When I was a little girl, my dear Nana always said to me she wanted me to visit England for her, to do the things she had never done and say the things she had never seen. She died when I was 19. My father is English; he was born and raised in Redcar. By virtue of his English birth, I am entitled to a British Passport. It took me a long time to get the courage to do it, but finally I moved.
I decided to move to the North West. At the time, my half brother lived on the Wirral. Although not particularly close I thought having a relative handy if something went wrong. I had no desire to move to London, I was concerned that if I lived there, I might find myself living in an Aussie share house, drinking Aussie beer and listening to Aussie music. I hadn’t come all this way for nothing, I wanted to assimilate. Also, I had met a bloke on the internet who lived in Manchester, and we decided we wanted to pursue a relationship, which went a long happily for several years.
I guess the things I like about England are really tied up with what I love about Manchester and the two will diverge.
Natural beauty – I find England stunningly beautiful, and diverse. Where we live, to the North of Manchester not far from the Lancashire border, is just gorgeous. We live on the East Lancashire railway line and it makes my heart sing, to do the 30 minute round trip from Bury to Rawtenstall. I find so much of England just lovely, and really easily accessible.
Accessibility – I don’t drive. In Tasmania this was always a massive issue. Buses were infrequent, didn’t always go places that you would want to go, and to get between cities was dreadfully costly. The place was built for cars. In England I find it so easy, I can get from Manchester to London under three hours. I can get to Wales and to Scotland. Europe is also very easy. I don’t feel trapped like I did in Tasmania.
Opportunity – I have had amazing opportunities I never would have had at home in Tasmania. I have been able to change careers, to go places, to do things that at home were just completely not available. I’m not one hundred per cent sure what would have happened if I’d have had Joseph in Launceston, we probably would have had to be airlifted to at least Hobart. I had a stunning wedding here, I’ve been in the paper a few times, and I feel my life here is full of opportunity and promise that had deserted me in Tasmania.
Humour – I have to admit, I don’t always get it. Sometimes I think being people are being serious and they are totally taking the mick! (Equally my directness sometimes is taken for sarcasm). I love the humour of everyday people, especially the old, crusty Lancastrian chaps. I like the banter at the bus stop, and going into a pub and having a good yarn. There is a warmth about England that I just love.
Shopping – Although not a massive shopper, I love shopping in England. Clothes in the supermarket, interesting specialty shops, shops full of fat clothes! In Tasmania my choice of clothes was very limited, although now its improved, the clothes are so much more expensive than here. And they are made in China and have dubious providence with a high price tag. I love a bargain and I love being able to buy things that fit me. I do get a little disheartened about the high street here, and that a lot of towns have started to look the same, and I do try to support independent retailers when I can.
Architecture – Australia, of course, is an ancient country, but in some senses very new. I still get a buzz from seeing buildings that are 500 years or older. I love how in Manchester in particular, there’s a fascinating juxtaposition of the old and new, side by side. I love how they haven’t tried to be too sympathetic when constructing new buildings, and there is such modernity and foresight as well as beautifully old buildings.
Christmas – It seems particularly odd talking about Christmas in July but I so love the festive period in England. All the carols from my childhood make sense, the familiar imagery; the smells all seem more poignant and relevant here. I adore the Christmas markets, the lights and the food. After my first Christmas here, my homesickness all but disappeared.
Art – I am the most casual of art appreciators, however, I love a good gallery, and there are so many, particularly in the North West, that I go to and love. For me, art must be accessible, it must be free or cheap to look at, and it needs to have an element of fun too. I find that England gets this 100% right. I love the refurbished Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth, and the Walker in Liverpool. And in London it’s even more inspiring.
People – I find English people funny and warm. It takes a while to “break in” and make friends here. Often Australians are a lot more casual about friendship, and hence it’s easier to make friends there, but true close friendships are valued highly by the English, and once you have made a friendship, you have it for life.
I am passionate about this country and I adore it. Yes, it has its problems, and there are a lot of them. But there is a resilience about England that I love. That saying “Keep Calm and Carry On” that has precious little to do with war time England, does seem to sum up the place.
I’m not sure if I’m here forever, or if at some time in the future I will move back to Australia, or even to someplace else. But for now, England is my home and I am very happy here.