Sunday, October 13, 2013

What was

I've been a combination of busy and devoid of all thought lately. I suppose that's not really going to hurt the Internet's feelings--it's got enough anti-political vitriol laying around to keep it busy for a while. I'm embarrassed to be a South Carolinian right now, but then again I've been embarrassed to be a South Carolinian since at least the last time I lived in South Carolina, which was...2006. I firmly believe the US needs to enact the Wyoming Rule of representation at the very least, though a representative layout more akin to the House of Commons wouldn't go amiss. The House's primary problem right now is that six illiterate farmers and a goat in Idaho currently have the same voice as two million people in Brooklyn, and even the goat's interests were separated out of the rest of the goat voting bloc through gerrymandering. The House of Representatives is in no way representative of the actual interests of the population as a whole or even the individual areas that are nominally represented. Until they manage to do the one thing they're supposed to--Represent the will of the actual people--not impose third-world, unconstitutional religiosity on their unwilling constituents, not draw lines through the middles of cities for the express purpose of silencing communities who they know would be better represented by someone else--they lack any semblance of credibility or authority, and should be dissolved.


 My tomatoes got established very late this year--didn't actually get my first fruit until August--and the first week-long wintry windy rainstorm came in mid September and blew in blight, so there went that. I uprooted them yesterday--it's already dark outside by the time I get home from work so I'm limited to dry-ish weekends to prepare my garden for winter. What a waste. I got about 30 or 40 cherry-sized tomatoes off of six vines in five weeks. That's pathetic. Two years ago they produced delicious orbs in their hundreds all summer--this year the snails got to eat more than I did after the fungus took hold and the vines' defences (and flavour) weakened. The apple tree was bizarrely bountiful this year though--probably fifty or more apples on a quite small tree, all quite sweet, crisp and beautiful. Last year there were 0. Two years ago there were 4, all so sour even the foxes wouldn't eat them. Apparently apples like weather that everything else hates--extra long, extra cold, extra dark winters. A good year for apples is a rather lousy year. The courgette, after I got off to a rocky start (of the seeds I planted, one germinated, and once it was established I put it outside to watch it get eaten down to the ground by snails in one night--I swore revenge but no matter how many I throw at the fence those bastards reproduce like the zombie hordes--but then my mother-in-law gave me a healthy young plant and it took off like Beatlemania) has done very well, and indeed is still doing very well. I harvested two yesterday, one which was over 9" long. I'm starting to think that, as tomato growing is so depressing, it might be a good idea to halve that crop, or maybe just not bother with them at all, and fill the space with courgettes. Or maybe other squashes--I bet I could get some pumpkins or butternuts to grow. Or leeks. Something hearty and, y'know, Nordic. I really hope my tulips stick around from this year because I haven't added any new bulbs this year.


I convinced one of my students to get an eye test when she consistently couldn't see what she was doing while welding--I always thought it was too dark until I put my glasses on, then magically I was able to make out the shape of the join by the light of the weld. Hopefully she'll enjoy the same improvement and gain some confidence in the metal shop if it turns out she does need welding glasses.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

little observation

When I last lived in the USA, about four years ago, the Corn Refiners Association was running a series of TV ads that sought to convince the public that high fructose corn syrup is a legitimate, natural foodstuff and "fine in moderation". The ads showed happy couples and families having a throwaway conversation about health risks before agreeing that it's just like sugar so we might as well eat the ice lollies. While utterly failing to address the politics of the corn subsidy, the ecological and economic impacts of maize-based bio-diesel, the fact that at the time it was difficult to only consume HFCS in moderation because it was in absolutely everything, from bread to cheese to fishsticks, or the fact that it tastes like metal, the corn refiners' marketing team did make an attempt to assuage consumers' concerns about their products and show that they were listening. 

Based on what I saw in American grocery stores a few weeks ago, I was amused to discover just how ineffective the corn refiners' reassurances were. A few years ago you only saw labels like "made with NO HFCS, MSG or artificial colours!" in organic grocery stores and the token frou-frou aisle of the supermarket. Now it's everywhere, and it's all the big companies. All sorts of popular ready-made items proudly declare on their packaging "We Took It Out! We Listened!" Well, more like we reached the point where the reduction in sales was no longer offset by the price of the ingredients! While we might have not been listening, we eventually heard you. Please come back!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Quick Tour of the Confederacy

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What I Did On My Summer Vacation:


As I hadn't driven a car since September of 2011, this was quite nice. As I haven't lost a pound since 2003 this was not particularly helpful.

