Second try, and I sent in an accompanying letter which would have made a cat cry. I did get a colleague to read it first to make sure it wouldn’t put backs up, and she howled with laughter, then said oh hell pass me a hanky, but overall verdict, no hackles. And in fact, bless you at the passport office, the second application was accepted, I got it in a week, so thank you thank you.
For those who don’t slavishly read my blogs (why not?) my original passport was stolen a couple of months ago and what I assumed would be pretty straightforward turned into a bit of a mission. I got nervous. You see, I’m an immigrant. Uh oh. Controls kicking in already? My parents kept their British citizenship when they moved to Africa but they DID move to Africa and I was born there, raised there, schooled there, married and divorced there, and in fact decidedly middle-aged when I moved here. So all this anti-immigrant talk makes me a little nervous. I may have the passport (thank you thank you) and may have been registered as a British citizen from birth, but when it comes down to it I talk funny and there is a little eyeing askance when I am competing with locals for jobs.
It goes both ways, you know. My parents lived in Africa as Brits, keeping their citizenship (lucky for me), their religion, their diet, their lifestyle. Most of their friends were other Brits. They celebrated Christmas at the height of summer in the southern hemisphere with fake snow, eating roast turkey with bread sauce even as the sweat dripped off their noses, and to the end of their lives they referred to the UK as home. It was resented by locals who felt they should fit in, adapt, become Saffers.
So when I hear resentment now about people bringing their traditions, their religion, their diet, their lifestyle and not rushing to adapt – well – give it time. A generation or two. Brits abroad don’t change instantly, or indeed at all. Cut immigrants a little slack. We’ll get there. We do want to fit in, we do want to be here but we are different and we always will be.
I also should say that starting over when you are middle-aged and already had a pretty nice life is not a case of waltzing in, looking round, and grabbing all the goodies. I arrived in 2000 with a trunk, an aunt able to put me up very briefly in her retirement village, and £1000 in my bank account. I’m luckier than some immigrants in that English is my home language, albeit every time I open my mouth people still instantly ask ‘where are you from?’ which doesn’t get old at ALL. I found a temp job typing and opening mail at a local council within two days of my arrival. The pay was lousy, and the job boring, but it was pay and a job, and on the strength of it I spent my £1000 on a very elderly car which refused to do more than 40 mph, and paid the double deposit and rent of a cheap flat in a seriously crummy area.
Within 6 weeks I found a slightly better paid job with a call centre. Then I was offered a maternity cover job doing real admin with a national company, which wasn’t as well paid as the call centre but would put me back on the path where I wanted to be. It did – it was extended past the return of the mum because I was doing an internal audit. The next job started as a 6 month contract and lasted 10 years. It gave me a learning curve, a credit rating, a mortgage, a decent car and a future but it started as a junior credit control position.
My daughter finished school and came over to the UK to study. When she had her degree in business studies she took an immediate job opening post (the apple didn’t fall far from that tree) in a hiring agency. Two years down the line she had a good job with an international company, which will give her the final experience she needs to land her dream job. Some of the friends she’d made at Uni who graduated at the same time were still sitting at home waiting for the dream job to pop through the letter box. Some were even a little resentful that she, an immigrant with an accent, had beaten them to the good job. Well, now you know how.
Immigrants don’t expect everything on a plate. Chancers, sure, will try to milk the system but there actually aren’t that many of them. Most of us are trying to start over because the life we had before isn’t an option any more. We are truly grateful for the opportunity for a new life, and we will work our butts off to make the best of the opportunity.
It’s a funny old world, and who knows where the next bend of the road will take us?
Anyway, thanks for reading this.