“Push the button” – Sugababes
Anna is a bit ill with covid at the moment, she had to be given oxygen last night but is being very well cared for by the good people of the RVI. However, she’s not so unwell that she’s forgotten you, so has given the blog over to me to do with what I want…silly girl!
Stuff.. Everyone has stuff to do. School, work, life.. My own stuff involves work. While my job here was always temporary, I give it all I have. I don’t do anything half-heartedly. Do it properly or go home, my dad always taught me. Since moving to L.A. life has become a little bit harder. Not the people, but the environment. Houston had it’s own problems. While here guns are audible most every night, in Houston I saw more guns, eeeeeveryone wore one. They didn’t make me feel safe, quite the opposite. I’d be in a fruit store and another customer would have one hand on his shopping, the other on his gun. Are those bananas so dangerous? Will that pear suddenly attack? “Buut, it’s mah constitushnal raaht”. Open carry, it’s called. Openly admitting you’re a dick, I call it.
I was just about beginning to settle into walking the half mile or so to and from work, managing my own doubts about the area, even saying hi to a sovereign citizen type that comes round and points his phone at my work door. He’s slightly mentally challenged, but a sweetie to boot. He confuses my uni with a police station. We chat about the weather, he tells me about his phone, same thing every day, before he wanders off to see the beat police who to their credit have a joke with him. He just needs a person to talk with. I chat to the old man outside of the corner store every day, at first just a hello, then a where are you from, after he noticed my Newcastle uni facemask. He now says Nyoocassel, the way I do, as opposed to Noocaistle, and it’s rare that we don’t see each other, up to the point now where he has a coffee ready for me in the mornings. “These is dangerous streets” he’ll say, “you make sure you get off home before dark later.”. I follow his advice. His own granddaughter was accidentally killed in a drive-by shooting a few years back, on that corner. She was 14. The culprits were never caught, the bullet holes still in the wall.
Also, there is a homeless woman that is on the same part of the street every day. She has a shopping trolley filled with cans, which she jealously guards. Walk too close and she will shout and scream. Even after a few months of seeing me she’ll still do that, but now a sweet little smile will happen and a mouthed, “hello”, before she goes back to telling everyone I’ve stolen some of her cans. What can be done about people like that? She lives with lots of others under a bridge. Very sad.
My political affiliations are left of centre. I’m from Blyth so what did you expect? My area has a coal-mining and shipping heritage. Men and women were hard working, with dangerous jobs. My grandad was a coal miner and had nothing good to say about the likes of Thatcher. The only time he ever swore at least when I was around was when she was on the telly. I’m my own woman but I have to agree with him, and Anna. Tories have nothing good to offer the world. What they’ve done this very day beggars belief…but they’re Tories! And yes, Anna’s Labour leanings have rubbed off on me over the years. I like her rubbing off on me.
In Houston it seemed like everybody was a Republican, despite the place in general voting the other way. Perhaps Democrat voters are quieter souls? Here it’s the other way round, people are proudly Democrat but don’t feel the need to tell you, but then again there isn’t an election due to happen, and therefore less of those silly cards in gardens. “Vote Trump!” “A vote for Sleepy Joe is a lost vote”. Too many words there for the average Republican to understand. I’m sure there are nice Republicans, but the types I came into contact with were all loud, brash, gun carrying racists, “Now why don’t you jus’ run along there back to Afghanistayan, little misseh?”. This from a stetson wearing bloke of about 50, crammed into his shirt. His wife had dropped her purse on the pavement outside of a shop, and being a nice girl I was handing it back to her. I was hot after a long day at work, on my way home, and just didn’t want to have to enter into a conversation about how he knew where I was from just from my appearance, incorrect though it was. How about I knock that stupid cowboy hat off your head, I thought. He was sat in his huge Dodge Ram truck thing, which would have looked more at home on a farm and therefore made his head out of my reach, so I just smiled, did the head-wobble, and called him a atyanta sthūḷa māṇasa. I would have asked if that massive “ve-hicle” was compensating for a small penis, but my Gujurat isn’t up to my mam’s levels of insults. “Perhaps yawl can learn some English and make sumthin of liaaf. Now git before ah call the po-lice”. I git off home.
There is too much violence here to relax. Today two streets over a man and his three year old were run over in what seems to be a targeted attack. At work, Gerry our security guard had ammonia sprayed in his face. What is wrong with you people? I see more gang culture than when I arrived, but that’s probably because I’m noticing their signs and behaviours more. Do they practice their hand signals each morning, before they skip school and head out to rob, intimidate and murder? BUT there are nice people here. I was waiting for a bus and as I went to step on it, a woman put her hand on my arm, saying, “Not this bus sweetie, best wait till next one. This ain’t a good bus for you”. A man at the busstop agreed, “Gang signs, ma’am, gotta look out for the people across the road there.’. As it pulled away, they explained that the people on the other side of the road were making signals at the people on the bus that were maybe a warning, maybe a threat. I got on the next one with them, as they marvelled at just why an English girl would want to work in West Adams.