From 17 July through 6 August 2013 my spouse and I enjoyed a sampling of Southern Food. Sorry, I meant to say Southern Food. Damn you Autocorrect! Southern C-U-L-T-U-R-E. Culture. There. Though I can't blame my in-head autocorrect for the confusion. Mmm biscuits. Mmmm burritos. Mmm deep fried okra, green beans and catfish!

We flew into Charlotte (US Airways 731, A330) and met up with my mother and the couple I grew up next door to. Two quick days of gossip and sushi and the three of us hopped into a rented Dodge Avenger to whisk down to Clearwater, Florida (I-77, I-26, I-95) . After a day of gossip and guacamole with my aunt and her family we changed out the Avenger for a Ford Escape and the six of us trundled down to Punta Gorda to visit more family (including my sister, who graciously flew down from NYC to meet us) for three days of shish kabobs, key lime pie, boating, swimming and throwing the three-year-old around in the pool. After an afternoon shopping for jeans at the outlet mall we spent one more night back at the aunt's house before mom flew back to Charlotte for work and my sister, the spouse and I adopted the Escape rental and headed out for Arkansas via New Orleans (I-75, I-10). After two hours of po'boys and shopping for Cafe du Monde schwag we headed north (I-55, I-20, I-30, US-65) to visit Grandma, two uncles and my tia in Clinton, Arkansas. We dropped off the Escape in Little Rock and just drove the farm vehicles for a few days. After two days dad arrived and the 8 of us enjoyed several days of pootling around the farm, a Saturday evening visit to Mountain View to listen to the music, some lake swimming and plenty of conversation. Shortly after I swapped my grandma's pencil sharpener for my camera charger (whoops) dad drove us to Memphis on the back roads, and flew east from there after an evening of blues on Beale Street. Three hours later than expected, thanks to some impressive incompetence on the part of Thrifty auto rentals, the three of us hired a Ford Fiesta from Avis and struck out on I-40 (my home away from home!). After a quick stop in Nashville for lunch with a couple of my sister's friends recently transplanted from Brooklyn (reasonably-priced flats with TWO bathrooms, central air and off-street parking, within ten minutes of Ethiopian, Greek and Japanese restaurants?! Nashville, I had you all wrong!) we dove back onto the freeway and didn't stop (okay, we stopped for coffee, petrol and pizza-flavoured Combos) until we'd crossed the hard part of the Appalachian range and checked into our B&B in Asheville. Mom met us there and we enjoyed a day of window shopping and Tupelo Honey Café until mother and sister headed south and left Spouse and I to our own devices. Good and early the next morning we hit up about 20 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway on the way to Biltmore House, where we wandered the house and gardens for most of the day, before resigning ourselves to US-74 back to Charlotte. We returned the Fiesta at the airport and mom picked us up in a comically oversized truck for her stature. The next day we arranged and held a small get-together for our neighbours and friends, for which my brother-in-law flew down and we re-arranged the biscuits and catfish to squeeze into our wedding clothes, and after breakfast the following morning with a high school friend at a lovely café in Rock Hill we shopped for a few last-minute vitals (maple syrup and trail mix from Trader Joe's), packed our bags, enjoyed a few more delicious dinners, and flew home (US Airways 730, A330). 

Pant pant pant.  

We opened our bags yesterday afternoon to find love notes from the TSA in both (probably for the Cafe du Monde coffee in Spouse's, and for the pouch of spanners in mine) and have spent the past two days in a jet-lagged daze. 

Egad, we have to go back to work. How on earth does one do that?

