Category Archives: neither Here nor There

Life in the (illustrious) UK

After years of being very much eligible but also very much not bothered, I’ve now embarked on the process of becoming a British citizen. The other day I just suddenly got the urge, like really truly got the urge rather than my usual train of thought on this topic, i.e. ‘I could do that, yeah uh should look at that again, oh what difference does it make, don’t want to jump through all those expensive hoops anyway, BAH!’ It just feels like the time is right and the mood has well and truly struck. Maybe I’m finally so entirely embedded myself in UK soil that to carry on not having the vote or the passport is just rather…boring.

So the other day I made a list of each step I need to take – each hoop I need to fling myself through – to become a naturalised UK citizen. Top of the list are a number of actions involving the infamous Life in the UK test. I have already ticked off action number one: buy a copy of the Life in the UK test handbook. Next two actions? Study said book and book said test. Step four: pass the bloody thing (after coughing up the requisite £50 exam fee of course).

Life in the UK handbook

The test book is full of (awkward) British cheerleading and propaganda. There is a sizeable chapter called ‘A long and illustrious history’. I have no issue with further familiarising myself with British history. What I do object to is calling centuries of bloodthirsty squabbles over land and religion ‘illustrious’. But, whatever, right? To simply get on with the process of studying this material, I find myself reading passages out loud and providing an (in my opinion) ever-so-dry-and-witty commentary. I don’t know if this will help me to memorise the salient points or not, but it’s a way forward. There are other chapters that are slightly less challenging – for instance ‘A modern, thriving society’, in which one learns what a bank holiday is and finds examples of the many fine ways that the British public spends its leisure time (betting and gambling receive their own subsection here).

Leafing through the pages ahead, I see that I shall shortly be receiving education on government, the law and my role. I will learn, in language suitable for ESOL Entry Level 3 or above, how to be a good citizen. However, I think it’s obvious that by refusing to take the Life in the UK handbook seriously I am already clearly demonstrating my readiness to be inducted into official Britishness. So bring it on.

Words I thought were amusing when I first came to England

On 1 October 1996, I landed in England for the first time.

It’s a long story as to why I’m still here. But in my first months, as a study abroad student at Exeter University, I wrote pages and pages of journal text. Mostly prose, snatches of poetry and song lyrics, quotes from novels. (I was twenty years old and an earnest English major.)

There were also lists. Lists of the contents of rolls of film, lists of pubs I’d visited (I was twenty years old and American.) And lists of the amazing new vocabulary to be found in the United Kingdom. I present you with an actual listing here.*

  • fruit machine
  • football
  • ring
  • telly
  • biscuit
  • coach
  • minibus
  • for let
  • MP
  • lie in
  • knickers
  • pants
  • shag
  • bonk
  • snog
  • hire
  • sacked
  • pensioners
  • full up
  • bedsit
  • track suit bottoms
  • sod off
  • bugger
  • take the piss

An eclectic lexicon to say the least. Try reciting the list like a bit of a performance poem and it’s even better.

I was twenty years old and then, as now, I liked words. All sorts of words…

*The original text, which is labelled “glossary – more words and expressions and stuff”, also defined each of the terms. It was a true work of scholarship.