say "she needs an incubator, not a twenty-grand headhunter fee" now, eh?

Also, one of the quotes from the guy here starts with “When they qualify, a lot of doctors go to Australia and walk straight into a job there.” We are educating people to highly-skilled positions and then not even letting them stay when they want to. This is happening with international students all the time who can no longer extend their visas to work here after they finish their studies.

This article tells us that his parents paid £96,000 for him to do his medicine degree. And we think nine grand a year is bad; international students pay so much more. Yet the UK is trying to restrict their numbers, at a time when universities don't have enough money already.

His application for ILR was 18 days late because he couldn't get an appointment with the Home Office to do it within two months; they are punishing this guy for their own bureaucracy letting him down.

The Home Office have already lost his court case where a judge said deporting him would breach his human rights and that his removal "would not be proportionate." (which I think is judge-language for "it'd be completely fucking unfair"). Rather than quitting when they're lost, the Home Office now want to spend another big pile of taxpayers' money to appeal that ruling. They really really want this keen young GP out of the country because of a delay shorter than many people's holidays, which they caused themselves and didn't help him avoid at all.

He won a court case, he must've thought he was safe and could return to the GP course he's only five months away from completing, which had to be halted while his immigration status was challenged. And now the Home Office want to drag him back in to this nightmare. It's an awful situation.

And I'm so mad this is happening so often I feel like a connoisseur of stories like this, and can admire this one for being a better-than-usual example of journalism in this new genre.
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I try not to talk negatively about my own political party in public, because we have all of the media to do plenty of that for us, while the positive things go unnoticed or misunderstood.

But as several of us have said, the consultation on what our immigration policy should be is abominable. I've been mired in it this week, trying to face up to questions awful both in style (unevidenced assertions, soliciting opinion on matters of fact, leading questions) and substance (bigotry worthy of Nigel Farage or the Daily Mail).

I wish I could say I didn't, but I feel personally attacked by this consultation paper. However! I'm buoyed by how many of my friends are sharing the words they've used to stand up and speak up against it; this is also something I'm taking personally.

When the questions made me nearly cry from frustration or fear that the world may never improve, these people make me nearly cry with their unashamed support for me, and for other immigrants who've had it much worse, and for refugees and asylum seekers.

Most spectacularly, and the one I can share with you verbatim, is Andrew's. He's gone on a proper tour de force here.It includes so many good bits that [personal profile] miss_s_b said she kept reading bits of it out to [personal profile] matgb until she just read the whole thing to him.

It's basically summed up in this paragraph.
I urge that this consultation be dropped as the appalling piece of racism appeasement that it is, and that those responsible consider the idea that at a time when the country is about to go through the catastrophe that is Brexit because for the last thirty years nobody in the mainstream of politics has dared to stand up and tell racists that they might be wrong about anything rather than pandering to their so-called “legitimate concerns”, when even the economic profit and loss calculations that this consultation prizes so much more highly than human beings are being destroyed thanks to hatred of immigration, it might — it just might — be time for a political party to suggest trying something else instead?
But the beat paragraph for my mental/emotional equilibrium is probably
My wife being here has brought me untold benefits, even though by any purely economic cost/benefit analysis I, as principal earner in our household, am down many thousands of pounds by her presence (many of those thousands being money paid to the vicious bureaucracy that this consultation paper presupposes needs only minor tweaks). Perhaps the people in charge of this consultation believe I should send her a bill for the tens of thousands of pounds I have spent on her over the years, for which all I have received in return are love and affection and companionship and other such trivialities which affect the exchequer not one whit.
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I knew this week was going to be hard on me. And it was. (I know it's still Friday but Fridays are pretty easy uni-wise and at the end of this one I plan to be in Brighouse trying cocktails so I think it's warranted to talk about this in the past tense.) I wrote about the terrible Lib Dem immigration consultation and the anxiety attack over (mercifully briefly) losing my bus pass and railcard which takes us up to Tuesday night, so here's how the last couple of days have been.

