What’s it like now you’re back?, people ask me. I bet everything’s changed they tell me. I do my best to come up with something that might have changed, some incisive comment on British society that will dazzle the questioners. But all seems to be the same albeit everyone’s using a mobile phone to do things. It’s the text society with no one seeming to want to talk.
If I wanted to attempt to bore my questioner to death then I could tell them that the thing that’s really changed is ME. But they don’t want to hear about me, they want my views on my new town and what it’s like. Once they’ve established that Greece isn’t that hot in February they’ve moved on.
I’d forgotten the beauty of an English spring and the ease into summer. This year I managed to experience three springs by spending time in Devon early in the year, then being here on the edge of Wales and finally going north to Northumberland. I have traded pomegranates for primroses and orange blossom for primroses; it’s not a bad exchange although if i’m honest the one thing I do miss from Athens is the orange blossom. I managed to find a fancy shop that sells scented candles that don’t smell like toilet cleaner and bought one that smells of orange blossom. I also managed to ponce it up in the shop and say that I was buying it because I missed the smell of the orange blossom. There’s a shop that I can never go back into without the staff pointing and laughing.
One of the things that I’d never really noticed before leaving the UK was how bad we can be at introducing ourselves. I’ve gone to a few events where there has been a group of people and I’ve marched in and announced myself: Hi I’m Tabliope. And then there’s the look of ‘oh good God, who does she think she is.’ I’ve broken that rule of only finding out peoples’ names by osmosis; if you hang around the group long enough then names will be released gradually. And on the subject of names, I’ve found that people can be strangely reluctant to give their surname (this could just be me and it may be related to buying scented candles). A few times I’ve found myself speaking to someone about insurance/phones/electricity or any of the things that make up the mundane parts of life and when I ask for a name I get, ‘it’s Jane’ and I ask ‘Jane who?’ and they tell me that it’s ‘just Jane’. No, it’s not just Jane not unless you’re in a witness protection programme and it’s imperative that you don’t reveal who you are. And if you are in a witness protection programme then it’s not a very good one because the first thing they should do is change your name.
It is mostly very good to be here.