It is inevitable that spending some time away from home will induce feelings of longing for certain things that may not be available in your current location. While I never really feel homesick in the traditional sense of the word, there are things that, at times, feel frustratingly distant. Is it bad that they are usually food related? Here is a list of the top five things I miss about England. I tried to exclude the food ones, because I looked greedy.
#1 Being able to eavesdrop on strangers' conversations, especially on public transport
We all do it, it's human nature. We cannot help but pass judgement on people for a plethora of reasons ranging from the seeming insignificance of the clothes they wear to the choice of magazine they apathetically leaf through. Of course, being in a different country doesn't hinder the sagacious onlooker, but it does handicap the nosiness involved in eavesdropping on both phone conversations and those happening with both parties present when you aren't fluent in the native language. I was once on a long distance train visiting a friend, dreading the journey, heightened by the lack of preparation I had done in terms of providing myself with any entertainment. It turned out that I had worried for nothing after I was graced with a fellow passenger that decided to include the whole train carriage in a number of personal calls regarding her sexual harassment case against a colleague. After becoming totally engrossed by the story, laden with TMI, I just knew I was in for a good ride. She made call after call and the plot developed each time like a strange game of 'Chinese whispers', becoming more and more elaborate and bizarre until, frankly, it bordered on the plain ridiculous. What started out as a bit of a pat on the arse morphed into something much more illicit as she got caught up in her own fabrications. All the world is certainly a stage; sit back and enjoy.
#2 Turning on the TV to relax, not embark on an exhausting Dutch language task
After a long day isn't it just the most magical feeling to slide off your shoes and breath out in front of the box! Unless it's foreign TV. It's like a savoury muffin; full of hopeful expectations until you take that first disappointing bite and remember that its not always sweet. Don't get me wrong it is sometimes great to watch TV in a different language; you pick up some new vocabulary and it's amazing when you find yourself able to follow a little bit of what's going on, but for the most part it just detracts from the main appeal of parking yourself down and entering a vegetative state of unknown return; AKA the proper and intended way of watching TV. This is somewhat redeemable though. Whilst on holiday in Wales with my mum as a child I learnt a game that changed my life for the better. Naturally it rained so hard at regular intervals during the week we stayed there that I thought my freckles might get washed off yet, in true British style, we weren't going to let a bit of rain spoil all the fun. There was one day, however, that was just unimaginably wet, so we decided to stay inside. Due to the horrific weather conditions, the only channel on TV that we managed to get was 'C4'; the Welsh channel which was airing an omnibus of a Welsh soap opera. Obviously not speaking much Welsh, we decided to mute the TV and dub over the voices and I can honestly say that the hilarity that ensued resulted in this being my favourite part of the holiday. Perhaps I can solve #1 with this...
#3 Hilly landscapes
This one's a given. Being born and bred in the Malvern hills has ignited strong associations between the rotund, rolling landscape and home. Whenever I leave for any prolonged amount of time, the shrinking of the hills into the distance plunges me into the reality of leaving whilst their growing emergence on the horizon reassures me that I am on the way home. I miss their looming presence like an omniscient being and the human characteristics that vary from day to day. Saying that, I'm not sure I'd appreciate them quite so much if I had to bike up them every day with an increasingly large boy passenger.
#4 English holidays
No, I don't mean a week in a caravan park in Devon, I'm referring to those little days that we take for granted whilst at home like pancake day and bonfire night. All an excuse for a party I'm sure you'll agree and I was shocked to learn that most of the little things we celebrate are unheard of to other, saner countries. When I explained to my host family about bonfire night and the traditional burning of the guy, they were somewhat horrified and appalled by the level of violence condoned and exposed to children during this day. They couldn't quite appreciate it for what it was... An excuse to make a huge fire and blow things up in the garden and try to write your name in the air with a sparkler before it runs out of fizz, spending the rest of the night with white squiggles burnt onto your retinas. But it is really good fun to see their interpretation of the things I try and explain to them. My host family ended up having their own bonfire night party in which most of the key elements were there, but in a somewhat more civilised manner; we had tea and cake around the fire and talked politics.
#5 Cadbury's chocolate and Robinson's Squash
I tried to avoid letting them slip into the list, but they need to be here. They also don't need any explaining other than the fact that it is utterly inhumane to not stock these two things in all supermarkets, internationally. They are a basic human right.