Entirely Without Hope or Comfort
Light Across the Dunes
The Tide Rips Through
An American Living in Norfolk UK
I’ve been living in the UK now for close to 4 years. This coming October 14, 2017, will mark the anniversary. Since coming, I no longer feel very American even though I am American to the core. Go figure, now I feel more a part of a global world. More wanting the lines of a place to merge, shift, and maybe even dissolve. While I will always be an “east coast” girl (The USA that is) I now live in a beautiful patch of our planet along the east of England called East Anglia, so technically I still am and ‘east coast” girl!
The tribal roots run deep. It’s hard to imagine from my point of view when growing up in suburban Pennsylvania just how deep the culture of a place is here in Europe. When I first arrived, lived in North Elmham, a place that was to be my home that helped root me to my new life, and I clung to the ancient ruins as if they were oxygen.
If you get the chance you can visit the ruins in North Elmham. An ancient Anglo-Saxon civilisation from the mesolithic period. There was a significant settlement right here where I live. Totally astounding! People gathered here starting around 8,000 BC. Ancient doesn’t begin to have meaning until you move along the cultivated fields and ruins of people who loved lived and left their mark centuries before you.
It’s my job to uncover things in myself just as I am discovering ancient ruins. I have done some searching and discovered ‘Spong’. Here is a Wikipedia link:
Culture runs deep and often times we neglect how we feel about our sense of place. Still, life experiences are being gathered and I am settling in nicely, even if I still don’t have a home of my own. I feel wonderful and conversely terribly isolated at the same time, and I suppose it is to be expected. I must be aligning myself with something here. Trying very hard to listen to the stone, the land, and the big wide-open sky. I’m living in the context of a parallel universe. Everything here is the same but not the same, at the same time. Like, I have had to change my spelling from American English to British English. Um, that means organization becomes an organisation. I have to relearn some things-Old dog, new tricks!
While living at Wildacre, I walked a lot. It’s not just fiction, Brits love a walk especially with their dogs, and not just in Jane Austen novels. I frequently spot a man in tweeds with a cap and two or more dogs on the edge of a field. Life mirrors art and I walked down our long lane and crossed over Brisley Road and opened the farm gate to let myself into the field. What mud! How excellent! I could see the bell tower from the field past sheep grazing and the many brick outbuildings of the farm next to Foxborrow and Wildacre. I gotta say I am about 95% in bliss and the other 5% is just feeling lost and dislocated…. I soon right myself with the help of my UK survey map of my county telling me of all sorts of historic walks.
I set off at a pace to discover. I walked into town and up Holt Road with a spring in my step. Seeing something on foot is much more of an intimate experience than driving in a car. I headed to the church and explored the cemetery. Our cathedral is quite lovely… the brick walls lining the streets, the climbing roses and ivy add to the overall experience. A “chocolate box” scene as I have learnt to it called here in “Nawfuk” or Norfolk.
The curious voyage of crossing the Atlantic where things are nearly the same but absolutely not. Like living in a parallel experience like going to the grocery store and expecting to see all the familiar brands, but no there isn’t a laundry detergent called Tide or Wisk. So many potatoes, so little time. Do you still consider yourself British and living in a foreign land. How long did it take for you to feel truly at home in America or do you? Clearly, you miss Lyle’s and all things Treacle! I live a quiet English country life now yet am networking and making fabulous new friends. While the English do have a reserve about them, they also enjoy my light-hearted playfulness and always love to engage with me in laughter of one sort or another. I believe the phrase is “witty”.
As I have moved from Wildacre, to Meads Folly and now live in Kettlestone, I seek out and read books about global culture. When I need a laugh from a pro who’s successfully navigated the transition with humour, I read Bill Bryson’s Road to Little Dribbling. There are a handful of people that were raised in one place and formed a national sensibility then moved to another nation for whatever reason; whether it be opportunity or love that brought you to a new land, it seems humour runs alongside shared understanding and sense of place.
With each move I place 4 stones in the corner of my room as I was taught to do. Feeling grounded even if I am feeling displaced at the same time. I marvel at how flexible and fluid we are as individuals and together as a tribe of people who are willing change cultures especially me so late in the game.