Arabic exam )

Talking to Lib Dems about immigration )

Disability shenanigans )

Mock phonology exam )
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I woke up after a ridiculous amount of sleep feeling pretty good today, but the spoons started draining almost immediately.

Partly because I've been dealing with some emotional stuff and trying to help people dear to me, but primarily because my political party, that I joined because I was an immigrant and it was the only one that said anything nice about immigrants, is running a consultation for a new immigration policy and it sucks a lot.

The only thing I can add to what Jennie said is that I am of course taking this entirely too personally. One of my answers so far reads:
I may have to choose in the future between my parents dying alone in a country with pitiful health and social care where children are expected to pick up the slack, or leave my husband (who cannot go with me as other countries’ immigration rules are as bad as the UK’s), for whom I’m a carer. Any restrictions are too strict for me as I have no money. I will not be the only person in this situation, and even if I were I believe one would be too many.
 
I probably won't keep the answer quite like that; appeals to emotion are too easily disregarded. But that's the true answer.
 
Add to this my attempts to study for my Arabic exam not working because I can't find the practice resources on the website (and it's a listening exam, so I need those) and this week I have four non-screen-readable scanned-as-images PDFs for the class where I've only had one or two at a time so far (one of which is entirely sideways like the first page of that one was before...), and I think it's fair to say I have no spoons left.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
And still the plight of migrants and their families doesn’t resonate with the British public as loudly as it should. I have heard the argument that no one has a right to settlement in a country that is not their country of birth many times. But other than in asylum cases or when people are joining family members, it is often the case that a life in the UK just develops organically. Sudan, where I am from, is in my bones, but the UK is where I had built a life just by virtue of the time I spent here. Via study and work, relationships and just the day-to-day of living, an investment is made in the country that you do not wish to unwind. Is that not, at its heart, what integration is? Is that not, allegedly, the Holy Grail? Satbir Singh, having won the right to bring his wife to the UK after the Home Office admitted its mistake, reflects on what is now, effectively and deliberately, an alienating process. “The first interaction you have with the state is suspicion, that you are a liar, a cheat and a fraud. This is an enormous roadblock to integration.”

In 2017, the permanent residency that was granted on appeal qualified me for British citizenship. More than a decade after that moment of pregnant possibility on a balcony in Bethnal Green, and 14 years after excitedly taking in the view of London’s parks on a train from the airport, I was making my way towards my naturalisation with leaden feet. The citizenship had been so shorn of its significance, so stripped of its essential meaning, that the ceremony felt like a formality. And when it was over it felt hollow. My relief was dulled by exhaustion and sadness that becoming the citizen of a country in which I had invested so much had been marred by an extractive, dishonest and punitive system. I now looked forward to only one thing – to never have to think about any of it again.

“They don’t want you to integrate,” Farsani had told me. “They want you to fail so they can point their fingers at you and say, ‘Look, immigrants do not integrate’.” But we do, because the country, in spite of its broken immigration system, slowly, organically, casually, naturalises you in ways that cannot be validated by a Life in the UK test, citizenship ceremony or exhaustive application dossier. But daily this natural, healthy process is being violated, via administrative incompetence and politically instructed cruelty, to fulfil a soundbite “tens of thousands” target the government cannot meet, and is too proud to jettison.
Reading this was hard on me -- I saw it shared on a friend's Facebook and knew I had to but also I had to work up to it because I knew it'd be hard on me. It was; I teared up a little at a lot of places but especially here at the end of the article because that's exactly how my citizenship ceremony felt: hollow and bestowing on me only the benefit of not having to think about it any more. Even when my UK passport arrived, I just calmly opened the envelope and took it upstairs to file away with the other passports with no thought other than I never have to think about this again.

