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Trump: a toddler in a kindergarten nation

The USA is in its infancy. Colonised by the English in 1620, it became the United States, an independent nation, in 1776. That’s only 240 years ago. Is it any wonder then, that its people are so naïve when it comes to politics, culture and gun law?

In the UK we marvel at how a sad, dangerous and uncomfortably comedic figure like Donald Trump can possibly be allowed to hold a position of power. Since moving to the USA I’ve been trying to comprehend how such a ridiculous turn of events has come about, and I have been fortunate, in a way, to experience the Trump phenomena from both sides of the Atlantic.

In England, Magna Carta, the Great Charter of the Liberties, or the first written laws, if you like, was signed in 1215, or shortly after lunch. The Declaration of Independence, arguably the American equivalent, was signed in 1776. That puts England roughly 560 years ahead of America in terms of social and political maturity.

560 years ago, in England, we were in the 1450s. Henry VI was King, and we had just lost the Hundred Years’ War to the French. If you believe Wikipedia, the earliest known reference to knitting in England occurs around then, and more memorably someone up north started the Wars of the Roses. We were still fighting battles with longbows; firearms had only recently been introduced as weapons of war. Executing women for ‘practising witchcraft’ was still 200 years in the future. We probably made up the rules as we went along.

Imagine a politician or a soldier from 1450 having access to modern weaponry, the internet, nuclear technology, motor cars. Imagine, if armed with little education, or mindfulness, how dangerous that could be. That’s where the Americans are today. They have all the bravado, enthusiasm and naivety of a new nation, but with none of the hindsight, maturity or lesson-learning that England has gathered in the intervening 500 years. It is a frightening thought, but goes some way to explaining the air of invincibility that the US wears like a suit of armour. Trump blunders around like a petulant teething toddler on the verge of a tantrum because he is a product of this dangerous combination.

Here in Arizona, folks are still living in the Wild West. Gung-ho, gun-toting enthusiasm is rife, privacy laws virtually non-existent. It’s like living in a culture which is a cross between The Virginian and 1950s Britain. Men strut around town wearing Stetsons and holsters. I can’t get a decent radio signal. This part of the state has a pervading small-town mentality. Is it any wonder, then, that when it comes to voting habits, its inhabitants want to be on the side they see as the winning team, with all the accompanying glitz and glamour? Policies really have nothing to do with it. You might as well have a shiny new convertible running for President, or a brand-new washing machine. Small town America just wants to win the Star Prize, regardless of whether or not it breaks down after the first couple of weeks’ use.

 

Marnie Devereux is an English writer living in the south-western United States.

 

A shared love of The Shipping Forecast

Three months into this alien life

I had a bit of a meltdown.

The total immersion into stateside life

Finally taking its toll.

No Jungle injustices for me but still

I feel the un-belonging

The invisibility of the newly-arrived immigrant

Ironically juxtaposed with

Your wide-eyed stares,

Your gaping mouths and nudging whispers.

Three months into this alien life

My senses speeding like an amphetamine rush

The catch-22 frustrations of

Online bureaucracy

And the face-to-face refusals of acknowledgement

That I do, in fact, exist.

Three months into this alien life

I cry in your arms,

Tears staining your jumper’s familiarity,

The only recognisable landmark for

A stranger in a strange land.

Then you shared with me

Your own experience as an émigré,

Though far and away another time and place.

Holding me tight, you whisper three words:

‘The Shipping Forecast’ You say,

‘The Shipping Forecast’.

How, late at night

You would lie, alone, or with some girl,

And let those familiar tones wash over you,

Comfort you with images of home,

Fitzroy’s guardian angels of the Beaufort Scale,

Forewarning sailors of their times at sea.

Strangely, that rare admission of vulnerability,

Such an insight rare to you,

Fills me with calm

Those three words hypnotise me

Like a scruff-held cat,

And that connection with my abandoned home

Reassures me that all things will be well.

A Big Old Love Story

In the mid-1970s, Nick and I were at school together in a small town in the south-west of England. Nick was my boyfriend Simon’s best mate. We were all the same age, and were a very close-knit little group of friends. Nick was the coolest kid in school. Always immaculately dressed, always had the beautiful blonde girlfriend. A bit of a bad boy, cheeky grin, black leather jacket, curly black hair, Italianate good looks. We used to call him ‘The Fonz’ after a character in a popular TV show of the time. Nick and Simon were inseparable.

Simon, my boyfriend, died, in very tragic circumstances, when we were twenty years old. When things like that happen, it either brings you all closer together, or splits you all up. It split us up. Nick moved to Hawaii to do his PhD; I got married way too young, and we lost touch.

Fast forward forty years, and I’m living in a different town in Somerset, and by complete coincidence, living next door to Nick’s step-mum, Lorna. I was managing the local public library, and Lorna would come in and tell me news about Nick: how he was a big, important Professor of astrophysics, how he worked for NASA, how he had got married, been awarded a Fulbright scholarship and moved to Ireland, got divorced, moved back to the USA. I never bothered to get back in touch with him; after all, he was a high-achiever and I had done nothing with my life, and there was no way he would remember the shy girl from school who wasn’t very bright.

