As an ex South African, before I can delve deep into the benefits of being integrated into British society, I have to consider this question: What has Britain given me besides the side effects of colonialism?
Here is the list of answers I came up with:
- The Weather
- Freedom of speech
- A gateway to other countries
- Dr Who – specifically David Tennant
- Buses every 10, 12 or 20 minutes apart
- The courage to be who I really wanted to be
- Excellent period dramas on the Beeb & Channel 4
- Terry Pratchett & a truck load of other favourite authors
- Priceless friendships
- My teaching career
- My writing career
- Argentine Tango
- Lindy Hop
The main thing Britain has given me above all else is the ability to think on my feet. This is crucial in the temperamental environment of the UK. The first 10 years of my 3 decade stay in the UK was one of a seemingly perpetual winter – much like that of the Wall in Game Of Thrones if people need a visual clue. Thermal vests and leggings are now my bosom buddies. Sorry BFFs Bev, Chantal, Mands et al - I know you thought differently.
So it will come as no surprise that I value Thermal Underwear with vigour and rely on my ability to layer clothing. It took many years of intensive study for me to perfect this particular art. Even now I sometimes get it wrong as it is an ever changeable thing with more to learn at each turn.
While at university in Salford I quickly learnt that walking at speed is a great way to stay warm. If this doesn’t work make sure you have a Macdonalds enroute so you can nip into their toilets and use the hand-dryers as hand-warmers. I still employ this technique to good effect now.
Bus Roulette was a game I devised one day when it was cold, wet and cold and wet. What this involves is taking any bus going vaguely in the direction you need just so you can get out of the cold and wet; then transferring onto another bus only when forced to do so. I also learnt the value of a back seat placed over the engine and why the top deck on a night bus is a no go area.
Discussing the weather is a national pastime and not to be dismissed as insignificant. It took me many years to understand it was part and parcel of my journey towards Britishness. I now make every effort to engage in a weather discussion with some hapless soul at least once a day. So it is no accident this post consists mainly of just that. And I make no apology for it whatsoever.
But this ability to be at one with British weather is not the only thing I’ve gained from my 3 decades here. To find out what else there is, you’ll have to take a peek at next week’s post.