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is where your heart is. Mine is here. Just back from a week in Austria. We loved our time on the slopes. It was very busy. I heard lots of different languages- some of them I could not identify at all. That made me think of when my friend’s 4 year old daughter asked her why I spoke a different sandwich. My sandwich-language has improved since I came here first and I do love speaking English. I love the humour here and always look forward to comedy on TV on a Friday. In the 90s I occasionally spent a Friday night with friends in Glasgow and struggled through some episodes of’ Frasier’ ( I do know it is not British- well apart from Daphne). I was delighted when I was given the whole set a few years ago. i insist i do have a sense of humour!

On reflection it did take quite a few years to become embedded. I think of it as creating shared history. When I went out in the first few months with friends from work it usually only took about 20 minutes for people to talk about their favourite children’s TV programmes. This made me very quickly tune out and feel not part of the group. It was hard to take part in conversations about things that happened before I arrived in this country. I do not feel like that now. I am approaching half my life in Britain. I have friends who I have known for over 20 years, have shared stories and lots of sandwiches of the food variety.

I love coming back after a trip away, love driving over the Forth Road Bridge or past the Trossachs, love cycling the wee hills not far from my home, love the diversity of foods, love reading books in English. When I go shopping I do not feel like a foreigner I feel I belong. I feel at home.

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Residency

Registration is something I had already tried to get many years ago. I had forgotten about it. When I left my then home I was required to deregister. I was given a stamped piece of paper and told to register at my new address. Like a good citizen (of the world I presume) I went to the police station in Stornoway and asked where I would register. They were quite flummoxed by my request but had a rummage about in some drawers and produced a pink and a blue form. They were very amused as nobody had ever asked that question before. They decided  I did not need to fill it in. This left me a bit confused and somewhat dislocated- I had always been registered somehow somewhere.

Some years later there were conversations about the possible introduction of an identity card and people did not like the idea. However now that my children have become of age I know the identity card here is called a provisional driving licence. And in my quest to gain residency I thought in order to have some form of ID I better get myself a photo driving licence. Much to my horror I discovered I had to send my passport away for that too. So I have to stick with my very old paper driving licence for now and maybe get that exchanged once I have negotiated the tricky question of getting a British passport.

My children have recently applied for a British passport. We had worked it to get the name from dad and nationality from mum but they really felt bi-national. So with Brexit looming the decision was made to make their Britishness official. Applications were sent. One passport arrived- for the child under 16. The other 2 were invited for interview- we were very surprised. Questions were asked about walks to school, direction to the station, age of the house they grew up in. They passed the test and got their passports. One could be mistaken in thinking that a British husband and 3 British children would count for something- but they are not.

Faux pas

is a commonly used word in the English language. I am not sure why I thought of this when I looked at the 40 most British traits. I think there is a spectrum of Britishness and I want to examine if  make it onto it and if so where I am on that spectrum. Number 4 and number 12 involve cups of tea- I can see a theme here. Number 14 and  number 33 are interesting. I am not american but can be forward to- especially in the earlier years of my stay in Britain. Very early on whilst chatting with a colleague I suggested I’d come round for a tea (of course meaning a cup of tea as we often did as students). Like in number 33 she was a bit vague but then said yes. A date was arranged and she then said to me ‘In Britain we do not normally invite ourselves for dinner’. That seemed reasonable because we did not do that either. Much to my surprise after we had the cup of tea she then told me we were having dinner soon. I did feel embarrassed then. I am much better at being vague these days. I have made a lot of progress especially  at talking at lengths about the weather, making cups of tea in response to crisis, finding queue jumping  annoying, feeling extremely patriotic during sports events-  well my then country is better at football. I do wear extra layers when it is cold and really appreciate when the person in front puts the ‘next customer’ barrier on the conveyor belt. And I love a roast dinner on a Sunday. I think I am getting the dry jokes just right and do have (always had) a sense of humour.

