We exited the plane and I headed for the EU arrivals whilst my entourage joined the lengthy Non-EU arrivals line. Bizarrely the Non EU line was quickly handled but the passport control bloke in my line seemed intent on nailing at least half a dozen terrorists that day and he was going to harass everyone until he found a would be suspect. I tried as hard as I could not to roll my eyes or make loud comments about him being a self important jobsworth but inevitably he cottoned onto the fact that I was the person responsible for the loud sighs and he cast a steely glare over me. Rather than punishing me directly by holding me up he decided to drag out the inquisition of the Finnish family in front of me. They didn’t fit the stereotypical image of terrorists. Their group consisted of Miss Marples frailer sister, a couple of Macauley Culkin clones and a married couple who looked uncannily like Bjorn Borg except for the fact the wife had slightly less facial hair. As far as I could tell the only crimes they were likely to commit were against fashion but then I am not a security expert. “What is the purpose of your trip ?” the guard asked them. “Where are you staying ?”, “For How long ?”, “Where are you people from ?”, “Finland ? Is that near Fatland ?” It went on and on until Marple feigned spell of dizziness and a supervisor of the guard waived them through. Sly old Marple was probably the one carrying the explosives. A few dirty looks and mumbled insults later and I was finally through to the arrivals area.
My Mum came to greet us because my Dad was trying to find somewhere to park. Well in fairness he hadn’t had long to find somewhere since the flight was only four hours late. We slowly hauled our luggage outside onto the concourse. There were only three of us but we had outfits to keep the Partridge family clothed for 3 national tours. I had insisted on packing all of our winter clothes because from my experience England was cold in February. My parents had tried to convince us that global warming had altered the climate there to such an extent that south east England was now competing with the planet Mercury as the hottest patch of land in the solar system so we brought all of our warm clothes too. Finally the day before we left my wife had noticed that we still had some money in our bank account and so she went on a spending binge to buy even more clothes just for the fun of it. The end result was that I was struggling to carry two bags that felt like lead lined coffins. My Dad finally emerged from the parking lot but rather than help with the carrying he decided to film our suffering with his camcorder. At first it was funny but after the first few tendons in my lower arm snapped I started to get annoyed. It made no difference to him since he was determined to get every second of our trip on film. His actions seemed to confirm rumours started some time back that he was in fact the paparazzi who hit Diana.
We all packed into their compact relatively fuel efficient car and set off for home. My parents were upset that their 33 mile a gallon car wasn’t fuel efficient enough for the leftie tree huggers running the country and they’d been hit with a penalty tax. Imagine if we made rich snow birds pay extra for gas guzzling RV’s in the US ? That being said imagine if we made rich snowbirds pay taxes period ? Anyway I digress but it is funny how very little changes over the course of time. As we drove by I bored my wife with stories about every street corner. “That is where Deacon claims to have been abducted by the UFO,”I said “and the roundabout is where Mark almost got hit by former England International football player, Peter Beardsley…allegedly.” I am sure that my wife was delighted to hear my running commentary most of which consisted of myths and half truths that had developed down the years to disguise the fact that in reality absolutely bugger all had ever happened there. It was good to be home though in the mildly warm country of my birth where you can have a beer without having to have a follow up counselling session on “Dr Phil.”
For the first 24 hours I felt a bit like Sam Tyler from “Life on Mars.” I had been awakened from my coma and the bizarre life where I was surrounded by larger than life characters with whom I had nothing in common. Playing ball in the yard with Pop, high school proms, mulletts and fish cookouts are as alien to me as rocks on the red planet and needless to say the Gene Hunts and Rays of Gainesville had even less interest in learning about the world of Ceefax, Wombles and Kenny Everett that I grew up in.
I had to remember not to use words like “soccer” “sucks” and “awesome” any more because I didn’t want to be accused of being a “fake American” although supposedly I now have an American accent which is hilarious since nobody in Gainesville seems to think so. At work I guy I worked with for 3 years revealed recently that he thought I was South African and most of the customers at the bank seem to think I am either Australian or German. There isn’t any logic to their mistaken attempts at pinpointing my origins it’s just that their idea of an Englishman is a bloke with a top hat and tails who rides around hunting foxes with a blunderbuss and so since the only other countries they know are Germany and Australia they assume I must be from one or the other. Another thing that was strange about being back in England was that people would start conversations about sport … and actually have some knowledge of them so conversations lasted for minutes at a time. At work in the US the sports discussion usually follows this pattern:
American male#1: “How about those Yankees huh ?
American male#2″How about them ?!!”
American male#3″Yep. Those Yankees !”
American male#1″Did you watch the game ?”
American male#3″Me neither.”
Kjohn “I did so does that mean they’re going to win the world series ?”
American males 1,2 &3″Don’t know we don’t really keep up with it that much….Loser!”
Sports talk seems to be one of those strange rituals American men go through like looking at each others cars or boasting about upcoming drink fests that they have no intention of attending because they have to spend the weekend downloading software for the blackberry’s. Englishmen on the other would cease to exist without football. Every man over the age of 25 vicariously lives through his favourite team and it’s that kind of ultimately meaningless existence that I have come to miss. It was good to be back but before I knew it David Bowie was reverberating around my skull and it was time to head to Ireland ….