The weird thing about homesickness is that it can strike you sideways when you least expect it. For a while, I have been feeling vaguely homesick, and last week, with a colleague having to dash off to the UK at short notice, it has been quite bad. There are many, many reasons why living in Perth is a lot better than living in the UK, but here are some of the things I find myself missing at times like this:
1. Decent TV: Now TV is not perfect by a long way anywhere, but at least you can find something to watch somewhere at sometime during the week in England. The last time I was back in the UK, my mate and I decided after our move to Brighton, that we would not have a TV, because there was simply too much to talk about and read and see. Within three weeks we were ready to kill eachother and I somehow managed to carry a large and very heavy (these were the days of cathode ray sets) back home. My mate sat gazing at it all night, until finally I patted her shoulder and reminded her it would still be there in the morning. The TV licence fee can be brutal if you are on a low wage, but it can also be paid in monthly installments, which makes it a lot more manageable, and even the commercial stations only have a couple of ads every 15 minutes, not every six or seven. I am not sure if those insanely annoying banners pop up over there now – as they have been doing over here for ages – but at last the TV you are watching behind them is generally better. Things got decidedly worse when the ABC over here lost its deal with the BBC and now misses out on exclusive broadcasting rights to their programmes. There is evil afoot with the BBC, people are trying to destroy it. That would be a deep shame.
2. Currency: daft I know, but I miss English money. There is nothing wrong with Australian money and if I am honest I use cash less and less these days. Australian currency is also plastic and therefore machine washable, but I miss the Britishness of the colour of our notes, the sides of a 50 pence piece and the elegant design on our copper coins – if indeed we still have copper coins, they may have gone now.
3. Double decker buses: I was always a top deck person. There is something a little thrilling about sitting up high and gliding through the the streets getting a slightly different perspective. In Perth the only double decker is the hop on, hop off, open-topped tourist bus (there seems to be one in every city now). Come to think of it, the last double decker bus I may have been on was one of those in Dublin before we came over here.
4. Pebbled beaches: yes mad again I know, and coupled with a sea so cold you can never swim in it, but at least you don’t get home and spend an hour getting sand out of cracks you never knew you had. I used to think the pebbles were naturally washed in by the tide until I saw a council bobcat furiously buzzing about rearranging them all one morning.
5. Birds custard, vegetarian suet, paxo stuffing, cheap leeks: just some of the things I miss in the food aisles. Weird flavoured crisps – calling them crisps not chips, giant Yorkshire puddings that you can buy for next to nothing and fill with mash and peas (I am reliably informed you can now buy the frozen puds already filled with these days, *sigh*.
6. Pubs: even when I am not drinking. We have bars or hotels over here, which as the name suggests are long and impersonal. Pubs are small and friendly and frequent – and I know not all of them are, but I in the UK there are so many in such proximity that you can usually find one that suits your taste. When I bought a house I drew up a list of non-negotiables. There were two: walking distance from the train station and a pub. I rarely go to the pub, but it is there if I want to, job done.
7. Access to somewhere else: even though I am not a fan of flying, if I can get on a plane and be somewhere completely different in an hour, then it lessens the horror somewhat. Here, you have to fly nearly four hours to get somewhere else and then it is full of bloody Australians also trying to escape.
8. Greenery: I miss greenery a lot. It is very red and brown over here. I miss trees on either side of a road forming a canopy of green light as you pass under it, moss growing on one side of the gnarled bark of a tree. I miss conkers, acorns and sycamore seeds with their wings, but not nettles, no-one likes those buggers.
There is lots to love in Australia, and much to hate in the UK, but when I am feeling nostalgic, these are some of the things I miss.