I have to draw the line at having a beer at the airport before 8 am and can just about tolerate the wrong pronunciation of my name.

So  I am making about 18 out of the 40- I am on it- almost in the middle of the  spectrum of Britishness. Seems to me as good a reason as any to allow me to stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m on my way

From misery to happiness or is it the other way round/ I always liked a bit of The Proclaimers- especially the one where he walks 500 miles. That makes me think of the 1000 miles that are between my now and my then home, about coming to Scotland all those years ago to a place I had only heard about in the weather forecast- the Outer Hebrides. How on day 3 I bought Fish  and Chips. Quite a unique experience. I could not finish it and crossed the road for years when passing a chippy. However I have overcome that and am now quite fond of it. How a friend warned me before I ordered my first curry ever not to ask for the hot one as he had done- thinking a hot curry was better than a cold one.

i am sitting on the train back from Glasgow where I had my passport officially copied and verified and the paper copy of my application for permanent residency taken of me to be processed by the Home Office. The process was short, the guys at reception nice, asking where I was from and telling me both had been there.

Now I can only wait and drink tea- an expression from my then home. well I have not got used to tea with milk. Does that mean I can not stay?

Next Steps

I felt good having made the decision to apply for citizenship. That was 9 days ago. it has been a roller coaster ride for me since then.

Before citizenship comes residency. That application means I have to specify each absence from the UK I have taken in the past 22 years. Holidays to see my parents, the funerals of my grand parents, a couple of conferences, ski weeks, trips to Egypt and Turkey- those might backfire on me -you never know. After I managed to figure out the times I have left the UK then came the proof that I have really lived here in the past 5 years. I have to show letters from banks or official government departments. Where was I in 2013?  I could only find one letter. Anyway who keeps all these things? I was impressed I found our TV licence from 2012- unopened in a folder. Then I needed letter from my employer, P 60s or pay slips. The whole week was completely taken up with finding all these things and filling in the form. It only came to 11 pages- probably I have not supplied all the evidence? The thing that I find most ironic about the process is I am asked to give up my passport whilst the application is being considered. This can take up to 6 months- probably longer as there is a rush on right now. So I am being interned in a country that wants me to leave?!

However there is the possibility that I can get my passport verified by Home Office officials and then do not need to give it up. There is a slight feeling of discomfort- may this count against me? But I have booked a week away skiing and you never know if one has to go and see family should they fall ill. Off off I go to Glasgow tomorrow. I almost got carried away and booked a language test-but as I will not need that until I actually apply for citizenship I leave that and only do a practice test online – and score 100%. I do feel proud. The other important test is the life in the UK test. I have started to quiz my friends and colleagues on important British facts. Do you know when the war of the roses was and how many people lived in Britain in 1901? And what sums can be settled in the small claims court? That question will not come up as the amount has recently been changed the practice test site informs me. Hurray- however I now know it anyway. My stress levels are very high and I am wondering have I made the right decision?

 

 

Day 1

I have decided to apply for British citizenship 6 months after being completely flummoxed by the Brexit referendum result.Waking up on the morning of my 50th birthday to a ‘yes’ vote was not what I had hoped for. Although watching the debates in the 2 weeks leading up to the referendum it appeared the result might just be that. I have felt quite paralysed since. In one part of my life I work in the NHS- being involved, in the thick of it.in the other I have felt lonely, vulnerable and isolated in the past 6 months. This is despite being a resident in Scotland for more than 20 years with a Scottish family and various friendship groups. Initially I took it quite personal, wondered in each interaction ‘were they in or out’ or did they think I had no right to be here and I should leave the country? Then came the question ‘Should I leave the country? followed by I think I will be alright. The lassitude of the last 6 months has given away to ‘ I want to stay and I want to be able to vote!’ I want to have a say in the country I have chosen to live in and that has become part of me.

I never knew that in accordance with the Immigration Act 19971 I can be deported the day after Brexit is triggered if no agreement about Indefinite Leave to Stay for European citizens has been reached by then.