Pub in the English countryside

In Search of Home

Britain, Britishness, emigration, Germany, Life, politics

Earlier this year, on a rainy July day, I submitted a non-fiction piece based on the theme “Home Is Elsewhere” into a competition. Unfortunately it didn’t pick up anything, but that means I can give it the light of day here! It’s a poignant, reflective piece about what it feels like living in another European country as a British expat since the UK voted for Brexit.

It’s also a bit of an ode to Germany, the country I now call home – and as they’re holding a rather important national election this weekend perhaps the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

 

In Search Of Home

Home.

We all have somewhere we call home. Right?

It’s somewhere to belong, to live and grow; somewhere to hide when the world is too much. Somewhere to go back to.

But when home isn’t home anymore, where is home?

Having lived the expat life for the past five years, it’s a question I’ve found myself asking more and more the longer and further I’ve lived away from “home”. Home used to be somewhere safe to return to, a place of comfort and memories. Now my sense of home is falling apart. A derelict notion.

Home was a place my parents lived. A house I grew up in. A village of friends and enemies. Wide open fields in the heart of the English countryside, splattered with houses of all shapes and sizes.

Now, I don’t know how to drive home. Home is misplaced. It is a shadow, an echo of what it once was. A memory bundled with many others. Home has many faces now.

As a thirtysomething expat, it is my apartment in the heart of a growing city. It is where my Wi-Fi connects as I enter and my Netflix is already logged in. Home is where I sleep at night after long days at the office. But home is also that place I grew up. A country, a county, a village far away. A place someone else calls home now. That home is now boxes full of memories – forgotten in my parents’ new garage – that my past self once believed I would still care about 20 years later.

That home is a place I belong. But it is also a place I don’t belong anymore. It’s a place I’ve outgrown. It’s a place that’s changed. It’s a place that no longer exists.

The Home I Once Knew

I’ve heard people say that there comes a time when home no longer exists in the form you once knew it to. I’d always expected this to be a gradual change. That, as the years passed, slowly “home” in its first form would evaporate, replaced by the home I would create with my lover, my significant other, my own family. I never imagined that I would be able to pinpoint the moment home, as I knew it, would stop being home.

The day it happened, I woke up early with a taxi to order and a flight to catch. My phone’s alarm trilled into action. Subconsciously I reached for it from my bed. Alarm disarmed, I checked the news. The previous day had been an important one in my homeland and I was equally eager and full of dread to find out the outcome. That morning, June 24th 2016, was the day the home I had once loved, once fiercely identified with, ceased to exist.

It was the day the world discovered that 52% of the UK’s voting population wanted out of the European Union. Within 24 hours my homeland had gone from being kingdoms united to lands falling apart at the seams. But to be honest, the irrevocable changes had been well on their way for months, maybe even years. Thinly veiled xenophobia had littered the front pages of major tabloids and political campaigns had been bolstered on half-truths and vaguities that could be all too easily misinterpreted.

Picking up my passport emblazoned with the words “European Union United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” that morning carried an unexpected smack of sadness and regret. I thought that would be the worst of it. It wasn’t. As the consequences of the previous day’s events unfolded and the lurid abuse set in, the England I had so lovingly left behind in March 2012 no longer existed. I watched from afar, my heart breaking, as my homeland imploded on itself. I hoped it would be short lived. That we would pick ourselves up and recover, figure out how to make the best of a bad situation and shoulder on as we Brits do. But now, a little over a year on, I know that, should I ever return to the country of my birth, going “home” to live there again will never be the same.

In the 12 months that have passed since that day I’ve experienced emotions that I can only compare to bereavement. I know that sounds dramatic. But in truth I’ve felt so lost and displaced since that day. The country I had once spilled over in patriotism for is not there anymore. Long gone are the days of bursting with national pride – days like my very first expat summer, watching as the country of my birth hosted the world’s greatest sporting event and homegrown athletes won gold and silver and bronze.

Five years later, in its place stands a divided, hostile territory. England has become a land where people are yelled at in the street and told to go “home” – nevermind that they hold British citizenship and have spent their entire lives living on those shores. Brexit opened the gates to a wave of hatred no one really wanted to believe was there before.

