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Getting Out of This Country

Tuesday, 1st May, 2001

Brrr, it was cold this morning.

It might be hard to get out of bed at five o'clock in the morning, but it's even harder to get out of bed when it's this cold, especially when you're snuggled up inside a double duvet on a single bed.

You see, I live in a house with no heating. It�s rented, not mine, so it�s not something I�ll be cursing for the next forty years � but the next forty minutes, maybe. No heating doesn�t sound like anything too important, but Yorkshire winters are really not nice things. The comfort of central heating is not to be underestimated, especially right now when I find that I can�t even run a bath because my water tank seems to have frozen.

It was a trade off, this house. It has its good points as well as its bad. I get high ceilings so I can stack bookshelf on top of bookshelf, and it's right in the centre of town, yet quietly secluded. But I have no shower and I have no heating. Plus my electricity runs on coins: I have to remember to periodically put coins into the meters I have on each floor. They're disassembled so the coins cycle, but I still have to put them through, and it's easy to forget. Then, like this morning, I find that one ran out and electricity was cut to the entire floor, in turn cutting out my internet connection and my fridge. Sigh.

Every time something like this happens, I just think to myself that it isn't going to be happening much longer. I'm getting out of this country.

It's a strange feeling to have.

As far as blood goes, I'm technically a true Brit. A few generations ago, with the typical contrariness of my family, an Irish Catholic married into Welsh Chapel and a Scots Presbyterian married into the Church of England, or something like that. I can't remember the exact details but it was all the varied flavours of Christianity and all the nationalities that make up the United Kingdom.

I see myself as English, however. I was born here and I live here and I have respect for the country and its people that have been earned through the millennia. In a lot of ways I'm true to some of the stereotypes of my race, and of course I'd like to think the good ones but then I'm biased. I feel my English blood powering through my veins and I like it.

Of course I'm bucking a serious amount of trends here. Apparently I shouldn't call myself English. British is the preferred term in officialdom nowadays. Still more officials would go a step further and prefer me to call myself European, which I am not, regardless of the vagaries of geographical nomenclature.

Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales. It doesn't include Northern Ireland, which is only part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So the term �British' would suggest anti-Irish sentiment of all things, which is strange as the government would label me racist for calling myself English.

It's a strange term to apply to people too, as there is no real shared culture between the three (or four) countries. The Scots are very different people to the Irish, even though they share a common Gaelic heritage. The Welsh are different again. All are unique and, as far as I'm concerned, should celebrate their differences. Differences are what makes the world a fascinating place. And it's not even three hundred years since the Union of England and Scotland was proclaimed, today on 1 May, 1707.

All in all, I'm proud to be English. I just don't want to live here any more. I'm getting out of this country.

And Europe? Only mad politicians would try to create a United States of Europe at a time when almost every country within the continent is fighting its own battles against separatist factions in this area and that. Here, the Scots (and to a lesser degree, the Welsh) are fighting for their own independence. Large chunks of the Northern Irish do it quite obviously, with guns and bombs. Even the Channel Islands would be interested in their independence. So the politicians try to make us a mere state of Europe.

As far as geography is concerned, I was born in the continent of Europe. That makes me European by birth. As far as everything else is concerned, I'm no European in any sense of the word whatsoever. I don't know what will come of this grand political experiment, but so far it's mostly been a grand political mess and anyway, I'm getting out of this country.

What still surprises me is that I'm getting out to go to a country that I didn't have a whole lot of respect for, even very recently. The USA doesn't get a whole lot of good press worldwide, and often quite rightly so. It doesn't have much to be proud of on a global scale, with its unwanted intervention into local conflicts, its overbearing attitude and its adeptness at friendly fire. At home, it has a lot to be ashamed of too, with cults and guns and all sorts of madness.

Yet every time I've travelled in the States, and I do so more each year, I feel like I belong. There are certain fundamental attitudes that I identify with very much, and that are totally absent in England. The USA is a celebration of success, in every way, from four year olds at little league up to big business. England is a nation jealous of success.

Maybe history has a lot to play here. After all, historically the USA is pretty damn new. It's not been around for the sort of history we deal with over here, except of course for the native American tribes who were unceremoniously mostly wiped out. And it's not that long since the map of the world was mostly English pink. Queen Victoria really did rule over an empire upon which the sun never set. Now we preside at the head of a commonwealth which is sadly neglected. Maybe the Americans are making up for lost time and we English are trying to work out what happened.

I want to get away from the government of this country. Mother of Parliaments we may be, but I literally despise the systems that have grown up in this country. It's not just the Labour Party, though they've turned insanity into an art form; it's the whole governmental system. There's an old adage that those who want to govern are by definition unfit to do so. This country over the last twenty years has proved that. I would love to vote this government out, but there's not a lot better to replace it.

I want to live in a country where success is celebrated, talent is encouraged, innovation is appreciated. I want to live in a country where if you earn more money, the government is happy with you, safe in the knowledge that they'll be getting more out of you than before, but still in proportion. And I want to live in a country where being different is almost always perfectly fine.

That seems like a very strange thing to say about a country that invented the Ku Klux Klan, but it's been my experience all around the States, and I've visited over half. At the end of this month, I get to add another couple to the list: Nevada and Arizona.

If all goes well with work visas, Arizona is where this proud Englishman will be proudly calling home in a mere couple of months. And I'll be reporting from the front line.

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