Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: America

The inspiration for No Show began with a real life incident that happened over twenty years ago. When I came to the US, it was for love (yes, awww…). I had met an American girl in Costa Rica and we hit it off. We carried things on after Costa Rica. Every few months we would meet up in a different country. After a couple of years of this, we decided to take things to the next stage and settle in the same country as husband and wife. I was the one with the fewest attachments, so I made the decision to leave England for America. I left my job, sold my house, reduced my possessions down to what I could pack into a couple of bags and jumped on a plane.

I arrived at San Francisco International airport very excited at the prospect of a new life in a new country. I entered the arrivals lounge expecting to see Julie with a ‘Welcome to America’ sign or some such thing. Instead I saw a sea of strangers’ faces. Julie wasn’t there. I was disappointed not to see her, but I knew Bay Area traffic could be rough and guessed she was stuck in it. The smart thing was to wait in arrivals because she’d be there in a minute.

Then the minutes piled up and my imagination began to churn. There was late and there was late. Had she gotten cold feet and changed her mind? It was possible. We were taking a huge leap of faith. Had she had an accident? If she had, I had no way of finding out. And regardless of the outcome, what was I going to do now?

And this was where things got a little tricky. I hadn’t concerned myself with the minutia of such details as bringing her address or her phone number. I didn’t need to worry about such things, as Julie was my guide in the US the same way I was her guide in the UK.

Just as panic was sinking its teeth into me, Julie arrived an hour or so late and full of apologies for the hideous traffic. I’d arrived on a day when three events were taking place at the same time in the city.

Crisis over. Disaster averted. OverdramaNoShow2tic imagination quelled.

Well, not quite. Our missed connection taught me a valuable lesson—have a Plan B, because I hadn’t realized until that moment how carried away I was with the romance of what I was doing. I suddenly became aware of how little homework I’d done for myself. I didn’t know how America worked.

The bigger question my overactive imagination kicked up was—what would I have done if Julie hadn’t turned up. Got the next flight home? Looked for her? As these thoughts piled up on each other, I saw how unprepared I was for my new life. I’d put all my faith in Julie and if something had happened to her, I was a lost. Was this naïve of me? Yes, but we take our eye off the ball sometimes.

When it comes to my books, I like to put characters in difficult circumstances. Naturally, my thoughts came back to my first day in the US. No Show gave me the chance to play with my neurosis and the paranoia of that day and explore the worst possible outcome—my wife going missing.

As for real life, Julie and I will have been married twenty-two years at this month and she’s yet to go missing on me.

Categories: shelf life

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birthdayToday, I’ve come of age…kinda…I moved to the US 18years ago today. Time has flown. It truly seems like only a couple of years.

I came here knowing only one person so thanks to everyone who made me very welcome over the years.

Categories: Uncategorized

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maxresdefaultI’ve been in the US eighteen years and I haven’t been back to the UK in over nine, so it’s not surprising things have changed in that time, so here’s a few things that made me a tourist in my own country.

  • Sidewalks aren’t for walking on…they’re for parking.
  • English accents really stick out.  It’s really weird on my ear now.
  • I am no longer a bilingual driver.  I have to think about driving on the left.
  • I look the wrong way when I cross the road.  It took me a decade to look the right when I crossed the road in America but now I am at a loss in the UK.
  • Somehow all the roads have shrunk and I can’t believe the speeds I use to drive on them.
  • I forgot how heavy pounds coins are.  Most British men sound like gunslingers when they walk and they all walk with a limp trying to lug a leg with a pocket full of shrapnel…
  • Straws go in children’s drinks, not adults.
  • A 3-pin plug scarily too big for its purpose.
  • I forgot how cold it is in April.
  • Pedestrians don’t have the right of way.  You will be run down!
  • Weather changes and often.  Only British people need both sunglasses and an umbrella on the same day.
  • I didn’t realize how high toilets are compared to the US.  I need a footstool.
  • Power outlets have switches. I kept plugging things in and forgetting to flip the switch.  And a 3-pin plug seems scarily large.
  • My God, Britain is crowded.  America seems deserted in comparison.
  • Drinks don’t come with straws.  As one friend said, “I feel like a seven year old when I have a straw in my drink.”
  • I forgot there are no free drink refills.

Categories: hump day post

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I’m in my sixteenth year of living in the US—which is a third of my life.  That’s a scary thought.  Naturally, that length of time in any place is going to have an effect on a person, especially when it comes to your cultural upbringing, speech and the way you go about life.  So from time to time, I get sudden attacks of conscience when it comes to my Englishness.  Namely, is it being eroded?  I’ll be honest, there are times when I won’t know if a phrase is English or American.  Or a word will pop out with an American twang, like omitting the letter T from the word twenty and pronouncing it, “Tweny.”  Absolutely frightful.

So imagine my dismay when I came to an odd and frightening realization the other day that I have been driving on the right side (aka the wrong side) of the road longer than I’ve been driving on the left side (aka the proper side).  Naturally, the left side is the correct side.  I believe it’s the side of the road God would choose if asked.
I don’t think this revelation has changed me as a driver or a person.  I’m comfortable driving on either side, although I wish Americans would learn how bloody roundabouts work.  Airdrop me in good old Blighty right now and I wouldn’t miss a stroke driving on the left.  I have been concerned by this in the past but every time I’ve gone back to the motherland, I’m back in the old groove.  There’s something about the gear shift being on the left side that flexes some old muscle memory and alerts my brain that I’m in England again.  So at least on that front my Englishness is as rock solid as the white cliffs of Dover. 
Where things get a little crumbly is with the time factor.  I think my Englishness and English identity is hardwired into me, but time is a great leveler.   Every year that I stay here, the more my identity shifts.   For example, I still feel like a tourist in America but I’ve spent more of my adult life here than I have in the UK.   There’s a sobering thought. 
To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I know there have to be consequences—and big ones!  Does this mean I’m more American than English?  Icky.  Will the embassy stop taking my calls?  Hope not.  Does this jeopardize my knighthood chances?  I may need counseling over this.
Oh God, this is getting to be a little more than I can handle.  I feel like a traitor.  I’m frightened that people will put me in the same company as other British traitors such as Guy Fawkes, Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Jonathon Ross. There’ll be a day named after me where kids will sing “Simon Wood is no good, chop him up for firewood” and burn copies of my books…which is OK if they’ve purchased them first because I’ll still get the royalties and that would be some comfort at least.

Then again, I could be overreacting.  That’s an American thing, right?

Categories: hump day post

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