Sunday, May 26, 2013


I've been living in England for nearly four consecutive years now (I started grad school in September of 2009, back in the noughts). I'm okay with this in principle--I've even gotten to the point where I'm comfortable in saying that I live here. I have a home that is my home--it is not school-managed student digs or theatre-managed intern housing or a retired battleship I have to share with a lunatic old woman--it is my home and I can paint the walls and do whatever I want with the garden. (So like a sucker I plant tulips and tomatoes.) It is a furnished rented house, so I'm stuck with furniture that I'm not hugely thrilled about, and I get a guilty twinge whenever I think about cutting down the oversized holly trees, but just like my job, my home for the first time ever does not come with an expiration date. I really do live here, and after my most recent stint in the Ukba Shaman's hut, I really am on track to indefinite leave to remain.

So it should come as no surprise to me that, after living here for four years, having all-local friends and even marrying a boy from Eltham, I am starting to blend in a bit. In particular, I'm starting to sound funny. It's a really awkward transition to experience, and I don't think it's like puberty or building a shed--it may never finish. On a regular basis, I catch myself saying things I don't expect myself to say, using phrasing that feels correct but alien, and making sounds that are frankly jarring.

And I do mean catch myself--I regularly hear what I'm saying, then get distracted for a few minutes while my brain asks me why I just said what I said, or questions my accent. Did I do that on purpose? Was that mimicry or did I say that honestly? Am I forcing this? I don't remember going out of my way to pronounce this the local way but it would appear that I've done it. What does it say about me if it was unintentional? Is it better somehow? Does anyone else notice this?

What's worse is when I hear distinctly southern pronunciations slip out. Not only is my gut reaction to this nearly always shame (it usually goes away fairly quickly) but then my paranoid brain then feels the need to spend the next half-hour carefully reviewing everything I've said in the past day to check for other slips that might have gotten through. Did I say 'pound' with a nasally-voiced 'ow'? (like the way southern kids hammer 'crayon' into a dented 'crown'?) Dammit I said Basil like a tourist again! I should go a day without talking, as punishment. At least I didn't ask my colleague if I could borrow her ink pin. Pee-un. Peyun. It's bad enough that I still have to stop and arrange my syllables before saying Leicester Square.  How is it words like 'phenomenological' 'methylene diphenyl diisocyanate' and Viognier can roll effortlessly off my tongue, but I would rather crawl in a hole than pronounce Worcestershire or Southwark in front of a Londoner?

Trouble is, sounding Southern has always been shameful for me, and not just in Europe. I've been mocked and teased, usually light-heartedly, for the odd bits of drawl that crept into my personal phonology over my twenty years of residence in South Carolina. I think this shame is rooted in my awareness that the Southern accent is widely considered an indicator of gormless stupidity--from grinning morons in cartoons to bible-thumping ignoramuses in prime-time to misogynist blowhards on C-SPAN, Southern voices are never associated with intelligence, worldliness, or the twenty-first century. I've never sounded exceptionally southern, even as a kid, but I did go to school in SC from first grade through the end of university so I was bound to pick up something. My parents were not local to the area where I grew up, and while my dad did grow up in the heart of redneck country, years of (shame-based) practice have granted him the power to only sound Southern when he needs to. Mom just sounds American--one might assume she's from Ohio, or...wherever everyone on the nightly news comes from. WhiteBreadton, USA. I can only thank my parents for not sounding Carolinian--as much as I learned from my teachers, and as much respect as I have for other members of that community, I don't think I would have gotten where I am today with that accent. It just carries too much cultural baggage.

I am sincerely okay with sounding like a generic American--at least I'm not chim-chim-cheree'ing my way into getting punched in the face by a neckless Catforder who finks I'm up to summat. But on some level I believe I expect myself to have gone native by now, that I should have effortlessly received my pronunciation and settled into my career reading audiobooks for Penguin. Fact is, I don't even know if my voice Has changed, much less if it has changed gradually or organically. I know I occasionally try out a pronunciation in public, if I'm fairly confident that it would sound less weird than if I deliberately Americanised it, but other times words and phrases just fall out of me like apples from a birch tree--some perfect, some rotten, all unexpected.

For the curious and patient reader, I'll include a list here of words that I've noticed I consistently say differently than I did four years ago, as well as a list of those words that stubbornly either sound stupid when the British style does come out, or I simply know have not altered noticeably. Enjoy.