As a removed Brit all I can do is watch and listen in horror as news reports and friends back “home” – British nationals and foreign expats alike – share stories that break my heart. Our government in a mess, our economy nose-diving, our people turning on each other. My friends facing uncertain futures where once everything seemed so clear. My own future hinging on my ability to master a foreign language and the generosity of another nation. And there’s nothing I can do. I’m powerless to prevent it. To protect the home I had once loved. To protect my friends and family. I can no longer feel proud of that place I once called home.

And as I lost my sense of home, I found myself displaced – lost; confused; my identity as a Brit thrown into question. I no longer want to be associated with a nation so full of hatred and xenophobia; a nation that has let such venom towards people rise to the surface. I cannot tolerate it.

Somewhere I Never Imagined

In just 24 hours home came to be not home anymore.

Over a year on, I still find myself occasionally apologising to European friends – both in the UK and Germany, where I live now – for the way in which the people of my homeland acted and continue to scapegoat EU immigrants as if it was all their fault. I apologise because in the five years I’ve lived in Germany, the country has offered me so much.

Germany has truly made me feel at home – after decades of muddling through life, school, university, and early adulthood not sure about my fit in the world, my first year in Germany was one that was full of feeling like this was it, I had finally found my place, finally found the right hole for this odd-shaped peg. Here, at last, was somewhere to belong. Here was my home. And to think, I might never have found it!

But now with Brexit negotiations in full swing, I face the possibility I could lose the country that has offered me a home seemingly unconditionally. Brexit means I could lose the home I’ve found – the home that, somehow, chose me. With arguments raging about the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in EU nations, no one really knows how this will end. No one knows what will happen to any of us European expats, regardless of the passports we hold and the countries we call home right now. The next two years hold questions no one can answer.

Add this uncertainty to the distress of seeing your homeland reveal its true colours of animosity and it’s no wonder I’ve spent much of the last year grieving the loss of home and national pride, and feeling displaced. Things that were once sure, that once made me proud, that would always be there, have been erased.

Home is no longer a place, no longer something tangible. It’s no longer somewhere from my past I can return to for comfort and security. Home is a sense. A notion I once created for myself, and am now forced to recreate and re-find.

Home is something else, somewhere else.

I hope I find it soon.

My (anti)Brexit List or Why I’m Vote #RemaIN

Culture, emigration, future, Germany, Life, politics, voting

 

I didn’t really want my first post back after a few months hiatus to be about Politics, but the thing is; I’m not sure I can stay quiet. Not that I’ve exactly been silent about the upcoming UK referendum, but, as more and more people tell me why they are voting #Leave, I feel it’s time I share why I’ve voted to #Remain. I’m going to try and keep it short but I’m not making promises. I could write entire 4,000-word essays on this topic ten years ago.

So while I’m praying my little ballot paper has already made it’s way back to the electoral commission HQ place to wait to be counted, here’s some reasons why I put an “X” next to “Remain”.

    • As an ex-politics student who studied the EU in depth for a good few years, I’ll be the first to tell you the EU is flawed. There’s a plethora of institutions and, honestly, even when studying it, it’s not always exactly clear what they all do. In fact, I’m pretty sure I once joked with someone about how complicated it was and that they just seemed to keep adding countries to avoid anyone ever really getting it.ANYWAY, I say all that to say, yes, the EU has it flaws. Yes, it needs reform. Yes, it’s needed reform for a while and yes, it’s been slow at that reforming process, but what do you expect? There’s a bunch of different countries, agendas and beliefs all bundled together, it’s going to take a while. But I still think we have a better chance to see change happen by staying IN it and being part of the change. The UK isn’t the only nation that wants to change the EU (whatever the media might tell you). As a Brit in Germany, it certainly seems like the Germans want to change it too and they’re watching our referendum with interest.

 

    • I’m a Brit living and working in another EU country and frankly, I massively appreciate the freedom of movement/immigration/emigration thing we have going on because of our EU membership. No one has yet, in my opinion, presented a viable option of how things would/could change if we left, so why would I vote to change things that could potentially make my life more difficult and less rich? Also, from living in Germany for four years and chatting with Germans, I have discovered the Germans have pretty much the same fears and concerns about EU immigration/immigration in general as the UK, so any argument based on anti-immigration won’t change my mind. The tactics employed by the #Leave Campaign concerning EU immigration is just terrifying, and that’s not the England I love.

