I should probably start packing.
Two weeks ago was what Britain deemed Super Saturday. Or, as Americans like to call it, July 4th. Boris Johnson decided that was the day the UK (mostly England) would start reopening. If you’ve been following my progress, you know I’ve been hankering for a haircut for four months. And I got one. I nabbed the last appointment and proceeded to rave about how lucky I was to anyone in earshot. Pubs and restaurants opened as well, with one-meter-plus social distancing measures in place, and I wondered how crazy the day would be. (Turns out, not really.) Despite wanting to go down to the pub and support our local, my husband and I decided we’d like to take things a bit more relaxed. We dragged the barbeque to the front of the house, put our patio table and chairs on the front lawn, threw up the Stars and Bars over our garage, and invited some neighbors over for a relaxing lunch-turned-dinner session. It threatened rain, but never really delivered, and we had a remarkably normal time together. It was so very nice to simply sit around and chat while the kids ran around the lawn together and the dog hunted for dropped hotdog bits. Almost like there wasn’t a pandemic raging across the world.
Last Thursday marked an important date in my quest to become more British, or at least, not deported. My five-year visa is set to expire at the end of next month and I’m on track to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. This means I’ll be a resident of Great Britain with no time limit, a huge win if everything goes well. It’s also a mandatory step in my path to becoming a dual citizen, once that option crops up. But, as with all things governmental and red-taped, I had a few hoops to jump through. One of those hoops was taking, and passing, the Life in the UK citizenship test.
I’m sure you’ve read articles about how most Americans (or Britons) couldn’t pass a citizenship test despite being born and raised in their mother country. Not having been born in the UK, I was slightly worried I’d fail this test. More an ego bruising than anything else (and paying another fifty quid to retest). So, I bought the official handbook and then a booklet of practice questions and answers. The government website says to give yourself three months to study; I gave myself five weeks. Even then, I thought it might be overkill: how hard could the questions be? The reading material itself was easy, kind of like skimming a seventh-grade civics textbook, and the book was short. The history chapter in particular was really just a wavetop lesson in important British milestones and influencers. And, bonus, since the UK left the EU last year, any questions relating to the EU would not appear on my test.
The only problem with studying an official handbook the government has written is that the government also writes the test questions. They’ll take a random sentence you didn’t think pertained to, you know, being a productive citizen or resident of the UK, and test you on that. Do I really need to know the information required to be on my dog’s tag when I walk him in public? (Owner’s name and address.) Is it imperative that I know the name of the first curry house in London? (Hindoostane Coffee House.) Should I commit to memory the fact that Iron Age people buried their dead in round barrows and not hill forts? (Yes.) Sure, I was prepared for the questions about Henry VIII’s wives, Parliamentary proceedings, and famous British cultural icons, but I realized I had to reread the handbook a few times to make sure I got all the “other” information, too. I took over 30 practice tests, made a dump sheet, and, after driving over an hour to the test center, sat down in a face mask and took the citizenship test. Six minutes later, I walked out. There was no question: I had nailed it.
Last weekend was our fifth wedding anniversary. Traditionally, a wooden gift is exchanged between partners. My husband and I had no end of laughs asking if a house counted as the traditional gift (a resounding yes – it has exposed wooden beams upstairs). My parents-in-law came down for the weekend, so we had a relaxing brunch with them and then headed off to Bath for a few hours. It was weird, because although Bath wasn’t deserted, it certainly wasn’t crowded like a gorgeous, sunny Saturday in July would normally command. More like a slow Tuesday. We only booked dinner, so we wandered around until I spotted a café called Thirsty Meeples and had to check out. It was my dream place: a little café serving coffee, tea, some alcoholic beverages, some nibbles, and, hold on now, hundreds of board games. Imagine the library in Beauty and the Beast, but instead of books, it’s all board games. I’m telling you, that’s how it looked to me. Gorgeous. You could buy games at the front of the store, but it was mostly a sit-for-three-hours-and-play-a-board-game-while-you-drank-coffee space. Where was this place when I was growing up? Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to indulge in a game, so we drank our coffees while perusing the 800+ board games lining the walls.
After our Thirsty Meeples experience, we hit the streets again, just meandering around, until our dinner date. We had booked a table for 4 o’clock since we weren’t sure about crowds or when places would be open, but we needn’t have worried. We were the only customers in our sushi restaurant. The bonus is that we had excellent customer service. I waddled out of the restaurant an hour later. We had another forty-five minutes before our parking expired, so we slowly walked back to the car, stopping at a baby store that was going out of business to see what was on offer. Leave it to parents to shop for their kid on their anniversary. We drove back and made it home in time to kiss our daughter goodnight. Rockstar lives, I know.
In toddler news, Beaner has two new teeth. At this stage in our parenting journey this shouldn’t really be a cause for celebration. Most other nearly-two-year-olds already have a mouthful of teeth, if not the whole contingent. But with our kid, definite celebratory vibes. (She still has eight more to go.) Her lower canines finally clawed their way through after three days of painful rumblings, two of which were so bad she stayed home from nursery (hellllooooo Daddy Daycare). To be fair, I thought these two teeth were coming through about two weeks ago. I was even certain I could see them. But funny thing about toddler teeth: they have a mind of their own. There are, however, telltale signs you can’t miss with imminent teething: the drool, the sore bum and loose poos, the hand in the mouth, and with our daughter, the incredible exhaustion. She’s a trooper, that one, and for the best part of a year has simply slept off a whole host of illnesses and unpleasantness. It’s great, really. I sometimes wish I could have her life.
In house news, we’re inching along. We’ve scheduled our move-out date despite not yet knowing our move-in date, and have begun to box up books, take down shelves, and fill in holes. We’re finalizing mortgage paperwork, moving money around, and reading solicitor’s correspondence. Next week, we’re checking out a prospective nursery/preschool that will hopefully accept our kid in September. I feel like we’re doing all the right things, but it still feels like we’re stuck in purgatory. I hate waiting. I can’t plan. I worry that all of a sudden we’ll get the go-ahead and we won’t be ready. We’ve been in this house for five years and, well, we have a lot of stuff. Shoot, my potted plants alone will probably take up one run to the new house. We are so tantalizingly close to owning our own home, it’s maddening. But I know that everything will come in due time. And that we’ve been extremely lucky: not being required to pay stamp duty because the Prime Minister wants to get the housing market back up and running… there’s an unexpected ten grand’s worth of icing on the cake.
I’ll write more when I’ve got more. Stay safe, stay sane, stay cool.