It was good for me too; it got me working on my book for the first time in way too long. I'm ashamed now of how long it's taken, but I think I am making good progress.
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Andrew has (extremely carefully and only after I said it was okay, having learned from last week's debacle!) opened the post from the Home Office and can confirm that it's my UK passport.

I'm not even happy or relieved yet. I'm so ground-down by the whole process that it still hasn't sunk in yet, even as I look at it with the lettering all shiny, next to me on the table, waiting to be taken upstairs and filed away into unobtrusive normality.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Had my passport interview today. Everyone told me it was fine and normal but I thought it was weird and intrusive. How many of your bedrooms look onto your back garden? Where did your parents go on their honeymoon? But it was done quickly and kindly, by a big guy with amazing facial hair and who had actually heard of Minnesota because he's an American-football player.

The worst thing about it was that we had to go all the way to Salford for it, which took ages. I turned out to also need to go back to the university because you can't sign up for language classes online, you have to go in person to the place I was twice yesterday where no one told me this. (I presume it's because they need to check the level people are at if they want to do anything other than beginner's level in their language, because there was a lot of that happening. But surely abject beginners should be able to apply with the system we have to use to do everything else?) But I filled out the form so hopefully that's done.

Which means all my bureaucracy should be done that can be done for now, which is good as all of tomorrow will be taken up with volunteer training at Manchester Museum (which is just a different kind of in-person bureaucracy, as little or none of it will be relevant to my role).

And I had a smear test today, and that's all this morning, so frankly not only am I done with today, but I think I need a medal.

For future reference, though, having a lot of local friends means a lot of them share the same doctor's surgery, and I'd heard a lot of good things about the new nurse who frankly could hardly have been worse than the old one. And she lived up to everything I'd heard about her; she didn't mention my weight, even though she did mention my blood pressure a lot which is fair enough as it was high when she checked it. She even took my height and weight which I know will be for bullshit BMI things the NHS makes them do, but while she said "Five four" as she read my height off the thingy, she then looked at the scale and said "weight...[mumbly mumble]" like she was just reminding herself long enough to go write it down (which is exactly what she was doing) so far from making a big deal of it she ensured I didn't know it at all which is the best thing for my mental health.

And when she asked if I wanted a sexual health screening done at the same time I said it was a good idea because I have two partners but it's okay and they know about each other and etc., she actually said "Oh, so you're poly?" Which left me really taken aback! I've never had a health professional know the word before. And she asked me if the partners were "male, female or other" so didn't assume sexuality or binary gender, which made me happy.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Dealing with immigration bureaucracy is still exhausting. Maybe first thing in the morning wasn't the best idea. But the passport and naturalization certificate I'd sent to the student loans people arrived soon after I woke up (the certificate in one of those "do not bend" envelopes, so in better shape than they got it!) and since I had to go to the post office anyway I figured I'd ask if they had passport applications and they did. So when I got home I thought I might as well start in in it.

And it's fine, but it's occasioned a big discussion on Facebook where I said
Applying for a British passport as a foreign-born person with foreign parents is like a test in How Much Do You Love Your Family.

Not only do I need to remember what town my parents were born in (which I only know because I needed that for citizenship), I need to find out my GRANDPARENTS' place of birth, date of birth, and date of marriage?! Good thing my parents were going to Skype me today anyway because I could only guess at most of those! Three of my grandparents aren't even around to ask!

And I can't remember how to spell my mom's middle name. Worst daughter. Well, I think I do but there's nothing like a form to make you second-guess yourself!
The comments are sympathetic and thoughtful because I know good people, but also reminded me of new ways this could be fraught.

Then I had to get new passport photos taken, because none of the money I've spent on passport-size passport-style photographs in the last year or so will do for the current set of restrictions. I hate that they now require glasses wearers not to wear their glasses, because the only way to get me to be facing the right away without them ends up being to have a man, a stranger, put his hands on my face.