 

    • I have a lot of friends who are EU nationals living and working in the UK right now and paying into the British economy. They have no voice to say what happens to the taxes they are paying. But my EU national friends in the UK can vote for MEPs to represent them either in the UK OR in their home country (but only in ONE of those places) and that, even if there’s not much achieved by MEPs right now, is a small step in a democratic direction.

 

    • On the topic of democracy/democratic deficit (I once wrote a lengthy essay years ago about that by the way), I know the EU gets a lot of flack for not being truly democratic but think about this:
      The EU has evolved to become what it is today, but because it’s politics and it’s multi-national and it’s bureaucratic, it hasn’t necessarily developed in the most streamlined of ways, meaning democracy isn’t necessarily there in the ideal way it should be. It’s perhaps a bit more diplomatic than democratic to be honest. But, like I said, it does give all EU nationals wherever they live in the EU (even if they’re not living in their home nation and can’t vote in state elections in their resident EU nation), the right to vote for someone who will (hopefully) represent their views at some level. I know it’s not the most ideal situation but speaking as someone who’s well on their way to loosing the right to vote in their home nation (unless I move back there), being able to have a say in the EU no matter where I live in it, is actually pretty awesome.Also, if you’re going to complain about the lack of elected representatives making decisions for us, have you looked at how the UK elects Members of Parliament recently? Our First Past The Post system means that you don’t need to win more than 50% of the vote to get a seat. You just need to win enough votes to be the party with the highest number of single votes in your area. Basically, if you manage to choose the biggest piece of pie, you win. At least the EU uses Proportional Representation which means pretty much everyone’s political views are represented no matter how much pie they got.

 

    • I don’t believe either side has been responsible in communicating the true predicted impact of what leaving or staying will really have. It’s been a lot of scaremongering, misleadingly represented facts and figures, and an absolute avalanche of opinions spun with emotions. In this situation I favour one of two options. Sticking with what I know (ie remaining in the EU) or making the government do what we elected them to do which is make decisions on our behalf, representative of our beliefs. But then, I don’t really trust the current UK
      government
      (see: Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt) so I’d rather vote to #Remain

 

  • And finally, I was going to write something here about the economics of it but if I’m honest, I don’t understand enough about the economic implications of staying or leaving to offer that as a reason why I decided to vote #Remain. What I do know is that, what I have read so far and tried to understand, to me, just doesn’t actually add up. Kinda in the same way that EU nationals can’t all be taking UK jobs and stealing all our benefits.

 

OK. I’m done now. Maybe you understand where I’m coming from. Maybe I’ve inspired you to go find out for yourself and make your own decision. And so, with that all said, however you decide to vote on Thursday, please do three things.

      1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK (to get you started, spend 20 minutes listening to this uni professor explain some things about the EU.)
      2. GO VOTE
      3. REMEMBER the history Europe had before the EU was born. The EU rose out of decades of unrest, where hate had bred hate, where extreme-wing politics (both left and right) had prevailed, and where people and nations had been torn apart. The EU wasn’t a first attempt at unification – there were previous iterations that had failed – but it has been the one that has survived the longest. To me, that indicates that there is something good in it. We need to work together to find that and improve the rest of it.

 

 

The Trials of an Expat Voter #GE2015

Britain, Culture, emigration, general election, Life, politics, voting

In a few short hours, millions of people in the United Kingdom will be taking to the polls to (hopefully) decide who will be in charge of their country for the next five years. Except for perhaps some of the most astute political analysts, no one really knows what to expect tomorrow. Will Cameron be out? Will Clegg collapse? Will Ed form a coalition with Russell Brand?

But while various pundits will be focussed on voter turnouts and the overall result, thousands of eligible voters won’t be putting that all important X where it matters at all. Not because they don’t want to. Not because they forgot to turn up.  And not even because they’re disenfranchised, don’t care and think their voice won’t count.