Firmly Changed
tomato (a from 'automotive')
pasta (first 'a' from 'absolute')
4x2 (2x4)
1220x2440 (4x8) (I've gotten pretty chill with the metric system)
café (caaf)
courgette (zucchini)
aubergine (eggplant)
motorway (freeway, highway)
sterile (steh-riil, as in 'all riled up'--this comes up more often than you might expect now that I'm a first aider)
Nissan (nis-san, with an i as in 'missive' and san from San Francisco.)
Nike (niik, like Mike)
Adidas (AH-di-das, again with the 'a' from 'automotive)
router ('ou' like Moose, unless I'm referring to the high-speed carving tool, in which case it is an 'ow')
wool (yarn)
Biro (cheap ballpoint pen, with the i from 'isocyanate')
Glasgow, Moscow (no cows involved, just the O from the end of Monaco)
leisure (like pleasure)
advertisement, advert (ad-Vert-is-men, ad-vurt)
hoover (vacuum-cleaner, though I've also replaced 'to vacuum' with 'to hoove' which I don't think anyone else says.)
lift (elevator)
herb (voiced H)
solder (voiced L, like 'soldier')
clerk, Berkshire (clark, Barkshire)
borough (bur-ruh, as opposed to buh-roh)

I'm Never Quite Sure How These are Going to Sound
lavender, radiator, spanner, etc. (sometimes the r shows up, sometimes it doesn't bother)
coriander (sometimes this is cilantro)
yoghurt (sometimes this is yo-gurt, sometimes it's yohg-urt, luckily I've also realized I'm lactose-intolerant and don't use this product)
think (this occasionally comes out as 'fink'--I find this embarrassing.)

Stuck in the Past
"Yes ma'am" (full, long, two-syllable 'a', whole shebang. Usually when a colleague or student calls my name. It has taken considerable restraint, but I don't usually ask "wha'choo want, baby?" when a student visits my office. I don't even know where I got the impulse. Lunch ladies (school dinner ladies) used to ask me this when I was a kid, but I never sought to emulate them. It just sort-of...appeared when I started working on Sigsbee. Somehow working with children in Baltimore gave me the inclination to use teacher-talk, and Fort Thrill teacher-talk is all I had to go on.)

It is also noteworthy that my spouse has begun to regularly slip into American pronunciation and idiom. From Basil to "I'm good" to TV, I'm rubbing off on him nearly enough to offset my drift into British-ism.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Miscellany, as usual

Last weekend was our first wedding anniversary. It also happened to be the first nice day of the year, which was a change. This weekend is actually prettier and warmer (see below) but it was wonderful to just pootle around the garden and giggle at each other. I still catch myself pointing at Boy and shouting "Husband!" with a measure of disbelief. It really is odd to stop and think about it, at least for me. We married each other!

Anyway, the other thing I did last weekend was go shopping. I wore a hole in an unforgiving location in my favourite jeans, so needed to replace them. I guess this is to be expected when one wears her lightweight denim lady-jeans around a construction workshop, but it annoys me nonetheless. I have work trousers, I just don't particularly like them. Maybe I should do something about that. It's just, y'know, the rest of the trouser is absolutely fine, no stains, no holes, pristine, but one hole in the crotch and they're roont--you try to patch it and wind up destroying the area further because the fibres have all been ground down to a powder by your giant thighs, so there's no fabric that will hold a stitch... Anyway, I went to Marky-Sparky of an afternoon, picked out about five different types of trouser to try on, and happened to accidentally grab a pair of...jeggings. 

I wasn't shopping for them, and I didn't mean to like them, but when I tried them on...comfort happened. These are the denim-spandex type, they actually look and feel like jeans and have a zip closure, but unlike the superduperskinny jeans that seem to be 90% of what's on the market these days, which don't typically fit over my feet (and certainly not my calves) these are form-fitting but accommodating. They're cozy. They go on easily and don't rearrange my fat into a a slug-tube that would offend even Renoir. They seem to say "oh this is your shape? Okay, we can do that." 

I'd imagine they'll last a few weeks at work, so I'm going to try to resist wearing them in the metalworking area. (Days I know I'll be doing a lot of welding I actually just wear leggings under my boiler suit. Much easier to move than fighting the canvas-denim friction war.) But they are unfortunately very comfortable, not too unflattering, reasonably priced and readily available. I am such a conformist.