It wasn't too bad today, but it reminded me of the time I had to get biometric data collected for my citizenship application, when the photos were done by some horrible automated computer process in a claustrophobic booth. And I kept getting told off for the photo coming up wrong. I was there with my white cane and everything but the staff were busy and I guess just didn't notice or didn't know what to do with me. It took ages and still ended up with a man touching my face and I felt really shitty afterward.

I went to Levy market afterward, because it's near the photo shop and because I had the vague sense that I had been Good and deserved a treat. I ran into a couple of people I know which was nice but the market just seemed overpriced rubbish which is probably at least as much a reflection on me as on it! I usually enjoy it.

I went to the Asian supermarket on the way home because I wanted some halloumi but they didn't have any! I asked Andrew to see if there was a film or concert or anything we fancied going to tonight, but there really isn't.

And now I'm sitting here thinking I should make some food but needing to do dishes first and that's all I get for a treat today, it looks like!
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Stressful day. I'm still an edge case, this time when it comes to Student Finance England, who don't know what to do with someone who's a UK citizen but doesn't have a UK passport or birth certificate. After three lots of contradictory advice that couldn't be verified on a website that was down, after I shouted and stomped and lost my temper with poor Andrew who wasn't the cause of any of my anger or stress, we established that I had to send my passport and my naturalization certificate. Originals, no copies would do.

My most vital documents. I felt like I was going to throw up, handing them over at the post office. I literally have nightmares about losing them.

And as soon as I get them back, I'll have to post them away again, to get a UK passport.

Having moaned on Facebook I wanted a drink, [personal profile] diffrentcolours offered to meet me inna pub this evening. It's been ages since I've been in a pub when it wasn't part of a WI committee meeting or a Biphoria thing. It's been ages since I've seen [personal profile] diffrentcolours for something other than Lib Demmery (and even today there was a bit of that because he handed over stuff for me to mail to this week's Pride). We were just friends having some time together and it was great.

Then I got home, already sleepy, and ended up talking to Andrew for a long time about a song a friend of ours asked me to write. He's doing this big musical/opera kind of thing, full of great ideas. He wanted me to write a song about the Shipping Forecast, and I've been not doing it for years, but tonight we started working on it and I'm so excited about it now. Based on a sea shanty, with instrumentation like oboe, moog and Neptune (recorded by NASA), it's turning out fiendishly clever.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Yesterday morning I saw I'd been tagged in a tweet where Andrew linked to this, saying "Jesus Christ. By this standard, @hollyamory and I are in a 'marriage of convenience.'"

The article is about a High Court ruling saying that a "genuine couple can enter in a marriage of convenience." Even people who are in a real relationship, not seeking a "sham marriage," can apparently be told that they can't get married because by doing so one of them would attain an "immigration advantage."

Which, yeah. Is exactly what Andrew and I did. With no other avenue of study or work open to us in the mental/physical/financial state we were in at the time (or indeed at any time since), the only way for us to stay in the same country was to get married.

As I pointed out in a series of angry follow-up tweets, the only reason we needed an "immigration advantage" is because being poor and disabled have been declared immigration disadvantages. Marriage is the only route available to current non-EU citizens who don't make £35,000 a year. (Maybe one day that (or its successor at a no-doubt higher salary threshold) will apply to non-EU citizens too.) This is not the fault of any people getting married.

This is not the fault of people getting married.

You may start to see now why I hate the Home Office, why I am the unusual rat who jumped on to the sinking ship of Brexit Britain. Andrew and I both really don't want to but also can't move to the U.S., and there's no other country that will have us both. So if we're going to stay in the same country, it has to be the UK. So I want to feel as secure in that as possible.

When I started talking about this on Twitter, a lot of my friends pointed out that marriage is a legal status so of course people are going to enter into it for legal reasons: tax, inheritance, child guardianship, lots of things. In the UK, increasingly few people get married solely for religious reasons, so legal elements are going to be part of the decision for a lot of people. Yet it's a bad thing if any of those reasons are immigration-related?

