Posts Tagged ‘American expats’
– How many pints does it take before you fall into the gutter?
– How short does your skirt have to be before you’re technically on the game?
These are the kinds of questions I expected to encounter on the “Life in the UK” test I recently had to take in order to apply for British residency. Instead I was confronted by such silly and irrelevant questions as:
– In what year did women win the right to divorce their husbands?
– What percent has the UK population grown since 1971?
– When are you entitled to receive a free TV licence?
Now I ask you, what does any of this stuff REALLY have to do with life in the UK? Okay, I can understand why it was an important moment in history when women were finally allowed to get rid of the sorry bastards they’d been stupid enough to marry in the first place. But TV licences? I mean, does anyone even want to live to the age of 75 to qualify for a free TV licence? Just think how many more reality TV shows there will be by then, not to mention no-talent celebs spawned from said shows. If that isn’t enough to make you top yourself before you hit 75 then I don’t know what is.
Anyway, there I was in the garden spot of England known as Ilford – me and a motley crew of some 20-plus dodgy foreigners, all of whom had assembled in the public library to plunk down our hard-earned 35 quid to take a computerised test to prove we’re worthy of remaining in this country and paying income tax, National Health Service contributions, and VAT on virtually everything save for using the toilet. It was quite a cultural hodgepodge; I ran into Nigerians, Romanians, Australians (yes, even Commonwealth citizens have to take the exam), South Africans, Russians, Pakistanis – you name it, they were there. Though I believe I was the only American. Hmm… Wonder what was up with that?
Having spent nearly a month studying on and off (well, if I’m honest, mostly off), I felt fairly confident after taking the practice tests in the book I’d bought that I’d pass the blasted thing, providing I didn’t get hit with a slew of questions requiring my recollection of dates and numbers. Nevertheless, I began to get worried when the Muslim woman seated next to me was cramming up until the last minute from her dog-eared copy of British Citizenship For Dummies. Oy vey.
As I sat at my assigned computer terminal waiting for the endless queue of persona non grata foreigners to be processed (“processed” being to check their ID and get their money off them), my stomach reminded me that it hadn’t been fed since breakfast, and it was now pushing half past 4 in the afternoon (the exam time was set at 4pm). I became obsessed with the thought of the nice Canadian cheddar in my fridge at home. To distract myself, I got into a conversation with the Aussie seated behind me, only to be drowned out by a squalling infant someone had been daft enough to bring along to the party. Mind you, it got even worse once the exam started. Apparently some sort of Punch and Judy shtick was going on in the library (at least I think it was Punch and Judy), so all throughout the exam we found ourselves being treated to maniacal male shouting accompanied by the occasional manic strum of out-of-tune guitar strings. It made me wonder if we weren’t in a public library at all, but instead an institution for the criminally insane.
Fortunately for me, I passed the exam, which means I can now get the rest of my endless pile of paperwork assembled and apply for my settlement visa – providing, of course, I sell about a zillion more copies of my books or providing I can get the guys from The Italian Job together to steal that gold (I always did fancy driving one of those vintage Minis!), since it will take a king’s ransom to pay the extortionate new application fee imposed by the British Home Office. This would never have happened were they still operating under the aegis of that nice working-class bloke from Sheffield, David Blunkett.
Speaking of whom, I actually ran into David Blunkett in a car park in Sheffield city centre a few years back. And no, I don’t mean while driving a Mini! But that’s another story…
It’s often been suggested to me that I should seek out the office of British Prime Minister. Okay, so maybe it hasn’t been suggested – or not that much anyway. Granted, I don’t have the dark jowly Scottish charm of Gordon Brown (or thankfully the stomach), but what the hey? I’ve been in England long enough – I’m really more English than American, so why not become Prime Minister? I can’t drink tea without milk, my sense of humour is warped (Papa Lazarou is my idol, Dave), and I’ll take a pint of beer over a glass of wine at the pub any day. Now I ask you: is that English or wot? The only thing that needs sorting is an appropriate political party; I don’t fit into either Labour or the Tories, and as for the Green Party or the Lib Dems, nah. Dull, the whole lot of them! So here is what I propose: The Erotic Party. You’ve got to admit, it has cache. It just rolls off the tongue (ahem), doesn’t it?
The thing is, do I really want to live at Number 10 with folk coming and going at all times of the day and night? What if Maggie Thatcher popped round for a cuppa? Bet she’ll use up all my demerara sugar, like the workmen always do whenever they come by to do repairs. I’ve yet to meet an English repairman who doesn’t take 3 sugars in his tea. And then there’s the Queen. Oh, I’ve no quarrel with her, she’s a fabulous old bird, but that husband of hers is a real lech. I don’t fancy fending off his roaming hands at a cocktail party. And I know already that it’ll be a major hassle to get all these visitors to remove their shoes before they come indoors; I’ll have to appoint someone specifically for this task – the Shoe Removal Whip or some such. Whip? Hmm… considering that I’ll be the leader of The Erotic Party, that might lead to some unwanted speculation. As for Number 10 itself as a place of residence, I’ve heard it’s cramped, and I suspect there might be rising damp. Are those windows double glazed? Doesn’t look like it to me. If you’ve been through an English winter (and spring, and summer, and autumn), you’ll know all about the importance of good double glazing and proper insulation.
I suppose I’ll have to give this a bit more thought before I decide. Do I give up the exciting jetsetting life of writer, editor (and occasional teacher) of erotic literature just for some silly little job of running an entire country?
I ask you, what would you do?