No, on May 7th potentially thousands will be left without the chance or choice to make their voice heard simply because they’re expats. Citizens of the United Kingdom, with UK passports, but not currently residing in the UK. And it’s that which will cost them their democratic voice come polling day. But not for the reasons you might think.

 

Computer Says No

The UK Government barraged me with endless targeted Facebook ads during the months of March and April 2015 with the cheery promise that it takes less than 5 minutes to register to vote. It actually took me almost SIX MONTHS of correspondence, phone calls and three separate attempts to register online before my name was successfully added to the electoral register. The cause of this problem? Apparently “I don’t know where I was last registered to vote” was not a valid option on the online registration, especially when trying to procure a postal vote as an expat.

The simple truth was, due to having been a student for a rather large chunk of the last decade and having moved house every 9 months or so during that time, I couldn’t actually remember where I had last been listed on the electoral register. Add the fact that my parents, who kindly provide me with a fixed UK address and a bed to stay in when I pop back, moved house last year and subsequently moved constituency. Together, these problems somewhat hindered my application. Eventually, with mere weeks until the last possible chance to register, my only option was a sudden “return” to the UK from being abroad before promptly “leaving” once again and applying for a postal vote registered to the address my parents now call home.

But I wasn’t alone in my struggle. British expats experience an array of challenges to be able to claim what is legally still their right up to 15 years of living outside of the UK. Some simply can’t register because they were never registered when they lived in the UK. Now I understand that if a person in their 40s suddenly decides that, despite never voting when living in the UK, they now want to do so, it could create a bit of an ethical dilemma. But what about the young 19 year old who wants to exercise his right to vote but whose family left the UK when he was 15 and thus he had not been on the electoral register before he left? Is he simply not allowed to vote? The chances are he can’t vote in the country he lives in either and so we create another disenfranchised youth who now may never vote.

Oh Where Is My Ballot Paper? 

If you think that once registered all your problems as an expat attempting to vote in a General Election at home are over, think again. Once you’ve jumped the registration hurdle, you fall straight into the mercy of the postal service.

In the last seven days my Facebook newsfeed has been inundated with posts from British friends and acquaintances who, for various reasons, find themselves currently living outside of UK shores. Being, mostly, young, active, politically aware types, they were actually organised. They’ve registered their desire to vote and secured their postal vote application. It’s at this point they hit a problem. A problem I call “Oh Where Is My Ballot Paper?”.

Due to the rule of not sending out postal ballots until 20 days before the Election and the fact that they have to be returned by 10pm on polling day, friends in various locations around the globe didn’t receive their postal ballots until the chance to post it back to the UK in time had long since passed. Several friends in the States reportedly didn’t receive their ballots until the possibility of returning it in time was long gone. But it’s not limited to those facing a long haul flight to return home. Another acquaintance, this time in the Czech Republic, is still to receive her postal ballot. In fact, her outburst on social media to this affect a few short days ago bought forward several others, also living in Europe, also without their ballots.

Surely, when we’re considering something as important as the voting right of citizens, creating such a tight turnaround is placing rather too much faith in the world’s postal services? I mean I have friends who still haven’t received Christmas gifts I posted months ago.* And don’t even get me started on the wondering whether my postal vote will actually arrive back in the UK in time.

*that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Polling Day

So now, as Polling Day dawns, anyone who knows even the tiniest bit about British Politics right now, knows that 2015 is going to be close.

But one thing’s for sure, thousands of expats will anxiously watch the results, frustrated, angry or just despondent that, despite their best efforts, this time their voice won’t be heard. And the money the UK Government/electoral office spent on targeted Facebook ads to encourage British Expats to register was, it would seem, a little bit redundant.

 

Life in Germany: A visit to the British Consulate

Culture, emigration, Frankfurt, Germany

It’s been an eventful few weeks of life in Germany since my last post, involving broken elbows (not mine), lost passports (thankfully also not mine) and seeing some beautiful German countryside as my train zooms through it.

