Monday, January 18, 2010

#31: ....gang aft agley.

Maybe it should have come as no surprise when the technology, that has for so long been a central pillar of our relationship, eventually became the barrier that kept us apart.
A temporary glitch, so easily overcome, served as a reminder that human fallibility becomes magnified once a computer is added to the equation.
We waited a month for our visa application to be processed, one month became two, which in turn became three. Christmas was again approaching before we realized that our patience had been innocently misplaced; something was amiss.
Without boring the reader with the technicalities, it will suffice to say that a minor application error on our part had resulted in the visa office making an attempt to contact us. And here lies the crux of our story: they decided to contact us via e-mail. Somehow an "L" became a "1" in Lisa's e-mail address, hence one month's wait became a six month trial.
Looking back we now realize that our patience had in fact been a lapse of judgement on our parts. In our defence though, we were still having fun chatting nightly via web cam and we had succumbed to the added distraction of Facebook, whose wealth of silly, trivial, time wasting games appealed to the more juvenile aspects of our characters.
Once Lisa had had her passport returned, albeit visa-less, our application paperwork was seriously out of date and Christmas was again fast approaching. Rather than risk another six months without the ability to travel to England, it was decided that Lisa should take advantage of her returned passport and that we should spend a month together. Maybe we could even fit in a small trip to mainland Europe......


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#30: The Here and Now.

Seven months down the line; I can now move from past to present tense and the blog can start to fulfill its intended purpose: that of keeping family and friends informed of our progress.

From this point on, nothing within our story will be leading to a known resolution, and our relationship will move from one transient episode to the next. We will use this blog to record certain points within our unpredictable journey. There will be no 'happily ever after' to aim for, just an aimless, meandering series of incidents, opinions and missives.

My role at this present stage is over. I am just as much an observer as you are, with all the activity taking place on the other side of the Atlantic. Lisa Jane has now finished working for Hilton, leaving her time to finalize the preparations for her big move whilst she awaits the processing of her visa application. I, for my part, sit impatiently longing for this separation to come to an end, powerless to help and often restricting progress by monopolizing of Lisa's valuable time with prolonged internet chats.

Hopefully, my next blog entry will be in around a month's time and will tell of Lisa Jane's arrival in the UK. Let the adventure begin.....


Friday, July 24, 2009

#29: Christmas 2008.

In the absence of children, my Christmas celebrations have come to owe more to Saturn and Bacchus than to any Christian character.

For the past two decades I have spent the holiday with my parents at their caravan where tradition dictated only that Christmas necessitated excess. My mother's huge steak meals would be served reverentially with copious amounts of dense red wine, Champagne would accompany the lighter meals and a brandy or vodka would ensure that we were incapacitated by the evening.

Our bitterly cold nights were punctuated by trips to the bathroom just to run the water supply, thus ensuring we didn't have frozen pipe work to deal with at breakfast. Every aspect of these past Christmas' was wonderful and our simple routines became for want of a better phrase: our Christmas traditions.

With Christmas 2008, both Lisa and myself set out to establish our own routines, to create our own take on the festive season. This was to include my first real Christmas tree, stockings hung over the fireplace and for the first time in over two decades: the giving and receiving of gifts on Christmas morning.

In their brief meetings with Lisa Jane, my parents had already come to love her company and so they were both thrilled when we invited them to spend Christmas with us. Initially they were wary of the invitation, not wishing to intrude in what was obviously a very special time for Lisa and myself, but Lisa Jane played the hostess to perfection and it was soon apparent that my parents were having a wonderful time.

Just one year earlier I had sent Lisa Jane a simple video for her birthday, 2008 saw me attempt to better this by presenting her with an unconventional engagement ring.

The choice of ring had proven a problem, I strongly dislike most jewelry and engagement rings can be especially gaudy to my uncultivated eyes. My research was beginning to show that the larger the stone, the more expensive the ring, or as I saw it, the more ostentatious and unwieldy, the more befitting the importance of the moment. Allowing my English eccentricity to come to the fore, I chose something less sensational on the eye, something that would be worn long after the engagement: a simple diamond and platinum eternity ring. As usual, Lisa made allowances for my unconventional nature, in fact, I think she actually approved of my choice.

The high point of the holiday definitely wasn't the murder mystery jigsaw that Lisa carried all the way from the States, the box full of dark purple and tartan pieces proved a trial on the eyes and a test of everyone's patience.