In other news, as of last week I'm a certified first aider for my workplace. I've been working for Central for nearly a year and a half now, and while that's peanuts compared to some of my colleagues I feel ready to engage more thoroughly with the operations of the school than previously. I'm also doing a lot of paperwork with regard to the healthy and safe usage of my props students' classroom materials these days, around the day-to-day carpentry and workshop supervision. It's involved, but I always have something I can be doing (which I'll gladly take over being bored.) 

First aid has really changed since last time I took a class in 2008. Well, maybe it's just different as I'm in a different country and doing a different form of first aid--this is simple FA at Work, with the expectation that paramedics and trained, equipped hospital staff are right around the corner, that while the situation may be urgent it's rarely so urgent that you need to get creative to stabilize someone, and that there's typically a dry indoors to remove yourself to in inclement weather. It is different in scope and in approach to Wilderness First Aid in almost every way. I didn't have to make a bandage out of the casualty's bra or pull traction with a jib-boom. Despite low survival rates of cardiac arrest without speedy defibrillator access, you are expected to keep going with the CPR until help arrives, not until you get too tired to continue. We did not learn how to move someone with a suspected spinal injury or how to improvise a back-board out of a tent. We learned no triage models and practised no knots. For the most part, aside from raising injuries above the heart and putting pressure on wounds, CPR and the recovery position, the bulk of first aid at work is "reassure the casualty, phone for an ambulance and monitor vitals." Fair enough. 

Seems like CPR in general has gotten simpler, though--less cerebral, anyway. There is no distinction between artificial respiration and full CPR in this aid style, which is handy. Just jump in there. Choking response begins with 5 back blows before launching into 5 abdominal thrusts, which makes sense. It's funny, coming from different areas of life-saving expectation, the different ways I've been taught to encourage someone to breathe are not only numerous, but conflicting. For drowning events, you're taught how to begin abdominal thrusts in the water, while swimming. I don't think a back blow would work very well in that instance, but maybe I'm wrong. Once you get the casualty (in the US the victim) to terra firma you begin with horizontal abdominal thrusts--you kneel around their knees, knit your fingers and shove away from yourself on their abdomen above the navel. It shoots water out of the lungs with impressive force. It can also badly injure other organs, but that is considered secondary. Only then do you start AR, and if they don't cough you'd start CPR. I don't know if this is current technique for lifeguard training--that training was from 15 years ago--but it requires much more thinking and ordering of response. Not "check for breathing for 10 seconds, if you do not detect a response begin CPR, a simple 30 chest compression to 2 breath ratio"--much less thinky and specific. All crafted with an assumption that the first aider will be pretty freaked out, so keep it simple and easy to remember. 


Today we scrubbed the kitchen floor, after an unfortunate case of digitis butteris led to the demise of a coffee-filled mug. It is probably the cleanest it has been in a year. We keep looking at it approvingly. We've also been able to do laundry and hang it in the garden to dry, which is fabulous. The rest of the neighbourhood's washing machines are likewise whirring away. Ah, returning to some semblance of in-house civilisation. Ah, spring!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dang, Not Bad

So I've been busy this year. The neglect suffered by this blog is probably evidence enough of that, but I haven't just been grocery-store post-office busy. I've been scratching my name on some pretty important milestones since January 2012, many of which you only do once (or at least only want to do once.) Namely:

I started working at Central. First 9-5, 5-day a week permanent full time job I've ever had, and I plan to keep it. I pay into a pension, have my tax deducted automatically, buy an annual travel-card, am entitled to sick days and am required to take my allotted holiday leave. I have a desk and a computer that no one else can use. I manage the supply inventories so I control how much of everything we need and know where it all belongs. (Well, I know where most of it belongs. A lot of it, anyway.) I fix things when they break. I teach students good work habits before they develop weird ones on their own. My employment end-date is my 65th birthday. It really is not a gig. It's a career. That's cool.

I prepared for and followed through with Getting Married. It was fun. It was pretty. Boy and I are happy. And we never have to do it again.