Last Wednesday I accompanied a friend visiting from the UK to the British Consulate in Dusseldorf in order to secure an emergency passport for her return home.
Beautiful German countryside
on our way to Dusseldorf

Let me explain how we came to need an emergency passport in the first place. A few days prior to our unscheduled trip to Dusseldorf my friend, Charlie, lost her bag, presumed stolen, in Frankfurt’s Hauptbahnhof. The Frankfurt British Consulate office informed her she could get an emergency passport to travel home on. However, only the Dusseldorf office would be able to issue one.

Bright and early Wednesday morning (after I had convinced staff at Charlie’s hostel to let me in and wake her up at 5am using a muddled early morning mix of Deutsch and English), we boarded an IC train and started our journey across Germany.

Some hours later, Charlie and I arrived in Dusseldorf Derendorf and attempted to find the British Consulate. In a way that only Charlie can, she accosted a man who alighted at our stop and in the strongest English Midlands accent first said, ‘Sprechen Sie English’ and then before the man could fully give his response, Charlie launched into ‘Do you know where the British Consulate is? Passport problems you see.’ Thankfully the man obliged, explained how to get to the Consulate and bid us good day.

She can go home!
Charlie with her Emergency Passport.

The Consulate itself is an understated building. The only clue this was the Consulate was the four Polizei standing outside and the Union Jack hanging slightly limply from its flagpole. As we approached, a darkened (and probably toughened) glass door opened and a cheery but serious German guard greeted us. Once he established we had an appointment we entered the building where we were ordered to hand over all electronic items, our bags were searched and a metal detector was run over us.

And to be honest, that’s all there is to say on our trip. Our time in the Consulate wasn’t especially interesting being as it involved form filling and a lot of waiting, but she got her passport! So on that note, I’ll sign off for another day. Tschuss!

 

Life In Germany: A cinema trip to see Avengers Assemble

emigration, film, Frankfurt, Germany, Reviews

It’s a rare occasion when, still emerging from your oversized cinema seat, you mentally consider your next viewing of a film moments after you’ve seen the last of the end credits roll off the screen. But then it’s also rare a big, and let’s face it, hyped, blockbuster movie comes along to inspire that overwhelming desire.

In fact I can think of only a handful of times I’ve walked out of the cinema, wishing I could re-live the last two hours of my life. Titanic (the James Cameron version first time round in 1998) was one of those, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey another. Bill & Ted is a classic case of cult 90s film. For Titanic I claim a pre-teen obsession with Leo DiCaprio and misguided judgement on what a ‘timeless’ movie actually is.
On Friday I added Avengers to that handful.
Avengers. Now that’s a film definitely worth every cent tipped out of my purse and onto the cinema counter to pay for a mildly extortionate ticket. A ticket that allows me to sit in a large public room with a big screen and lots of people and wear two pairs of specs (contact lens and my eyes have a love-hate relationship).
In case you don’t know, Avengers is the latest blockbuster in the run of Marvel Studio films, and the culmination of Kevin Feige’s original plan to have four separate superhero franchises (The Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Ironman) and then pull them all together into one epic action superhero movie. It is, in short, every comic book fan’s ultimate dream.
Director Joss Whedon (probably most widely known for his creation of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer), has created a funny, clever, jaw-dropping and generally mind-blowing movie based on the simple plotline of ‘a selection of superheroes must save the world together’.
It helps if you know the superheroes back stories, or at least the idea that they have each emerged from their own set of comics and movie(s). But, even if you’ve no idea what Marvel is, the brilliance of the script will entertain with its comedy and action and the 3D graphics will amaze. Plus, there’s enough reference to previous encounters with each superhero to give you a basic grounding that will get you through and suck you into the story.

In fact, the only thing that was even slightly disappointing in my viewing of Avengers was the unexpected interval. Apparently in Germany it’s commonplace for a film that stretches into the two hour region to have a short interval mid-movie. The film is cut, the curtains swoop in front of the screen and the lights go up.

Having never experienced this in my life before I did, for a good few minutes, wonder whether in fact there was an actual problem with the film and how long it would be before we were offered free tickets to return to another showing. As those minutes passed, it became clear everyone else had been expecting this moment. ‘Do cinematic malfunctions have a high frequency in Germany’, I wondered? ‘No’, my German companions confirmed, ‘we just have breaks in long movies’. Right.