The party we held for some of my family members proved much more of a success, it was an intoxicated affair that judging by everybody's unwillingness to leave, was a major triumph.

On a more personal note, this proved to be an amazing end to an incredible year. Both Lisa Jane and myself had developed a close empathic bond when working together that I believe stemmed from the fact that our love had its initial foundations in friendship rather than anything physical. We had already developed a natural ease around each other, our different cultural backgrounds and the minimal amount of time we had spent together in real life was not important, we were functioning as a couple. It is hard to appreciate that after forty plus years as single entity, I suddenly started to look upon myself as one half of partnership; by the end of 2008, I was a different person from the man who had initially seen in the year.

Our goodbyes were not as miserable as on previous occasions, we were both too eager to move forward, forward towards a more permanent arrangement.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

#28: Who Lands Where?

Dear Reader,

Andrew may have been lead astray. It was clear that I should move to Enlgand: it was an unstated prioirty for him to be close by to his parents, and his work schedule provided the opportunity to tour Europe, something we both longed for. Plus, I had encouraged him to purchase a house that, unbeknownst at the time, was more for a couple or British family...still smaller than anything owned in most US cities. It was just one more cultural difference to grasp in the world of the UK.

In the 4th quarter of 2008, the world-wide economy took a downturn. Andrew's company was bought out by a Japanese firm that could turn his world on a dime, and Hilton was under a globalization. Ironically, Andrew's company also has an office in Memphis where I reside. On the flip side, it would be a mistake to move to England and not be able to not find work and support us should he be laid off. We really needed to see how the economy played out.

In the meantime, Andrew and I plotted out a Christmas and New Year holiday together in England.

Lisa Jane

Monday, July 20, 2009

#27: The Aftermath.

Lisa Jane's trip was successful in that it added a new clarity to our future plans and beginning our life together in Darwen could now be viewed as a definitive goal rather than just a viable option. Having this tangible destination to aim for meant we could now concert our efforts into reaching this one objective; we were entering new and unknown territory.

Our discussions turned upon visas, house sales, tax laws, health insurance and other unpalatable matters whilst a new pragmatism entered the relationship; plans were laid down and the timescale suggested that we could possibly be living together by the next summer.

Suddenly though, I was beginning to realize that my part had been played out, as daunting as the next stages sounded, the onus had shifted entirely to Lisa Jane, I was merely an impatient bystander.

It was decided that we should spend Christmas together in England and so I now moved my efforts into preparing for the festivities, this needed to be special, it is not every Christmas you get engaged.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

#26: Lisa's first trip to Lancashire.

Lisa was about to get a taste of the renowned English climate in all its glory; the BBC news was reporting on floods down in the south and the upcoming weather forecast for Lancashire was grim....

This trip was no mere vacation, Lisa Jane needed to experience the varied aspects of life in England, both the beauty as well as the all too apparent ugliness of the landscape, the virtues of our society as well as the ignorance and crudity. I had every intention of indoctrinating Lisa into some the worse aspects of living in Lancashire, knowing full well just what the implications could be, but it was a necessary step and best dealt with early. If Lisa Jane was genuinely intending to move here, she needed to see as many varied facets of my life and surroundings as possible, I needed a measure of her resolve. This was not a test of our relationship though, we merely needed to know if Lancashire was a viable option for the beginning of our life together or whether we needed to look for alternatives.

Any lingering doubts Lisa Jane had about my character also needed to be addressed, this was never going to be a problem though. I had my parents to fall back on.
My aged parents are the most transparent people you are ever likely to meet and they would never tell a lie in order to achieve any sort of gain. Much as my mother longed for this relationship to work, I knew that within minutes of entering Lisa's company, she would eagerly lay bare my character with an overt sincerity, relating story upon story that highlighted my eccentricities, faults and failings. If I had ever given way to artifice in order to win over Lisa Jane's trust, then my deceptions would have been all too apparent after ten minutes in my mother's company.

The first two days were our own though; our first shared venture into domesticity......

Lisa's account of that long week seems to contain all the most significant events, chronologically ordered and with more than an adequate degree of detail to satisfy the casual reader. So I, in my turn, will offer up a confused, meandering mass of incidents, a non sequential collection of memories from that wonderful week.....

I remember a long walk beside the Wyre Estuary, our original plan being only to feed some nearby ducks. We were enticed to travel further and further, Lisa enthusiastically pointing out the various wading birds that inhabited the salt banks and I suspiciously monitoring the leaden skies overhead. We eventually returned to the parents' caravan by negotiating a muddy series of quagmires, (one of which held a Land Rover hostage) both of us so wet from the merciless rains that it took me six months to dry my trousers.