I visited Devon and Deal for the first time. They were both very lovely in their own ways. The sea around England is so much prettier than the beaches of South Carolina and gulf coastal Florida. The sea is always a dark, muddy green there, if not simply brown. I realize it's the algae in the area and not strictly South Carolina's fault, but cold water is so clear and blue and beautiful, or such a clear emerald tone, it's just absurd. The first time I put my toes in clear seas was in Honolulu in 1999, and I thought I was doing something rare and special. How was I supposed to know that the sea is clear or a pretty colour most everywhere except where I grew up?

My family is going through a hard time on several fronts, difficulties that I sincerely hope none of us ever have to deal with again. I have little excuse to feel sorry for myself in these trying times, as it's not really me who's sad, and the stories are not mine to tell, so they won't make their way onto these digital pages. Why blog if not to fling complaints into the void? My little home is happy enough--Spouse has been ill but is 80% better, work is cracking on, it is nearly April but no one has bothered to tell the snow--in other words, nothing to report, sah.

Poor neglected pages. I have nothing to tell you.

Oook! Oook! baaaa...

Hats off to the government. I do salute you. No one else has the audacity to pull your stunts--writing laws, breaking them, then gathering the shards and declaring them the new law! I appreciate your brazen, no-holds-barred outlook on legality almost as much as I celebrate your similar attitude toward internal codes of practice and your relationship with the globe's larger governing bodies--the EU, the UN--whose precisely delineated policies you bravely disregard, and from whose judicial systems you triumphantly evade prosecution! Three Cheers for You! Hip hip-hooray! Hip-hip...

Sod it. No. That's the attitude I'm supposed to maintain, I know, as a foreigner, as a hopeful, as dangerous overseas scum, but I just can't maintain the façade without it putting strain on my rebar. Too many lies, too many law changes, too many nonsensical forms, too many badly-spelled threatening letters from faceless bureaucrats. My nerves are shot. I think I'm being watched. I'm losing sleep and packing on pounds.

First, the good news: This past Wednesday I was granted provisional leave to remain in the UK for a period of 30 months.

Now, the fine print.

They changed the criteria for and the parameters of the category for which I was applying a full four months after I applied, but nevertheless applied the changes to me. 

The fact that someone used my application form to line a bird cage for six months meant that by the time they looked at it, the form I filled out was no longer legal, and the category I applied to enter no longer existed. I should point out that I sent the application form certified signed for via the appropriate channels, and received a letter of confirmation that they would be considering it soon a week after I submitted the application form and the relevant (substantial!) fee.

Last time I applied to extend my stay, I submitted my forms, paid my fee, and waited. Three months after I applied I caught wind that the category I applied under was being done away with, completely and permanently. I was legally barred from asking questions about my application form until 14 weeks had passed, so on day one of week 15 I called and after two hours on hold was politely told not to worry, that because I had applied long before the change was announced they could not apply the change or cancel anything regarding my application retroactively. I was granted 2 years leave to remain as a post-study worker, exactly as I applied for, one of the last few to eke through.

At the end of August of 2012 Spouse and I submitted a form to apply to extend my clearance to remain in the country, as his wife. I filled out a fairly simple and straightforward form on their official website--one that asked a few general questions at the beginning, to help it decide which questions to ask you (for instance, if you answer 'no' to the question, "Do you have any dependants who are applying with you?" it skips about eight pages worth of questions about them. Likewise, if you answer 'yes' to "Do you live with your spouse?" it re-phrases questions about housing to sound relevant to both of you.) then tells you how to pay and suggests a number of documents you need to send along in the post. The form and the money go straight to the office through the interwebs, and they ask you to send your travel and supporting documents along in a registered mail envelope soon, but in your own time. We sent along our passports (Spouse's current, my current and expired), council tax bills, pay stubs, bank statements and utility bills from the past three years, our tenancy agreement, letters from mutual friends, our marriage certificate, PAYE information, several self-labelled passport-sized photographs and several other talismans, nearly a kilogramme of original-not-photocopied paperwork accounting for our every movement since 2009, crossed our fingers, and waited.

A little over a week ago I received a packet in the mail which contained a cover letter, a passport, and a sheaf of papers. I was excited for about three seconds, before I realized the sheaf of documents was actually a blank forty-one page form, with my husband's and my self-labelled photos stapled to it. The passport belonged to my husband--it had been photocopied but otherwise left alone. This was baffling--after six months of waiting, with no travel documents, no communication, and no public announcements except occasional newspaper articles about this department's incompetence, I expected any letter from them to be either good news or an announcement that, what with the unfortunate circumstance that the office had gone completely feral, the copier shaman's most recent bonfire had set off the sprinkler system and destroyed the hanging file hut.

