Thursday, May 19, 2005


It is Eurovision week, and a European friend of mine, who shall remain nameless to preserve her dignity, has turned down a night out drinking and dancing into the wee hours with us, her girlfriends, for Eurovision. Knowing the five of us when we get together, that is being pretty serious about Eurovision.

But, you know, it is seeing that kind of seriousness about something that I don’t understand that makes living in another country so fascinating. Last night I sat at dinner with three girls who are as close to me as sisters, and they come from cultures so utterly different to my own that I get intellectually jealous that I can think in only one language, while they think and exist in two languages and two cultures.

It is both humbling and inspiring, ensuring I am eternally grateful that I never had to struggle to develop my ability to communicate in an almost universally acceptable language and guaranteeing I harbour a deep regret that I can understand so very little about other cultures because the language barrier means I cannot read their books, I cannot follow their political systems, I cannot feel their history in my bones.

My life is driven by an endless desire to understand people from all over the world and there is no greater pleasure for me than meeting a mind that grew up in another society altogether yet finding that spark of friendship. Being invited into another’s life and knowledge is what keeps me going and, unfortunately, the best way to do that is to live in a country, not just pass through as a tourist.

Today I cried in my little office in the building standing on the site of Nell Gwynn’s house on Pall Mall. I do not cry often, usually about once a year, twice in a bad year. Today I got choked up and teary because I shared some disappointing news with the girls that had celebrated my then good news last night and I got back incredibly sweet emails that included much swearing and admonitions that I was not to be sad.

But I am sad, and it does annoy me that I cannot get the only thing I want in the world. Today was my Waterloo.

Yesterday I had achieved the only thing I needed out of my stay here – I was told that P&O Ports wanted me to stay beyond my existing visa and they asked me to talk to their visa consultants about obtaining the correct papers to stay in the UK. This was the chance I was waiting for, the foot in the door, the moment to reach out with both hands and take the offer that would deliver me a cherished dream. I want to do what I love and the only way to do that is to stay in the UK.

Today I was told that there was no way I could stay in the UK, and that no money, influence or strength of desire could keep me here.

Wham, bam, thank you m’am , you REALLY have to go home. Have a nice day.

Crap. Crap, crap, crap. Crap. Crap.

Rinse and repeat.

Yup, it’s definitely that Waterloo feeling.

So I went down to the Australia shop and bought Cherry Ripes …

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