In the 48 hours since I saw Avengers I have tried to understand this concept of a break mid-movie, but to no avail. I really can’t see the point in cutting the action mid-scene. Sure, it has benefits, not least to the cinema who no doubt hope punters will leave their seats and shell out on snacks but really, when I’ve paid, let’s face it, a lot, to see a film, I don’t want my viewing interrupted. I can do that at home with the DVD.
However, the strength of Avengers is perhaps proven by this pause mid-movie. I doubt there are many films that can truly withstand a break in the adrenaline rush and excitement in the way Avengers did. It’s a cleverly put together film that will have you enthralled from the very first second and leave you on the edge of your seat until the credits are over. And refreshingly for a 3D blockbuster, it doesn’t rely on 3D and CGI to be its ultimate selling point. This has the added bonus of meaning it should be just as great in 2D and will translate well to DVD.
So, if you only see one movie in 2012, make it Avengers. Preferably in 3D.

(Just check first to see if there will be an interval. Great if you have bladder issues or are liable to need more snack food – not so great if you like to spend your cinema time fully immersed in the film and dislike surfacing before the last of the end credits has rolled.)

PS I don’t own the above trailer in anyway. It was posted by MarvelUK youtube.com user. You can check out the original here.

Life In Germany: Challenging perspectives

Culture, emigration, Frankfurt, future

The longer I live in Germany the more I discover how ingrained my British culture is. I guess, though, it’s hardly surprising considering ALL my years of life thus far have been predominantly spent in England.

I’ve lived in Germany for almost two months and that time has opened my eyes to how tied my thoughts and perceptions of the world are to a British sensibility.

Before I moved I thought I was quite accepting of other cultures. In school and at university, despite living in predominantly white middle class areas, I’d had friends with all kinds of national backgrounds; Nigerian, Singaporean, Chinese, French, German, Indian, Greek, American, Welsh, the list goes on. At the time I thought I was embracing my friends’ cultures. But now I live in a foreign country I realise what I accepted was an Anglicised adaptation of their culture. I had an expectation that if you moved to my country you should speak my language and do things the way my country and culture dictated. However, somewhat naively, I had not considered that this notion should also work in reverse.

Now, to use an English idiom, the shoe is on the other foot. Let me give you an example, I would not expect someone in England to approach me and ask if I spoke German, Spanish, Urdu but yet I am fully prepared to ask someone in Germany if they speak English. This is the resounding impact of my British upbringing. Having realised this, I have a completely different perspective on the people I meet in my day to day who look at me slightly vexed and say “Nein” as I utter “Sprechen Sie Englisch bitte?” These people are pertaining the same expectation I have in my country of origin. Simply, “if you live in my country you should try to speak my language”.

And so while I will not renounced my Britishness, I am prepared to be more Germanic in my day to day – as I’ve already expressed in this blog, I am trying to master the German language as my own.

I draw the line at adopting the German’s version of tea though.

Please send supplies of Tetley and Yorkshire!

Hello Germany, I’m here!

Culture, emigration, Frankfurt, Hope City Church, Life

I made it. I actually made it.

Four (quite long) days ago I stepped off a plane and made my way to the Arrivals lounge of Frankfurt International Airport. There I was greeted by three Germans, ready to welcome me into their family for the next three months.

I type this in my new home in the middle of the German countryside watching Fireman Sam, or rather Feuerwehrmann Sam. It’s not quite how I remember it growing up as a child in England. Sam et al appear to have turned into Pontypandy’s super rescue A team; not only putting out fires and saving kittens from rooftops but becoming Pontypandy’s coastguard too.

I should probably point out that I’m watching Feuerwehrmann Sam on my own. Anna, the five-year old girl I’m here to look after for the next three months, is at Kindergarten. The TV is on to try and ease the eerie lack of noise in my new home (and also to help with my learning the German language.)

Everyone warns you moving country is a big deal, but no one quite prepares you for the change!

And it has definitely been a change. Taking everything I want for my life in Germany, and using only a plane to take it, somewhat limits what can be packed. Despite moving house over 12 times in the last eight years, I’ve often failed to clear out unwanted items; habit, time and personal nature resulted in me chucking most of what I own into the back of a car and hoping for the best.

