Sunday, 19 February 2012

Oh to be in England - Part One

I may not have told you that I'm planning to publish How I Came to be in England, a series of blog posts, which so caught the imagination of many of you, as a digital book. (I am eternally grateful for all you readers who left such beautiful comments during the months that I wrote those blog posts. Your encouragement has spurred me on to finish the story properly.)

It's going to be called The Englishman, and I should be able to give you a link to download it very soon.

In the meantime, I have something else to share with you. When the story came to an end, many of you asked me to write a sequel, but I just didn't know how to do it. And then a very strange thing happened: during our recent move, when unpacking yet another misplaced box from our last but one move (the one from the sticks, remember?) I found a diary. It's the first one I ever wrote in English and it's the story of my first year in the UK, and I'd forgotten all about it. The diary is half written in English, half in Finnish and it's an incredibly personal - and very frank - account of my first year in England. 

I've named it, 'Oh to be in England', after the Robert Browning poem. Hope you like it.

25th June 1984

The trouble with writing in English is of course that some of the meanings of the words are misconstrued when the author is foreign. But, in spite of this, I will try.

We moved to the married quarter two weeks ago. It's lovely to at last have a place of our own, even though everything is still in the wrong place. The Englishman doesn't seem to have any talent for home decoration. He's sort of interested, but I guess there's been so much else to do in the first weeks; thank you letters to write (hundreds!), friends to meet up with. The process of taking the washing down the road to the laundrette and back occupied our first week. I find it strange that they have no communal machines here in the cellar of the block of flats like they do in Finland. 

Unpacking and deciding where to put all the wedding presents took a while too, especially as The Englishman just didn't seem to mind or know how to arrange things for the best. This wasn't helped by the fact that when we stayed at The Englishman's friends place, we threw practically nothing away. Old flight and opera tickets show up in the most peculiar places. And there's always another box to empty when we think we've unpacked the last one! Oh well, I know I want to take my time with getting the place looking like home, so that slows down the process.

As nice as it is to have a home of our own, (the maisonette is huge: there are three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large kitchen/diner and a separate lounge), the married quarter furniture doesn't please my Finnish eye. Every piece is - in one word - awful. I haven't told the Englishman how I feel about them, of course. And I have to admit, the ugly solid teak sideboard, dining table and chairs, the moss green flower-patterend curtains, not forgetting the red and yellow three-piece suite, are better than having no furniture at all. 

I'm sure we'd soon get divorced if we had to sleep and sit on the floor. Mind you, we may not last more than a year the way we irritate each other at the moment. Our romantic 'love story' seems just a distant memory now. Missing each other so dreadfully for the last four years feels like a dream or some over-emotional fantasy. That I will probably sink into a deep depression full of misery when The Englishman goes away to sea again is hard to believe right now, when I keep wishing he'd go away and never come back.

Perhaps I only really love when he's not here? 

Every day I tell him I love him, and he tells me he loves me, but why then do I have this feeling of emptiness inside of me? 


Jenny Woolf said...

Oh this perfectly captures the feel of a new place and a new life!

I am sure the hideous furniture was an affront to the eye, it by contrast is so nice to see the pleasant lines of furniture when going to a Scandinavian country. I just don't know why people here accept such ugly things!

Karen@PasGrande-Chose said...

I really enjoyed reading this - you convey those conflicted feelings so well and I loved the description of the regrettable furnishings! I look forward to reading your book in its entirety.

abercrombie uk said...

Than with not enough time?

JulieB said...

So great to hear that you are "publishing" The Englishman - I look forward to reading the diary!

Alison Cross said...

So glad to hear that you are publishing! Tons of luck and best wishes for it!

Ali x

Metropolitan Mum said...

All the best of luck with the publishing. And what a great beginning to a new story...

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed yur story so much.every day I check to see if the next installment will be ready. thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed yur story so much.every day I check to see if the next installment will be ready. thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed yur story so much.every day I check to see if the next installment will be ready. thank you so much.