We arrived in England 8 years ago, yesterday and I started writing this blog a month later. I’ve done this annual tribute every year since. This one is short. Here are the highlights:
I became a British Citizen 3 months too late to vote in the Brexit Referendum.
I ran in the Wales Marathon and stopped, en route, at some pubs (which may not surprise regular visitors to these pages).
I drank in 260 new pubs bringing the tally to 1722. Moving house to the outskirts of London made the difference, here…before the move, the number of new pubs was 51 (in 6½ months); after the move, the virgin running territory yielded the other 209.
Drunken Bunny Liqueurs has branched out to include brewing with a mead in the works (started a month ago but not yet bottled and will need a year of rest, thereafter). Reports on this will follow, in due time.
Year 9 is starting rainy and cold and with an 11 mile training run to steer past (or, rather, through) a pub. Here’s to the same old stuff for another round.
Year 6 (but more info in the end of the Daily Tipple series and the Year of Fish and Chips)
Everyone was so happy at Cambridge my second day at work. It was 20 January 2009 and, late in the afternoon, most of the Chemistry Department retired to the commissary to watch Obama’s inauguration. My boss said I seemed a bit subdued and I told him that, yeah, this was wonderful but that it wouldn’t last and that was why I was abandoning my US citizenship. I’ve taken a lot of mockery about that these last several years.
I hate being right. But, this wasn’t a new prediction — I saw all of this clearly more than 40 years ago during the Bicentennial festivities.
This bottle of malt that lives in my desk taunts me. If I start drinking before the day is over, I may never stop again. RIP, America…it was occasionally a noble experiment.
You stupid, stupid motherfuckers. You talk all that shit about needing your guns to protect you from tyranny, all that braggadocio about patriotism. Here’s your chance, you big bunch of pussies.
“Fare thee well, gone away
There’s nothing left to say….”
— Body of an American by the Pogues
The Body — and, of course, the accent — are the only things that are still American as I am now registered to vote in England and awaiting my British passport. It has been arduous at times to get to this day and worth every greyed and shed hair and spent shilling (just look back at the posts on the Britishness exam and the application for Indefinite Leave To Remain to see what I mean). If you want to know about the weird Citizenship Ceremony (at which photography is a strictly controlled franchise so no pictures here), I’ll tell you all about it when next we meet…just remind me.
I received the paperwork inviting me to swear fealty to Her Majesty’s realm precisely 40 years, 1 month, and 21 days after I made this decision in the throes of my very first acid trip. I have a crystalline memory of that day and how it led me to this one.
It was the 4th of July 1976 (not only Independence Day but the Bicentennial!) and I was about 8 hours into the ride on some Felix the Cat blotter, watching dusk encroach over a golf course fairway at Griffin (GA) City Park with the town hospital’s lights becoming noticeable on the hill opposite; the absolute ugliness of my native land, its ghastly inhabitants, and what passes there for culture made all too apparent — too concise and too clear — over the course of the day. I concluded there-and-then that — not only did I want to be, but — I had the wherewithal to become a citizen of another country.
Since that moment, I’ve worked on this considering — and putting a bit of effort into — Canada, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, and Ireland as potential refuges; but, my new land is the one that made me feel the most welcome or, to be absolutely honest about it, the LEAST unwelcome. And, so it came to pass that, earlier today, I became a Brit.
No longer need the Indefinite Leave To Remain card, so off it goes to the Home Office
Afterwards, we stopped for beverages in the Three Tuns on the way to the Tube. Disappointingly, they have no jukebox — modern ones are connected to the Interwebs offering unlimited possibilities — so my playlist would have to wait until the champagne at the house. What I had in mind was the aforementioned Pogues, Billy Bragg’s “A New England” and some Dylan because, during The Ceremony, Bob’s 1966 audience banter popped into my head: the bit just after the “Judas!” heckle at the Manchester Free Trade Hall. Not the part where he drawls, “I don’t believe you…you’re a liar,” but right after that (and just before he and the Hawks cracked into “Like a Rolling Stone”) when he says to the Band:
It was the Public Bar of the Drunken Bunny in Swindon but the new digs means that, as we start preparing the bar for the Autumn Drinking Season, we are also going with a new name. This time, it is
The Slug and Whip-It
because that’s the primary debris I see on the walk to the Underground station every morning. Garden parasites and hippy crack, literally, but I also like the puns: a ‘slug‘ as a unit of alcoholic measure and the iconic working class dog.
We’ve been in Ruislip a week, now, and it seems a good fit so far. Largely, this is due to Jackie’s commute shrinking from 2 hours (or more) each way to 35 minutes door-to-door while mine diminished from over 1:30 most trips to just under an hour (although the walk home is a half mile farther than was the one in Swindon). Also, it is exciting to have new territory to explore and (as regular browsers of this blog might already have noted) new pubs to tick off my list.
One other bonus: there’s a poetry connection courtesy my favourite of the UK Poets Laureate…John Betjeman (whose plaque-marked locales I have chased down and whose poetry I have misquoted ever since I moved to England) actually included the new buurt in his poem Middlesex, one of the Metroland trilogy of poems:
Gaily into Ruislip Gardens
Runs the red electric train,
With a thousand Ta’s and Pardon’s
Daintily alights Elaine;
Hurries down the concrete station
With a frown of concentration,
Out into the outskirt’s edges
Where a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium – rural Middlesex again.
