I would just like to start today’s blog with a message for any non-believers.
That being, anyone who thought I was telling a little fib about taking Belle out for a test drive the other day and accidently not being able to show the footage. Well, here just for you is a picture of Belle on her trip, parked next to some random strangers pick up in a Cracker Barrel car park.
Doesn’t she look happy to be out in the sun?
Ok enough of that; let’s get on with today’s ramblings.
I went for a walk today, it’s the first time in the four weeks I’ve been here that the weather has sufficiently cooled to where I could get a decent 45 minute stroll in, before the sun notches up a gear and really turns on the burn.
Due to the limitations of pavement in the US (i.e. they can be kind of few and far between) and the stretched landscape (i.e. everything is miles apart); the only area that I can reach and actually walk around in the time allowed is the immediate neighbourhood near Loops’ parent’s house.
It gives me a chance to be nosey and look at people’s houses which I enjoy, and it’s about as green as most housing estates around here, so as countrified as I’m likely to see.
As most of you are already aware from my previous AT ramblings, walking has a wonderful effect on me. By far and away I do my best thinking as I walk and sometimes I am so deeply buried in my thoughts, miles and hours can pass me by, just putting one foot in front of the other.
Today was a thinking day, for as of late I’ve had some adjustment issues to ponder over, and well, I’ve kind of realised something a little unsettling – I’m a fake.
Yes, right now, my whole life is just fake.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I am secretly still living in the UK, holed up like a recluse in case anyone finds out that I’ve been lying about moving abroad. No, what it does mean though is that nothing right now feels very real.
Where I am right now is usually just a holiday destination for me, I come, see the sights, eat some food, hang out and then go home to the real world; where my family and friends are waiting, where I go to work and I live in my house.
I am having a hard time believing that this now is not the case; I simply cannot not picture what a normal life here in the US would look or feel like. I sense the people living here are not real at all, they can’t possibly have the same life I do back home, Florida is just a make believe type of place, real life cannot exist here.
I met a man the other day at the local social club where I was having lunch, and it turns out he’s British and from Berkshire, essentially a stone’s throw from where I live. He has a London accent, says things like ‘Blimey’ and has been living and working in Florida for the past 20 years.
We talked about me learning to drive and cravings for ginger nut biscuits and his annual trips home. He could see that I was obviously out of sorts in my surroundings and offered me the advice that if I was missing TV at home, say Eastenders or Coronation Street, I should go to the TV Times online to find out what episode is next and then go to youtube. ‘Things are always uploaded the day after’ he says to me conspiratorially.
Talking to him was the first time in almost a month that I felt a little bit like myself, like I could immediately have a conversation with a normal person who understands me. Not that I am dying to see an episode of Eastenders, but just that someone who was here and talking to me even knows such a TV show exists in my world. For just those few minutes, we two British people were instantly bonded just through knowing a show on the BBC.
And the reason this was so incredibly important is because another thing I’ve noticed being here is, I sound fake.
When I talk to people now, I put on this false happy face and voice that says ‘oh I’m so very pleased to meet you, yes the weather is lovely isn’t it and oh yes I’m having to get used to all new things, tra la la la la.” This is now how I sound.
I have yet to have a normal conversation with a single American person.
I have yet to actually have one person come up to me and actually want to know something about me other than I’m new here and how I’m settling in.
I’ve yet to have someone actually tell me something normal about themselves that isn’t fake too, or have the beginnings of a conversation that could lead to being friends with someone new.
And you know what? It’s just all so tiring. It makes me exhausted to have to keep having these inane conversations with people. And it makes me sad. Because I don’t know if this is what it’s always going to be like.
What amplifies this feeling all the more is when I skype my family and friends at home. It’s a joy and a sadness all in one go. My conversations are immediately comforting in their familiarity. Within seconds I can be in full flow in a conversation about AJ’s upcoming holiday and house move, how my mum is getting on with her packing, whether my sister has had her windows fixed yet, what Binky and her kids are up to, which dogs Kezza G is training this week and how her clients are progressing.
There is no phoney, stand on ceremony chatter, no false lip service; it’s simply normality, straight in at the deep end, just like I saw them yesterday.
I miss it.
So this is a hurdle I’m realising will be a hard one to overcome, and I’m not sure how, or if, I will be able to do it. Maybe being on the road will help; maybe I shall meet a whole different variety of people who will be more like me, people I can better relate to. For it happened once before hiking the AT, I still have Bunny who I count as one of my closest friends, and she’s American!
On my walk not only did I ponder this very serious issue, but I also experienced some other more random thoughts too, about the differences between here and the UK. Not so much things to complain about, but general observations. Quite absurd thoughts such as realising I will have to stop thinking of grey squirrels as a pest species, for they are native here unlike in the UK. I also took the time to pause outside this person’s house to ask myself, does a person really require three garages at their home? I didn’t even have one.
I took the opportunity to study and appreciate other things too – such as the bird and plant life.
If there is one thing I cannot fault this state for, it’s the absolutely amazing abundance of birds. When you look up and see a large bird in the UK, 90% of the time you’re looking at a buzzard (or a kite if you’re really lucky). Here in Florida, you could easily be glancing at ospreys, eagles, vultures, pelicans, ibis….last year I’m almost certain we saw frigate birds while at the beach.
As I’m ambling along happily and thinking about the wildlife, a quick glance to my right brings me to an immediate stop and almost makes me almost wet myself. For there nestled in the shallow pond, partially submerged, is an alligator. It takes me half a minute to unfreeze myself, breathe and then realise what I’m actually staring at in horror and fright is a small bank of mud, rising out of the water.
Oh for goodness sake, it’s the bears and snakes all over again.
In my defence, there is actually an alligator swimming around in one of the ponds not far from the house where I’m staying. Loops has seen him too (so it must be real, not just my imagination), and I’ve seen him once while swimming (which I will admit was very impressive) and once laying in the sun on the grass bank (less impressive and more worrying).
And on that note, I best get going as I’m supposed to be supervising Loops’ work putting together the drainage valve for the final water tank (and by supervising I mean giving my opinion which has no expert value whatsoever but makes me feel as if I’m assisting in some way).
Catch you later, alligators!