Increasingly I'm realizing how much higher a standard immigrants are held to than the native citizens of not just the UK but certainly the U.S. too (where, y'know, immigrants and visitors actually have to say they're not Nazis!) and no doubt other countries as well. It's so frustrating to see this everywhere.

weekend

Aug. 14th, 2017 01:45 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I"m settling into a pattern of weeks with very little to do and very low mood, and then being very busy and mostly happier on the weekends. This is really bad for me and no fun but I don't feel able to get myself unstuck yet.

Adventures in Babysitting )

I was staying over so quickly installed myself in the spare room, with the comfy bed, the robot alarm clock and the lamp with colorful airplanes on its shade. It was pretty great.

I was there because next morning Simon and I were driving to Leeds for BiCon and it made no sense to get me home late at night just to go pick me up again the next day.

BiCon )

The Home Office at BiCon )

So I was quite glad that my plans had changed such that I could go to Brighouse that night. I was tired and a little emotionally wrung-out with one thing and another. It didn't help a lot though as after a blessed day off Twitter I was catching up on Charlottesville. I spent way too much time reading what it felt like I couldn't look away from but also couldn't fix. But I was heartened to see a lot of white people talking about how unhelpful attitudes like #ThisIsNotUs were, ignoring that this is what America has always been so we can feel better about ourselves.

Andrew came over to Brighouse too yesterday, for Sunday dinner and terrible films. It was really nice having all the best people around.

Now I'm home where all the cleaning and laundry have been neglected for quite a while even before I was away because my mental health has been so bad. I've done a load of laundry I'm about to go hang up and put another one in. It'd be nice if I could clean some things. And I have to write down volunteering admin and stuff I need to do before it all falls out of my head. Better go and do all of that, then!

Here's hoping this week is better than the last two.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Of course I'm well familiar with the phrase "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." But I'm not sure I knew it was from a Robert Frost poem, and I know I didn't know the next line.

Until I read it yesterday, quoted at the beginning of this, which is about a new book of EU citizens' voices in the UK post-Brexit. The article is about various philosophical approaches to "home." It starts with this quite, and then the next line of the poem, "Death of the Hired Man," which goes:

"I should have called it / Something you somehow haven’t to deserve."

And it's even better than that; the poem is a couple arguing with each other. A farmer told his old hired man that last season was the end of it, that "If he left then, I said, that ended it."
What good is he? Who else will harbor him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
Mary has met her husband at the door to say that she found the old hired man, sleeping up against their barn.
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognize him—
I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.
...
‘Warren,’ she said, ‘he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.’
And this is where Warren says home is where they have to take you in, and Mary says "I should have called it / Something you somehow haven’t to deserve."

Or, to make the language slightly more modern, I would call home something you don't have to deserve.

I talk a lot about what a problem "deserve" is. I really hate that kind of language. It's almost exclusively used against poor people, disabled people, immigrants. This is what's indicated by "Oh, I don't mean you": that is a judgement, declaring that I deserve what others don't. I'm "not one of those" scroungers or fakers. Blindness is a disability people think they understand and mine happened at birth so it wasn't my fault. I'm white, I too only speak English, and I'm from a country the UK approves of.

The old hired man doesn't deserve this home. He can't work any more, the farmer can't afford to pay him. He has a rich brother not far away. Why not go there? And yet, here he is.

It's what we're saying to the citizens of other EU countries in the UK right now: you have countries that have to take you in; why not go there?

But just as with Silas the hired man, going back to where some people feel they "ought" to be, to their country of origin — “back home”, as if there are duplicate jobs and houses waiting for them — is not an option for many people. It presents personal tragedies for those people who have limited options: EU citizens without the money to make an international move, with disabilities, living on the NHS, or being old and frail.

There's a lot more to the article, which I might go into more later, but I think this is enough for now!

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