Living in California has its perks, but there are a few things happening in the UK right now that I’m missing. Continue reading F.O.M.O.
I’ve just got back from a couple of weeks in London. While I was there, I binged on Britain – I drank in every pub, ate in every tea room, lined up in every job centre.
It was my first trip back, and I was surprised by the things I’d missed. Here they are.
Well, we’ve done it.
We’ve eaten ice cream, paid too much for groceries, and driven dangerously close to opposing traffic. But now we can finally declare ourselves expats. The adventure starts here.
Before we left we’d read and heard a lot of horror stories about long-haul flying with kids. For a while Alex and I were junkies on the stuff, binging on epic tales of tears and vomit. But we were ready. We packed spare clothes for all of us. We brought enough food to feed the whole plane. Our iPad was bursting at the seams with new apps, games and films. Moments before we boarded, I found Alex in a trance-like state, banging her head repeatedly against the wall. We even created fake birth certificates so we could publicly disown them if all hell broke loose.
But the flight was a doddle. The kids were great, and we didn’t receive a single dirty look from anyone the entire flight. Apart from Ava of course, but she’s been pissed off ever since I revealed that Kinder Eggs aren’t sold in the US.
Little-known fact: Kinder Eggs are illegal in the US. They’ve had a ban on candies with embedded toys since 1938, due to choking/health concerns. Which is an interesting priority, given the number of people in the US accidentally shot by a toddler with a gun. I digress…
To be honest, I am a bit concerned that this move is sending Ava off the rails. Take a look at the displays of rebellion below, first in Heathrow and then on the other side in California. The kid is just a year or two away from a DUI and her own reality show.
We arrived two days ago. On our very first morning, I witnessed a car break-in in broad daylight, right outside the local Starbucks. I thank my company for arranging this on my behalf, which I suspect was part of the planned orientation.
So far we’ve been fairly productive. We picked up the rental cars, set up a bank account, did a food shop, and were given a tour of the surrounding areas. When you throw toddlers and jet lag into the mix, all of the above become extreme sports in their own right. But here’s what we’ve learned:
- Even when people are under pressure, the customer service out here is second to none. At Hertz they were short-staffed and there was a queue outside the door. The guy in charge passed out an enormous box of cookies for waiting customers, to apologise for the wait. In the UK, you’d consider yourself lucky if you got as much as eye contact in that scenario.
- American banks love paperwork. Just to open a single account, I spent an hour solidly signing my name. This explains why woodcutters in California drive Bentleys and not trucks.
- Navigating the supermarket requires a satnav and superhuman will power. The place is enormous, and I reckon 85% of it is bad for you. On the plus side, we can buy one sandwich and it will feed the four of us.
Today is July 4th, which is when Americans celebrate the time Will Smith saved them from aliens. My boss has kindly invited us to a bbq and pool party, ending in a fireworks display. Alex and the girls are all pretty excited about it, mainly because they get to spend the day with people other than me. Based on her performance so far this morning, Daisy is planning to mark the event by crying all day.
Happy Independence Day, people.
In 12 hours we’ll be on a plane, bound for San Francisco.
It’s been over a week since my last update, and in that time, we’ve covered a lot of ground. If I had £1 for every task completed, document signed and goodbye uttered in that period, I’d have enough cash to pay for the professional hair regrowth and colour treatment I so desperately need.
I won’t bore you with all the details. Because unless you’re my mother, you don’t really want them. Instead, I’ll just add a gallery of images and leave you to figure it out.
Tomorrow is exactly 24 weeks – 168 days – since I first discussed the relocation opportunity with my boss. Countless people have played their part in the journey we’ve been on ever since. Tax advisers, immigration attorneys, relocation specialists, shipment packers, recruitment consultants…
But an honourable mention goes to Simon.
I met Simon last month. He was the guy with the words “Love Love” tattooed across his knuckles, and a haircut befitting the wildest of rock stars. Except he wasn’t a rock star. He was a depressive cashier at the US Embassy, who – when I asked him the meaning of his tattoo – told me it reminded him of something, before falling silent and crying. He cried to himself right there in front of me, behind a glass window! Poor bugger. I was only being polite by asking. I actually thought it looked crap.
So now I call time on our pre-move journey. Tomorrow we leave Barnet, and head to the Bay.
See you on the other side.
Two days until our non-departure, and there’s still no sign of our visa.
We’ve reported it missing to the Police, placed ads on the side of milk cartons, and even developed a Twitter handle to get the word out. You can follow it at #givememyeffingvisa.
I’m constantly thinking about the whereabouts of my visa, so much so, I’m starting to see things. Just the other morning I could have sworn I saw it doing the walk of shame along Barnet High Street.
Remember that ad with Usain Bolt – the one where he runs around effortlessly and it ends with the tagline: “Life flows better with VISA”? False advertising, that. If I were to bump into Usain anytime soon, I’d give him a piece of my mind. Except I can’t. Because he’s in Jamaica and the Embassy has our bloody passports.
In a burst of productivity I phoned the Embassy’s call centre and told a sob story to get the guy to reveal classified information, but he didn’t budge. Obama must have warned him about me.
So I’ve spent the past few days scouring the US Embassy website for vital clues and information – anything to make us believe our visa delay is actually for reasons more solid than a dodgy printer. Over the weekend the official message on their site was basically: “we’re having trouble”. Yesterday it was updated to the effect of “yep, still having trouble”. But just this morning, this cryptic message appeared:
As of noon yesterday, 22 posts have been reconnected, representing about half of the global nonimmigrant visa volume. We will continue to bring additional posts online until connectivity with all posts is restored.
At last, golden information, about posts!
Now, if only they’d thought to shed some light on WHAT IN GOD’S NAME A POST IS, perhaps the message would have actually served a purpose. Are we talking goalposts, bed posts, or Facebook posts?
And when they say “about half”, they really mean “less than half”. Because if it was half, or more than half, they would say so. The sentence isn’t quite so strong if you say “we’ve fixed less than half of the problem”.
But wait. The message continues, and this time I see a glimmer of hope:
There is a large backlog of cases to clear, but we have already made good progress. We are prioritizing urgent medical and other humanitarian cases.
Things are looking up.
I’m taking my brood overseas to bring British culture to the American people. To educate the US population about Steak & Kidney pie, Cilla Black and Eastenders. To demonstrate how an overcast day is reason alone to stick on a bikini and hit the park with a picnic. And to help them understand what it feels like to rally behind a sporting nation that nearly always fails.
I’m pretty confident that classifies as a humanitarian effort. Right?