I remember how Lisa Jane charmed a smile and friendly word from a Darwen checkout desk worker who's usually dour disposition was, I'd always assumed, unlikely to ever produce anything other than a sour grimace.

I recall how Lisa's eyes almost became unhinged from their sockets as she tasted real, mature Cheddar cheese for the first time, and how she stoically polished off a bland plate of fish and chips, just in order to have the trial added to her list of accomplishments.

I remember a bee keeper, picking up on Lisa's accent and inviting us round to his hidden, apian retreat, proudly displaying the collection of hives, who's existence I had never been aware of before.

I recall Lisa's awareness of the new vegetation around her; popping the exploding seed pods of the policeman's helmets or carelessly allowing her hand to graze the stinging nettle that is so prevalent here.

I remember how Lisa's American twang allowed her the freedom to act in an unconventional fashion, whether greeting sullen strangers with a cheery "Hello" or teasing market stall owners on the merits of minor British pop stars.

These were perhaps some of the more mundane incidents of Lisa's trip, but everything about that week was special to me.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

#25: Visiting Darwen

Dear Reader,

After a few months of chatting via web-cam, and a full five months after meeting, it was time to visit Andrew in England. We had spent a week together in Virginia, and he proved to be all that I could possibly hope for, yet there was a need to confirm that he wasn't a serial killer or child molester by meeting his parents.

In late May of 2008, I boarded a plane to Manchester. It's been ages since travelling internationally and never that far by myself. At baggage claim, the suitcase arrived, and I was ready to check into a hotel if necessary. Upon walking out to the public area, there was a man holding a sign that said, "Pied Pfeffer". It was Andrew.

The cab ride to his (our) home was easy. Andrew had the taxi waiting to take us down the A666 and up to the curb where he handed me a set of keys to the house. It was as symbolic as an engagement ring.

Th first 2 days were devoted to a tour of Darwen. We strolled through the market place, the library, a fast-paced stride up to Darwen Tower, and a leisurely dinner at the Pothouse Pub. Keep in mind that Andrew gave up his automobile years ago, as there was no reason to spend the incredulous amount of money on petrol, maintenance and taxes when he could walk or take excellent public transportation wherever needed. It's quite different than the US lifestyle, yet appeals to the sustainability aspect so longed for.

On Monday, his parents arrived, and swept us away to the caravan. A day was spent in one of England's most famous towns: Blackpool. Who knew that it would take a trip to England in order to have my first meal of McDonald's Fil-a-o-fish. We walked the docks and saw a Dr. Who Tardis. Andrew's mother and I had our fortunes told, which resulted in a questionable amount of money spent for what we already knew.

The next day, we headed to Fleetwood, where the Greenhalghs spent their summers as the children grew up. It was an amazing area, and the stories of the family were worthy of the trip. Andrew and I sampled cockels, which were dire...otherwise, the visit was fantastic. At some point, we had a meal of fish and chips. For those that are planning to visit England, go to a restaurant, as we did, versus a street vendor for the fish and chips. As for the side dish of mushy peas...I'll leave that choice up to you.

On the way home, we stopped at a store for some groceries. It is all quite fascinating, as much is the same as in the US, just by different names. We headed back to the caravan in the rain, had a light meal, watched British television until nodding off, and then headed to bed.

In the 2 days at the caravan, Andrew and I took long strolls along the country-side. It is odd how England has birds that look similar to the ones in the US, yet are called by different names. And they have birds of the same name that look completely different. The robin is an Britan, it is 1/2 the size of the US robin, and much duller in color. We are both interested in the British birds, and his back yard is set up to attract them.

The rest of the week was utterly fantastic and flew by too quickly. There was a dinner at a local Indian restaurant with his 2 sisters, their husbands and sister Denise's charming children Daniel and Martha. We trotted all over Darwen, and apparently, it is not appropriate to greet those that you pass by, particulary if they are strangers, and you need to keep your eye on where you step.
We took long walks in the countryside, through 2 cemetaries with much older tombstones than found in the US, and the library and local market. A movie theatre and shopping mall are a bus ride away to the next town.

The week went all too quickly. And once back into our separate realities, the world was changing. Andrew's company was bought out by a major Asian company, and Hilton Hotels went from public to private. Despite wanting to build a life together, it made little sense for either of us to make a move until we knew how it all shook out.

Lisa Jane