I read the letter carefully, twice, three times, and it made less sense on each pass (mostly because each time I read it I noticed more grammatical errors). 'Please reply promptly and include: the completed updated form, a letter from your employer confirming that you work there, how much money you make, how long you've worked there, and how much they've been paying you what they're paying you, and a letter from your husband's employer confirming that she (?) works there, how much money she makes, how long she's worked there, and how long they've been paying her what they pay her.'

We had submitted pay stubs and bank statements as evidence of, not income, but our ability to maintain ourselves. As a dirty foreigner I have never been eligible for, nor will I probably ever become eligible for public support or state money. As my husband, Boy has waived his right to public support too. This is something we have always been aware of, and the state has always made a point to remind us in bold font that we may not, we must not, we better not try to claim benefits, but yes we must pay into the systems that fund British people's handouts, even if we're unemployed. This falls neatly into all nations' traditions of telling new immigrants to go fuck themselves. Whatever, I never asked the state to like me.

But now they've decided that, despite the fact that they have absolved the state of any responsibility for us, even if we're reduced to living under a bridge (and moreover, if we do get caught living under a bridge, rather than helping or imprisoning us they'll just send me away and then Boy will qualify for handouts), we need to have proof of above-median level funds and income if I want to stay in the country. This contravenes several laws passed by the EU about introducing unreasonable barriers to the cohabitation of married people, the fact that they have a duty to facilitate the naturalization of their citizens' legitimate spouses unless one is a criminal (neither of us are. I got a speeding ticket in 2007 for going 59 in an area that was normally 65 but had been lowered to 55 in advance of construction work. I didn't notice the temporary sign. My B. The last time I had anything to do with the Fuzz was in 2011 and I was calling to let them know I had witnessed a dog fight in my local park--as in, two adults standing in the grass, lining up their dogs with leads on, pulling the leads off and encouraging them to attack one another. They thanked me for letting them know and sent an officer to the area. London takes all kinds.) and the fact that they, like all government departments, are forbidden from discriminating against the working poor. I realize that the BNP and UKIP are scared of poor Romanian and Polish immigrants coming in, taking their jobs and their unemployment benefits (simultaneously?), and of course the Tories are afraid of anyone brown, but seriously, making it impossible for the real spouses of real citizens to really live with them just because they're not among the top 50% of earners? What the hell is wrong with you?

Thing is, they changed the law so as to require, not me, not us, but my Citizen Spouse only to earn above the national median in order for me to be allowed to remain. Boy must be able to independently provide for both of us, regardless of my income or earning potential. I assume that this is not a sexist thing, and if our roles were reversed that I would be required to provide for him, but the point is that if he's not reasonably well-off by himself, I get deported. Fun! A couple featured in the Evening Standard last week had exactly that happen--she was an Australian but earned £26,000 a year (this is bang on average, above median by about £5,000, and works out to about $40,000 p.a.), he was a citizen and a gigging musician and managed to scrape in £7,500 ($11,000, below the poverty line) in 2012. She was kicked out. Now they've joined the ranks of the Skype-bound, desperately clinging to their marriage over ten thousand miles of land and sea. They're appealing on human rights grounds, and if their case is allowed to set a precedent the state may be forced to discard their new policy which is clearly a deliberate attempt to exclude as many poor or financially-fragile from the immigration process as they can.

Boy and I didn't have this problem, but we might well have. The couple in the newspaper article was news-worthy precisely because they were not so different from us--educated, employable, English-speaking and (I'm not blind) white. Moreover, we have to go through this another three times, and who knows what the future is going to hold for the publishing and theatre industries? We strive to live frugally, but the dollar is volatile and my student loans repayments aren't cheap, so aside from our work-based pensions we're not doing a whole lot of saving. If he loses his job and we haven't managed to shove £20,000 into a footlocker, the next application (let's call it a refresher) will be summarily rejected.

