Friday 17th of May 2013.
Sounds non-descript, a day like many other days in mid-May.
However, it’s my own May Day, nothing to do with whatever May Day is about, I don’t even know what May Day is for now that I think about it.
Something to do with workers or kids swinging round a colourful pole with some ribbons. They are probably two completely separate things anyway.
No, my special day in May, this one, is worthy of note because I resigned from my job today. Plenty of people do that so that is nothing remarkable in itself either. Why the day is one to remember is that it marks the countdown to my departure from the UK in real rather than vague terms. I will have my last day at work on the 28th of June. I will hand back my work stuff and within a day or so I catch an aeroplane to New Zealand.
I’ve been away from New Zealand for 22 years in all and that’s almost half my life, certainly most of my adult life. That’s quite a thing when you read it back to yourself.
It got me thinking about what I’ll miss and won’t miss about England. What I am looking forward to when I get home and what I’ll find harder to adjust to. I’ve thought about a number of things in general terms, but I reckon I might try and be specific, see if I can put my finger on the things as it were.
The obvious things are obvious, but I may make some reference to why they matter. The thing I’m looking forward to the most though is having my own time. That’s not the same as space but I’m looking forward to that as well. In England there are so many people, such big infrastructure, and so much activity you have to operate on a level much faster than is natural for me. I’m looking forward to going places and doing things at my own pace and not feeling like I have to hurry because other people do.
I’ve always found it uncomfortable to have to be that bit more aggressive and impatient than should come naturally. There is too much going on in every direction you look. All the roads are busy, all the people are in a hurry because if you don’t go at everyone else’s speed you get left behind or you miss out on things. It’s not all that tangible when it’s going on around you but when you step out from the rush, you can see people being that bit more agitated, uneasy or even frantic than they want to be, but you have to be, so you are. In New Zealand the pace of life slows down a number of notches and I’m impatient to enjoy that, yes I know, I did that on purpose to see if you were paying attention or speed reading.
This brings me on to space and having some. For starters I like a bit of a look at the ocean from time to time, but the entire coastline of all of the UK and continental Europe is covered in people on a nice day. There is nowhere that has no people in abundance. If you wish to do anything at all worth making a trip for, there will be a queue for it. People get in your personal space here. They stand touching you on transport. You are forced to breathe the same air as total strangers whose relationship with cleansing products may be fleeting at best. There are very few places you can go, or see, or be, where someone else will not happen along shortly to shatter your solitude. I’m not going to miss having to share my own space with other people I have not invited into it.
I’m looking forward to being able to park my car anywhere I like and walk into the bush and just hearing the sounds of the bush. I’m going to go driving down some country roads by myself just to take a look at the countryside, because I can. Sitting on a quiet beach and watching the water, having the place to myself because down the coast a bit is another beach someone else likes better. They’ll be doing something solitary on that one.
It’s noisy here. There is never, ever, any peace and quiet. No matter where you are, unless you are on a mountain in Scotland at the right time of day, is there silence or just the sound of the breeze or the birds or both. There is always an airliner or ten overhead, a train in the distance or nearby. There will be the hum of the many hundreds of roads nearby. There is always the distant thrum of a country with 60 million souls living and breathing and moving about. I want to sit on a hill and hear the grass blowing with no sounds of machinery overhead or about me.
Because there are so many people doing so many things there is never proper darkness at night. There is always the light of a near or distant town or city reflecting into the sky and making the stars have to work too hard to be seen properly. When you wish to sit outside at night you have to put a jumper or a coat on, even on most summer nights. You are hardly ever able to sit around in the evening in shirt sleeves. At home I’m going to lie on some grass somewhere and just look up at the sky. The night sky in New Zealand is completely full of stars. It’s amazing.
People will tell me I have missed a whole bunch of stuff about what’s wrong with Britain but that will do me for now. I’m not so bothered about the issues to do with good governance or economic management. Of crime or education, or the things you read about in the first dozen pages of a newspaper. That’s just noise. I’m talking about the things that wear on me, have worn on me and I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to them.
The things I’ll miss though are the sights and the people. The extraordinary amount of culture and history everywhere you look. I drive about a lot during my day as part of my job and I always take time, every single time I go out to see something important, significant, Historical or from a postcard scene. I’m never disappointed. There is so much to see here you can never tire of it and it’s a shame most Brit’s just drive or walk past the amazing things all about them. The people here are by and large very nice, good company and decent with a sense of fair play. I’m generalising of course, but that’s the impression I have gained in my time here. The Brits are ok as a bunch of folk. I like them.
I’ve been very privileged to be able to see so many of and make the most of the things that make Britain great. I’ve been very lucky to live so close to Europe that I could drive there for the evening or fly anywhere I wanted or could afford to whenever I chose to. I can’t do that in New Zealand but I’m not going to need to. I know that because I know it.
If I want to go on holiday, I’ll go for a drive to New Zealand. I might take a plane to a South Seas paradise sort of place instead. I might even go to Australia for comedy purposes to remind myself why we mock the Australians. I also have friends there who seem keen to point out to me that I may have a false impression of Australia. We’ll see.
I may find the lack of the world on my doorstep makes me feel isolated. I know where it is though, I’ve been there. I’m sure I’ll encounter some challenging attitudes. I don’t really know until I get there what is going to cause me to stop and think about what my new life is about but I’m certain that the finding out will be more fun and interesting than uncomfortable.
I’m going home though. That much I know. New Zealand is and always has been my home. I’m very much looking forward to standing on New Zealand soil again and not being 12,000 miles away from it when I speak of home. I’m going home, soon.