Friday, July 20, 2007

Home Sweet Home?

It's funny, I thought coming home after being out of the country for 15 months would make me look at Britain with new unblinkered eyes. Instead I seemed to regard Blighty with the myopic indulgence reserved for eccentric members of one's family. Blood is thicker than water etc. I was just glad to see her....

I also thought the collision in my mind of the two cultures and realities of my life, would jar somewhat. I found intead that UK was a familiar and very comfortable old coat that I slipped into with ease. Rather disconcerting really.

Actually I think I ws just very tired, and very relieved to have some of what they call across the pond 'down time', not having to contemplate crazy drivers, infuriating bureaucracy, the stress of poverty stricken people, inefficiency and humidity, on a daily basis.

I hardly dare admit it, but I have revelled in this cold, damp summer, drizzly days, snuggling under a duvert cover, feeling cold, eating scotch pancakes, and soft summer fruits. The break from the heat, in particular, has been a welcome release. No sweat. When one is abroad one's home country takes on a rose tinted perspective, and I know that people from Britain, wax nostalgic about what William Dalrymple maintains is a non-existent England, a rural England of pubs, village greens, holidays by the sea and such like that is an elusive reality.

I am not helped though, by the fact in this regard, that my parents live in a house in a quiet picturesque village with gorgeous views over rolling countryside; you can walk down to a brook at the end of their unmade up road, where children really and truly fish for tiddlers with jam jars, and play pooh sticks on the bridge; where in a nearby village, you can sit looking across the vilalge green sipping warm ale. Then there's my in-laws who live on the Isle of Wight (a time warp place if ever there was one.) 5 minutes from the beach where the lifeboat station is, where the children fish in rock pools, collect shells and stones, and on other days are given rides by a local farmer friend, on the combine harvester, and watch the cows being milked. Their grandparents' respective retirement locations really are idyllic. When in Sri Lanka I know what the grandchildren are missing.

But I am glad to say that I have rather missed the anarchy and chaos that is life in Sri Lanka; its unexpectedness, and the surprising events that characterise everyday life there. I have also been jolted back into the reality of the other Britain, that nanny state where your every move is watched and legislated. The collective sigh of her residents feels almost palpable, in response to this lack of trust in our ability to run our own lives, and make our own decisions.

My son now needs a booster seat until he is twelve yrs old to travel in a car in this country. In a shop I was buying a pair of kitchen scissors. The cashier was looking for something to wrap the scissors in. I said just put them in the bag. She explained, patiently, that she couldn't do that because of health and safety regulations, she had to bubble wrap them. For my protection.

I have also had the curious sensation of experiencing more extreme weather here than in Sri Lanka during the monsoon. I arrived to the floods and loss of life up in the north. Of course the reporting and concern were different. It's quite normal in Sri Lanka. Colombo floods every year. Lives are lost. Both are just reported matter of factly. Today in the UK it rained constantly and torrentially and the roads flooded. I came through 4 floods which were causing people to turn back. If I hadn't been in a borrowed 4WD I wouldn't have made it. Deeper than anything I had riven through in Colombo. Suddenly life here felt a bit more unpredictable. No wonder I felt so at home.......


Iota said...

What a lovely description of the complexities of home - the place and the feeling. I'm glad you had a good time.

The thinker said...

Lovely to catch up with you again. Enjoy yur time with your folks.