I often consider experiencing England again somewhat like bumping into your Ex at a party. You can easily remember why you got on and had a relationship; but after a few minutes of talking you remember why you were pleased when you finally split-up.
I love my country of birth and I am fiercely proud to be English. But why I do not miss England is probably easier to answer and a typical trip back to the UK can illustrate this; I arrive on English soil with a plane full of bright red sun burnt Brits already planning their next binge drinking session. As I walk to the exit, having shown my passport to a surly, humourless passport inspector, I walk past the rows of the next set of passengers ready to “have it large” in “Toree-maleenos”. Eighty per cent of these will be clad in trainers, track suits and Adidas caps. The British Atheltic team perhaps? No. Just Wayne and his wife Waynetta (who is also wearing sports gear, but has long hair and more tattoos on display). Despite being in their late teens, they have brand new designer off-road buggies with Wayne and his wife Waynetta, dribbling down their miniature replica Manchester United kits.
As I write this I am aware that I sound like Victor Meldrew; and I haven't gotten out of the airport yet! I am sure you do not wish to hear me moaning, and the above is a little tongue-in-cheek, but to finish off, England feels overcrowded. The roads are full of stressed motorists stuck in traffic jams in their company cars. The 24-hour a day supermarkets are chock-a-block (and at Christmas they are chock-a-block 24-hours a day too). But this article is not about my hate of England; I do not hate it, I just know I have a better quality of life in Spain.
My last visit to England was at the beginning of November and was my first since the death of my mother-in-law and was always going to be a mix of emotions. The happiness of seeing family and friends is always a pleasure despite the traffic jams whilst driving to see them. In our hectic schedule we even managed to squeeze in an authentic example of the UK's national dish – curry. Why are Indian restaurants so expensive here in Spain? Probably because there are not hundreds of them per-town like in the UK.
On Sunday the 11th of November, Armistice Day, we went to a service of remembrance. I always find these services very thought provoking and sad anyway, but on this occasion more so. As the last post was being played, it was accompanied by the sound of a siren in the distance – a Police car, an ambulance – I was not sure. But it felt as if people were not remembering on this Sunday. If there was a World War I would proudly fight for my country (but did I mention my bad back) to protect what I believe in. However, this is from a man who left said country. What do I believe? That England is a rose covered and green isle, full of happy people mowing their lawns on a Sunday and washing their cars. Maybe this is what I want to believe, so I left it, in a time capsule that I can “dig up” and visit when it suits me.
So what do I miss about England? I miss the 'idea' of England and Englishness. But when I am there now, I count the hours until I get on the plane back to Spain.