Then there is, “Have a nice day”. The first ten times this is said you think, oh that’s nice! Then you realise that it’s an automatic thing and that they couldn’t give a shit about your day. I say similar but I mean it. But to really grind my gears…”Thanks for your service” as you applaud soldiers of whatever type. Regulars, National Guard… first day trainees.. Retch.
What has improved is my conversational Spanish. It was very basic but now I can have a conversation and follow it. Not sure I’ll find a use for it back home, mind you. The amount of Spanish speakers people needing to know ¿Cómo me escondo de la inmigración? in Northumberland may be limited.
However, still my most used expression is no entiendo. I overuse ¡Qué chido! I’ve had boys calling out ¿Te gusta a ti eso? I didn’t get this one and it had to be explained that sometimes it’s about how you say it, not the words. The answer from a more fluent me would be yes, sometime I do like it like that, just not from the likes of you. ¿Estás pendejo o qué verga? is the automatic reply now. Apologies to any Spanish speakers out there. I’ve had no trouble from gangs to speak of. Maybe word has got around that I have one of the gangs into the gym and do a bit of teaching with them? The boys, and girls, on street corners where I live shout and wave, or high five etc when I’m closer. My British accent has led me into some nice conversations about the UK.
But I’ve no urge to do my job in another city here, before anyone says it. Enough is enough. My working wanderlust as far as the US is concerned is over. Whatever awaits me at home, I’ll look back on my time here with affection…but that’s all. Would I come back on holiday, (never a vacation)? Probably. Anna wants to see the Grand Canyon, New Orleans, Victoria Falls, so yes. But to live? Absolutely not.
Home may have its faults. We have a Prime Minister that speaks like the English language is new to him, a health secretary that thinks its ok to have an affair under the gaze of CCTV, a housing minister that accepted a bribe to delay a decision by a day so his friend could net a million in profit, and a foreign secretary that didn’t make a phone call that may have saved thousands of lives. We have an opposition that …. isn’t.
BUT. In general, I can walk the streets and not be offered drugs. If I trip and fall a passerby will come to help me. The state will pay for my medical bills if I can’t afford it, house me if I can’t afford to buy one, and give me money to live on if I can’t work. I can chat to a stranger without a gun being drawn on me. I miss the British weather, I miss the rain in summer, I miss fog, I miss UK tv, peaceful evenings without hearing gunshots, toilets that don’t have a stupidly huge amount of water in them, my own bed, Northumberland accents, sheep, water from a tap that isn’t horrible, un-chlorinated chicken, beef that isn’t fed on chemicals. I miss mam’s cooking, dad’s bad singing, our coastline, our villages, not having to travel too far to go anywhere, manners, politeness, proper sarcasm, proper English breakfasts, personal freedom, religion not being tied to politics or anything but religion, politics being open. I miss mam and dad and the family. I miss Abby so very much it hurts, her humour, affection and just general loveliness.
But above all, I just miss being with Anna. Last week we had to celebrate twenty years of knowing each other by video. What could have been a meal out in a nice restaurant or a walk along the coast or a night in front of the fire could only done be a chat and a laugh as well as a few tears. This is not how I want to live our lives any more. At the end of this month we will have been girlfriends for 16 years, knocking on for 2 years of which I’ve lived away.
So today I pushed the button. My six months rolling contract begins today as it does every day, but it will end in six months time. Cue wedding plans moving forward. I’m so excited. My boss isn’t too pleased but understands. She said she’s happily sponsor me to become an American citizen… That’s never going to happen, kind of her though it is. I’m happily British, thanks. “Thousands of people apply to become an American every week”. Maybe they do Alicia, but that doesn’t say it’s the place for me. Perhaps they come over the Mexican border from South American countries, thinking that they will have a better life. From what I’ve seen, that’s a distant hope. I can leave here and go home to better.
As my time here runs down I’ll work as hard as I have been. I’ve still a few things I want to achieve as far as the small college I work at on a Monday goes and seeing if I can put in place some procedures that I think will help it out. The two boys across the street are now enrolled there and are doing well. I still find it amazing that here I am, just a girl from St Wilfrids in Blyth, lecturing to and teaching people in another country.
After my usual Saturday night Skype with Anna, we’ve made plans as far as travelling to see each other goes. Once the UK takes the US from its red list, I’m going home for two weeks, then hopefully bringing her here for the rest of my time, but I’ll totally understand if she won’t. I wouldn’t!
Seeing a surprise Maria vis Skype last week was delicious. We WhatsApp each other regularly and seeing her just reinforces my decision to go home. We can be in Rome in three and a half hours from Newcastle. I can’t do that from here.
Tick tock. Get that proposal ready, my girl, and get well soon. I love you.
Thanks for reading.
West Adams, Los Angeles.
10th of September, 2021