Saturday, 10 May 2008

All these places have their moments

Bill and I talked last night about our longer range plan, which basically is to move to the US after his mother (aged 94 this July) 'falls off her perch' -- his phrase, not mine. I'd always thought I'd move back to Oklahoma City and live near my Aunt Rita, but she passed away last October and so that altered the picture a lot. I was saying last night it would be just my luck to get the garden sorted (chance would be a fine thing) and then we'd leave. Bill said for his own purposes, he wanted to be here at least another 3 years. So, I guess I'll have to continue wandering around in the garden trying to act like I know what I'm doing.

I think a lot about the various places I've lived and where I'm at now. The things I liked best about Oklahoma City were the four very distinct seasons: 30 below wind chill factor with ice, never mind snow storms; torrential rains and tornadoes in spring; sweltering sticky hot in summer and the crisp fresh relief of fall. The world's biggest, most tender steaks can be found there as can spectacular red, orange and purple sunsets in a wide open sky. My family and my lifelong friends were there; I probably knew hundreds of people at one time. And it being laid out on a grid, I rarely got lost. I took knowing my way around completely for granted. I think that's what I miss the most, the complete familiarity I once had with the place and the people. That's lost after 17 year's absence and I’ve had to accept that it can’t be re-created very easily elsewhere.

In Salt Lake City, the mountains are beautiful, particularly in winter when you get an incredible amount of white, powdery snow. This, with very little wind means that there are fairy land scenes with stacks of snow on each and every twig of a tree. I loved doing research in the amazing genealogy library, free! The average Morman family has 4 children, so there are lots of parks, kept very clean and always with public toilets. Garage sales abound as do thrift stores selling everything one would need to run a house or a feed a hobby. The thing I miss most about Salt Lake City is summer. An arid climate takes the misery out of high temperatures and each night in the mountains it is cool.

Here in the north of England, I really enjoy the wealth of historical architecture and the history. I fell in love with the Tudors when I was 12 or 13. I saw Young Bess, a movie with Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons, and I've been an Anglophile ever since. I love the sound of the Geordie accent and they often tell me they really like mine. The public transport, much as everyone complains about it, really works in a way I've not experienced elsewhere. If Dallas is a cheap flight from OKC and Vegas is only a hopper from SLC, from Newcastle I can pop over to Paris or Barcelona, get an overnight ferry to Amsterdam, a train down to London for a similar charge. Newcastle is increasingly multi-cultural and international. I have friends from more exotic places than I can name. Whilst the beaches of the North Sea can't compete with those of the Mediterranean for colour and warmth, they have their own real beauty. Some of the cliff top runs I've done have been really difficult as I wanted to stop and gawk at the scenery.

I'm not sure what I'll miss most when I leave here, aside from the people. I’m sure that in part it will be the fun of being a foreigner, of standing apart in people’s minds through no effort on my part. When I return I’ll just melt back into the bland vanilla-ness of my familiar culture, though it will be fun to watch Bill delight in his new experience. We think we’ll move to Salt Lake City, to the house I still have there. Bill pointed out that it would give my few remaining family members a place to come on holiday and that the proximity of Vegas and the ski resorts might attract people to come visit from the UK. (You’ll come see us, won’t you?).

We think we are likely to return here to the UK after a decade or two in the US. Things may transpire to change our minds, but for now the UK is a kinder place in which to be old – but that’s not going to happen for absolutely ages, is it?

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