Why I love England

I told you last week that, despite appearances to the contrary, I really do love this country. And I do; God knows I wouldn’t have put myself through over two years of immigration nightmares in order to stay here unless I’d really taken a shine to the place.

During those two years, my employment options were strictly limited, to the point where I’ve only just been granted permission by the Home Office to work wherever I want in the UK, without a work permit. It was the green light I’d been waiting for since March 1998, and one I often thought would never come.

While it was really good fun sitting on tenterhooks and waiting for the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to return my approved application – for a second time, as they returned my paperwork once with the request of more documents – I have to say that the relief of getting the go-ahead was a bit drama-free. The postman rang the doorbell, I signed for the recorded delivery, took a series of deep breaths and tore into the envelope. And there it was.

‘You may now set up in business or take employment without a work permit’. I never thought I’d read those words.

‘Thank you for your application to remain in the United Kingdom following your marriage’. And let’s just say I definitely thought I’d never see the day that Immigration would thank me for anything.

There’s still another application to be made – for permanent leave – in a year’s time, but being on the receiving end of another 12 months’ worth of living in Britain was definitely the highlight of my Fourth of July. (This is where Alanis Morrissette would make some ill-advised comment about irony, but luckily she’s not the one writing this column.)

In the two years I spent pondering what would happen if I had to leave the UK, I often thought about the things I’d miss most if I were driven back to life in America. While it almost doesn’t bear thinking about, here goes:

EastEnders – Words just cannot express how I feel about this show – nay, institution. While its stock has taken a plunge with the departure of Patsy ‘Rick-ayyyy!’ Palmer and the bald baddie (Ross Kemp), this is still compulsive viewing, and makes American soaps look like more of a joke than I ever suspected they were. My husband hates EastEnders, but nobody’s perfect.

The weather – My, tourists love to complain about the English weather, don’t they? I’d respectfully suggest that they cram it. Coming from a state – Ohio – which can boast 100F+ temperatures (and the humidity to match) from spring through early autumn, and freezing, sub-zero climes with feet after feet of snow in the winter, I’ll gladly exchange a scattering of showers here and there for that miserable fate.

Global positioning – I’m not just talking the proximity to continental Europe and all it has to offer. I mean, that’s all well and good, but isn’t it fab the way it’s light outside so late at night during the summer, due to the UK being so far north and everything? Makes stumbling home from the pub so much safer, I’ve found.

Select TV shows, besides EastEnders – You know the ones. The Royle Family. The League of Gentlemen. The Cops. This Life. Queer as Folk. Fantasy Football. Have I Got News for You. Harry Enfield and Chums. The Fast Show.

Britain has some of the finest shows on the planet… Which is good, because there’s an awful lot of crap to make up for (Melinda Messenger, anyone?). But still, Paul Whitehouse alone should earn the UK a ‘Get Out of Fort Boyard Free’ card.

The exchange rate – Instead of ranting about how bloody expensive everything is in this damn country, (which I could do at length, believe me), I’ll say this: the sky-high prices of everything in Britain makes purchases made in America seem so much cheaper. Everything’s a bargain when you’re used to paying through the nose for every staple of life (food, shelter, clothing) and source of entertainment (CDs in the UK are nearly twice the price as in the US). So going home to America with an empty suitcase and filling it with clothes at upwards of 50% off is a good fringe benefit of emigrating to Britain.

So there you have it. An abridged love letter to Old Blighty. I’d surely miss you if I had to leave, but luckily that isn’t a worry anymore.

That said, if the Tories get voted back into power in the next election, this list is null and void; I’m outta here.