This time, packing a Ford Feista to its gills was not an option. This time, I had just one large suitcase, one small suitcase and a handbag (thank God for BA’s generous hand luggage allowance!). This time, my whole life had to fit into 46kg give or take a few hundred grams.

I’m a natural hoarder (a gene I’ve inherited from my father who would keep anything ‘just in case’), so ruthlessly going through my clothes created THREE bags of items I no longer wore, and several pairs of shoes that had seen significantly better days. Not to mention the collection of general things I no longer used, picture frames, cables, jewellery, little gifts from people I’d never opened, unburned candles, endless toiletries I didn’t need. However even after getting rid of several bags worth of items it took me days to make everything I wanted/needed to fit in my suitcase. (And we’ll just not talk about the small collection of items I’ve wistfully left in England with the plea to anyone coming out to visit to bring an item or two with them…)

Now the drama of the cases is over and done with – well until the next move – the next challenge is settling into German life, learning the German language and not forgetting to drive on the right (so far I’ve not actually got behind the wheel of a car though so that’s not such a problem).

I do, however, really miss breakfast cereal.

2012: Time For A Change

destiny, emigration, Frankfurt, future, Germany, Hope City Church

Over the last few months this blog has somewhat been lacking posts and for this I apologise. It is not because I have become slack at blogging. Far from it in fact. For the last few months I have found myself writing, editing and running blogs for others (most notably Anya 17 and Hope City Frankfurt). Only thing is, between that and holding down two part time jobs, it left me with no time to write in my own blog (although with probably only six readers in the whole wide interweb I doubt my ramblings have been missed too much!). But now it’s 2012, it’s time to pick up the old keyboard and screen and start over. 


I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions (mainly because I am abysmal at sticking to them), but for me, 2012 presents a long-awaited beginning which should at least be documented in the semi-permanence of the internet [purely for it to be lost in cyberspace and then one day rediscovered by some unsuspecting hacker who probably hasn’t even been born yet, you understand].

The dawning of 2012 marks the final steps towards probably one of the biggest and slightly more mental decisions of my life. In a matter of months, nay weeks (job, flights and accommodation permitting), my pale little English face will soon be finding home amongst throngs of German ones as I set up life in Frankfurt.

Yes, at 26 bizarre and wonderful years of age, I am going to leave my mother country and attempt to live in a land where to be honest, I can hardly order a coffee and my ability of asking for cake with it involves saying “Kanne Ich……….. [long pause as I point widely]…die kucken?” (Apologies to anyone who can actually speak German and is aware of the shocking language assault I just performed, please bare with me.) 

It might seem like a mad, hair-brained idea (my mother is less convinced it is now following several lengthy discussions about it over the last ten months) but I’m a believer of destiny and calling and I’m as sure as I can be that moving to Germany is part of an incredible plan for my life. Sure, if you’d told me three years ago that this is what 2012 would look like, I’d have probably thought you were, well, not altogether there, shall we say?

It certainly wasn’t part of my original life plan dreamt up years ago when, aged about six, a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. In that version of my life, I was probably the secret sixth member of the Famous Five, grew up on the dark Heathcliffian moors and could talk to any book character I pleased. Or I was a secret mutant human, part of Xavier’s school for the gifted, best friends with Bill and Ted and able to ride any horse I wanted. I probably also told this teacher I wanted to be a jockey or a vet or a Thunderbird or something. I definitely never imagined living in another country (living in fiction was enough, obviously). Not until I was 13 at least and began to harbour desires of being a journalist in the Big Apple a la Sex In The City (although I had no idea who the heck Carrie Bradshaw was) did my life plan ever consider a bit of healthy emigration.

But now, now I’m actually alive in 2012 and it isn’t some ethereal, slightly futuristic number given to a year in the distant future, now, I’ve come to realise that my life plan doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I live in the destiny I’ve been called for. I cannot wait to live in Germany no matter how daunting it may seem. There’s only one go at this life so I might as well give it my best shot and take the bull by the horns. 

You’re welcome to join me for the ride.