In 2014, Nick’s step-mum passed away, and Nick was over in the UK arranging her funeral; staying in the house next door to mine. I had been separated from my husband for two years at this point, and had been through an extremely difficult time. But I couldn’t let my old school chum disappear back to the United States without letting him know I was thinking of him, so I plucked up my courage and knocked on his door. I had convinced myself he would have absolutely no idea who I was, so was completely taken aback when he cried out in surprise and recognition and gave me a great big bear-hug! The next evening we went out for dinner and caught up on more than thirty years of ‘So what have you done with your entire life, then?’. It turned out that Nick lived in a small desert town in Arizona, and I had stayed in that town for one night the previous year as part of a road trip whilst visiting my son who had studied in California for a time. Nick and I could have passed each other in the street and not recognised one another. ‘Come and visit me in Arizona!’ was the invitation I received, though an air fare was the last thing I could afford. I was just moving out of the marital residence and buying my own house for the first time, and money was tight. But a voice in my head told me never to turn down an invitation, and I scraped together the money for a plane ticket. Nick had said I could stay with him for a couple of weeks, or he could help to pay for a hotel, whichever I preferred. The last thing on my mind was a relationship. I was still trying to piece myself together after a 25-year controlling marriage, and had no thoughts of getting into a relationship with anyone. So, a few months later I was on a long-haul flight for only the second time in my life, for a much-needed holiday in the sunshine. Nick had agreed to meet me at the airport in Phoenix, and as we drove the two hours north to Prescott, he told me a little about his life in the States and how he had been through a difficult year. I had found him to be quite a private person, and wasn’t even sure if he was gay, straight, married or had a partner waiting to greet us at home.

Well, waiting to greet us was the girl with whom Nick had shared his life for the past fifteen years. Her name was Sooty, Nick’s elderly black-and-white cat. Nick and I talked long into the night about our schooldays, our precious friend we had lost, and the paths our lives had taken. We laughed, and cried. I realised then that here was, quite simply, the sweetest, kindest man I had ever met. We are a lifetime older, and have our fair share of grey hair and wrinkles, but I look at him and see the boy I knew forty years ago. Nick Devereux. The Fonz. Nick Devereux from school. Wow.

 

Two years later…after too long apart, we jumped through the final hoop for me to be granted an immigration visa. As I write this I’m looking out over the banks of the creek where we live in northern Arizona, and I wonder if that terrible time we went through as teenagers happened so that, a lifetime later, we could find each other again. Nick and I are getting married next week, just after Valentine’s Day. We may not have a lifetime left to share, but we will treasure every moment.

Great British icons: six of the best

Which one do you miss? I expect every ex-pat has their own list of goodies they would take to their desert island (or, in my case, northern Arizona). Here are a few of mine:

 

PG Tips

pg_tipsOh how I miss a decent cuppa! OK, you can get them in the USA – if you’re willing to pay $13 for a small box, which I’m not. I shall certainly be stocking up on these next time I visit the UK…

 

Marmite

Marmite

Love it or hate it, it’s been a British breakfast staple for several generations. Dr Nick and I were both raised on Marmite-on-toast and Marmite sandwiches for tea…

 

Bird’s custard

InstantCustardI admit to cheating on the custard front – I much prefer instant. But whether you make it the old-fashioned way or like me prefer to boil a kettle, it’s still the ultimate in comfort food.

 

Bisto

BistoFavorites

Gravy as we know it. Order gravy in the USA and you’ll get something white and glutinous, triggering one of those ‘spit or swallow’ conversations…

 

Fray Bentos steak & kidney pie

Fray

Dr Nick’s favourite. Don’t ask me why, but there are some things a man just can’t go without.

 

Walkers cheese & onion crisps

WalkersNo other crisp even comes close. Why does the cheese and onion crisp not exist in America? Discuss.

 

Which Great British Icon do you miss? Which food items would you miss if you lived away from your home country? I’d love to know!

 

The Cutting Garden

I discovered the garden one summer afternoon

Its high stone walls offered shade in the heat of the day.

Curving arches coaxed me in, along paths lined with violets, chamomile and fern.

Wallflowers, warm and velvet, stroked my legs,

Diverting my senses with colour and faded perfume.

Brazen lilies cat-called from the back row,

Towering over tulips,

Mouths deliciously parted in scandalised mock-horror.

Shafts of climbing sweet peas, tangled in withywind,

Reached out to grab my wrists as I tripped and almost fell,

The cobbled path less even than it seemed.

I sank to my knees then, assaulted

By a soft, ripe bed of shameless peonies.

Big, brazen blooms of open-faced beauty.

How I craved them, rubbing my face in their scent,

Tugging their petals and pulling

Generous handfuls to my lips, my mouth,

Breathing in their musk like a lover drowning.

I reached for the knife in my pocket, and hacked at their stems,

greedily scything, frenzied with lust for their passing beauty.

Gathering their heads in my pollen-stained arms

I ran back down that path,

Laughing at my floral indiscretion,

My torrid love affair with bloom.

The Treasure Hunter

Curled, like ammonites, together,

Like orphaned siblings tangled.

You are friend, lover, child, brother to me.

The whole of life’s love, in all its myriad shapes.

Through the fog of my childhood passed,

We two, wave-tumbled pebbles,

Washed up together side by side upon

This foreign shore of later years.

These days of wonder, sea-glass misty,

Edges rubbed and softened with time.

I see you as you were,

Though worldly-wise to rosy-tinted hues,

And as you are, sand-blown,

Of perfect imperfections.

I scoop you up, my beach-combed treasure,

My secret, holding you close,

And, happy as a mudlark,

Head for that safe place I know now

To be home.

2015 in review

People in 21 countries around the world read this blog in 2015 – a huge thank you to you all. Great things to come in 2016 – a new book, new name and a guest appearance at a literary festival to name but a few!!! Thanks to everyone who shared, commented or read my first book – if you would like to leave a review at amazon.co.uk, amazon.com or goodreads.com I would be, as they say, dead chuffed…

Marnie

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 440 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.