The Next application, you gasp? Surely you became a citizen the day you popped that ring on your finger?! Surely you're as British as mushy peas by this point? Surely there is nothing for the State to dick around with once you're married--it's just a formality now, right? Oh you poor sheltered doll, Nora. No no, Britain wants to make sure, not the most loving, not the most devoted, not even the most resolutely determined, but only the most wealthy unions between citizens and outsiders survive. This is why they have changed the rules (and again, retroactively applied them to me) to ensure that couples live together under the Probationary Leave to Remain (PLR) visa category for 5 years before applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, whereas when I applied this was 2 years, but they have not extended the period of the PLR to match. No, the PLR is. . . here, I'll make you a little table of changes.

2012 FLR (M) Important Bits
Length of Application Form: 18 Pages (6 pages of check-lists)
Visa Period: 2.5 years (30 months)
Financial Requirement: Provide evidence that you can provide for yourselves without state assistance.
Evidence of Finances: At least 3 months of bank statements and pay stubs from either or both partners.
Next step: ILR (SET (M))
Requirements for SET (M): 5 years of legal residency in the UK, continued marriage to and cohabitation with the same spouse, continued evidence that you can provide for yourselves.
Relevant period of residency for application for citizenship: 2009 (student), 2010 (Post-Study Work), 2013 (FLR (M)), 2015 (SET (M)).
Cost of Application (FLR M (561), SET M (991), Naturalisation (1562): £3114 (as of today)
Earliest UK Citizenship Application Date: 2017.

2013 FLR (M) Important Bits
Length of Application Form: 46 Pages (1 check-list page)
Visa period: 2.5 years (30 months)
Financial Requirement: Provide evidence that the citizen in the house earns at least £18,500 per annum, plus £3,000 for each child (if any). If you cannot provide this evidence, provide evidence that you and your spouse hold at least £16,000 cash in savings
Evidence of Finances: At least 6 months of bank statements and pay stubs from both partners, letters from both spouses' employers verifying their employment, their start-date and rate of pay, changes to pay in the past year and job title.
Next Step: FLR (M) Renewal
Requirements for FLR (M) Renewal: Not less than 29 nor more than 30 months of continued residency under FLR (M) immigrant category, continued marriage to and cohabitation with the same spouse, fresh letters from employers, pay stubs and bank statements evidencing that the citizen earns at least the national median income
FLR (M) Renewed Visa Period: 2.5 years (30 months)
Next Step: SET (M)
Requirements of SET (M): at least 5 years of residency in the UK under FLR (M) category only, continued marriage to and cohabitation with the same spouse, more letters from employers, pay stubs and bank statements evidencing that the citizen earns at least the national median income.
Relevant period of residency for application for citizenship: 2013 (FLR (M)), 2015 (FLR (M) Part 2), 2018 (SET (M)).
Cost of Application (FLR M (561), FLR M2 (561) SET M (991), Naturalisation (1562): £3675
Earliest UK Citizenship Application Date: 2020.

The "Earliest" dates here are of course assuming that the relevant departments process each application level in 6 months or less. This is optimistic, I know, but I had to give HR a loose time-frame.

It is worth noting that the 46-page application form is riddled with grammatical errors, evidence of blind copy-pasting from other forms (numerous pages ask for data that I can't legally have, data that I'm in the process of applying for, data that they just asked for on the previous page, data that makes absolutely no sense*, data that only applies to refugees (but I'm not exempt from filling in)), and an array of veiled and blatant threats, mostly having to do with the fact that they can reject an application for any reason, but under no circumstance will they give your money back.

We have 29 months now in which we can relax and not think about immigration. Who knows what the law will be in August 2015? Maybe there won't even be laws by then. Maybe the Gregorian calendar will be abolished by then and we'll have to submit the next application form in Metric Time. Maybe America will have annexed the UK by then and Boy will have to apply to be My spouse. Maybe the EU will have collapsed. Maybe the state will get soft on immigration. Maybe one day, just one day, they'll dust off and fill up all of Heathrow's passport control desks.

We'll just have to see.

*6.Do you and your spouse currently live together? If YES, proceed to question 7. (Yes)
7. Does anyone aside from your spouse live in the accommodation you plan to live in? (Er, Me?)