There’s more… look it up. But, better than that: read it aloud. It has approximately the same meter as “The Raven,” by Edgar Allen Poe. “Rural Middlesex again,” so close in beat to “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.'” Splendid.
For what it’s worth, today we have beaten the Statutes of Limitations on most felonies in the United States: 7 years and a day since we moved to England. Here’s the breakdown of this most recent year (noting that the annual run review already covered the calendar year 2015 so this will be a relatively brief look back at the residence year).
Speaking of residence, we were granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in June. I visited 167 new pubs (plus 10 in the new Irish category) and ran slightly more than 2515 miles (including 86 miles in one go). There were trips to Maastricht, Tennessee & Atlanta, and Ireland (where we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary). There were 22 new Fish and Chips entries to the blog (and 3 kebabs) but not a lot of experimentation in the kitchen (only 6 Recipes added).
Going into year 8 there are no goals, no major plans, and no great expectation of many new pub visits (unless we move house or I do a lot of travelling this year). Maybe I’ll try to write a little better…don’t hold your breath on that one, though.
Looking at annual recaps, past:
At 1 year, 290 pubs and impressions on British running, mostly in Cambridgeshire
2 years saw more maps (2000+ miles that year), travel, and 240 more pubs
3 years ended with 280 pubs and links about another house move
The 4th year ended with 255 more pubs, another house move, and some brilliant racing
Year 5 yielded 134 pubs, some decent travel, and yet another house move
The 6th year entry was very brief, but the anniversary kind of snuck up on me (only 95 pubs)
What is 30? It is the number of tracks on the White Album, to be sure. Thirty pieces of silver? The final episode of The Wire was also called “-30-” but that refers to telegraphy signoffs (which, in turn, was adapted from journalism).
Coincidentally, I studied Journalism at Auburn University from 1979-1982 with breaks working construction (Summers in Atlanta trying in vain to pay for the education) and for a graphic arts apprenticeship at the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, California the winter of 1981-82; following an incident in the Autumn of 1982 I did a stint in the Army eventually working out my court-coerced enlistment at the Defense Information School. Back then, a journalist finished written work with this as the final line:
Thirty-five years (and a few weeks) ago, I was an 18-year-old working the news desk at WEGL (the campus radio station) in Auburn when three bells rang on the teletype (yes, we had one of those weird little strip printers umbilically attached to Associated Press). Three bells were reserved for items of extremely high urgency and, as I was extremely high at the time, I retrieved the strip to learn that ‘a spokesman said that Lennon died of gunshot wounds to the head, left arm, and chest” with a finality I wasn’t really used to at the time and punctuated a few lines down with ‘– – –‘ (another, more economical, version of ‘-30-‘ ).
Since then, I have never seen anyone but Ort (an Athens, GA phenomenon) use ‘30‘ to finish an article, but he is from a parallel universe, anyway. The number 30 probably supplanted the original ‘XXX‘ which seems more intuitive and final in a professional sense: a line of X’s to draw a line under the work. Less professionally, it might look like some kisses and it may well be that which prompted the migration from Roman numerals.
Hand coloured shot of the spouse in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, roughly 30 years ago (photo now sits in my office)
Kisses, then, eh? When we met just before our birthdays I was 22 years old, Jackie was 30, and we were massive consumers of LSD such that we can’t be absolutely sure if the wedding-to-follow was on the 1985 or 1986 side of midnight for the New Year’s celebration (obviously, I eschewed the advice “Don’t trust anyone over 30“). Now, it is 30 years on and, if nothing strange has happened since I scheduled this to upload, we should be sitting in a pub in Cork, Ireland, right now a short walk from the E30 trans-Europe highway watching another year pass.
When we started this long, strange trip that New Year’s Eve long ago, most of the scientists I work with, now, were not yet born (neither were Jessica Ennis-Hill, Charlotte Church, Lady Gaga, Megan Fox, the Olsen twins, Lindsay Lohan, Usain Bolt, Florence Welch, nor Oscar Pistorius); MLK day had never been celebrated; the Space Shuttle Challenger was ready for what would be its final fueling at Cape Kennedy; Wiki tells me that ‘the Voyager 2 space probe makes its first encounter with Uranus’ later that year; and, Chernobyl was unknown outside the Soviet Union (which, itself, was still viable). Also still alive were L. Ron Hubbard, Georgia O’Keeffe, James Cagney, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Genet, The Duchess of Windsor (the former Wallis Simpson), Tenzing Norgay, Benny Goodman, Rudy Vallée, Vincente Minnelli, Scatman Crothers, Cary Grant, and Desi Arnaz (none of whom would be available to attend our 1st anniversary, RIP). 30 years…yikes.
We’ve done the anniversaries in Penzance (#25), Paris (#18), the Hague (#17), and all over Atlanta & a variety of locales near Athens, GA; Bermuda (#14, hoping the Y2K bug would strand us there), Savannah (#15), Chicago (#20), Bisbee, Tucson, Bicester, Ely, Oxford, Swindon, moving house (#10, leaving Atlanta to return to Athens to start my Chemistry PhD), Tybee Island (#5, in a winter storm with the island largely abandoned), and London…with no sign of stopping anytime soon.
So, this 30 is not an end, nor even the beginning of an end; at worst, it might be an end of the beginning. Or, like that last line, merely a cliché copied from so many earlier hacks. But, as clichés go, it ain’t bad.