The definition of "home" is an interesting one. My idea of what constitutes home may be different from other people's. To me, Laguna Beach is home. I've lived here for twelve years, I choose to live here and I absolutely love living here. Yes, I was relocated to Southern California initially, but, after another reorganization when my company relocated to New Jersey, I chose to stay, despite the fact that it meant leaving the company. So, Laguna is home.
The people who ask if I miss "home" think that because I'm English I miss Britain and living in Britain, so OK, let's go there.
The quick answer is no, I don't miss living in Britain, however, there are some things I do miss about Britain's offerings, and since this year has been so British-focused, with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics in London and the 50th anniversary of James Bond, I've been thinking a lot about my home country. So, in no particular order, here are a few of my favorite things I miss about "home."
1. British junk food. Although I do eat bags of chips here in the US, I’m not a huge fan of US chocolate at all, and since I'm also not a cookie, cake or ice cream person, it’s easy for me not to eat any of that stuff. However all bets are off when I’m in the UK. There are things I crave that I just can’t get here: Twiglets and Quavers are my absolute favorites, along with packets of crisps in all flavors. When it comes to chocolate, I could go crazy: Flakes, Ripple Bars, Lion Bars, Double Deckers, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Galaxy, Aero…… wow. All great, which is why I usually gain weight every time I return from a trip to the UK.
2. The National Health Service (NHS). I don't want to get into politics here, and by even raising this I run the risk of offending people. However, there's a reason that, for the most part, Brits are proud of the NHS and that it featured prominently in the opening ceremony for the Olympics. I know it's not perfect, but we have a system in the UK that enables everyone, regardless of income or age to be treated by a doctor or a hospital if they have a health issue – for free. I'm going to leave it there, without further comment, other than to say I'm really glad it was there for my Mother and Father when they were alive and both needed it.
3. Affordable tertiary tuition. Until relatively recently, all university education in Britain was free. Over the past couple of decades, there have been protests and demonstrations because the government started charging for university education, and it now stands at around £9,000 per year (about $13,000 per year at current exchange rates.) In the US, that's cheap. My two major worries in life are that I can’t afford to pay for a serious illness and that I can’t afford Fiona’s college education. Again, another political grenade that I really don't want to throw, other than to make a comment that good health and a good education should be readily available to everyone.
4. Country pubs in summertime. Ah, the joys of strolling to a pub, preferably adjacent to a river, sitting at a picnic bench with a pint of great local beer, as the sun still shines at 10:00pm. There are fewer pleasures in life than that. And this one is quintessentially British. Yes, there are great bars in the US but there’s something magical about the English country pub that transports you back in time, or to an episode of Inspector Morse. Which brings me to the next point.
5. Great cerebral British dramas. Thanks to PBS and BBC America, we are able to get more of them here. Thank goodness, or Downton Abbey would have passed us by. As a huge Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis fan, I’m grateful for Masterpiece Theater. There's also Wallander and George Gently and I’m sure many more fabulous drama offerings that we just don’t get to see on this side of the pond. Many of them are two hours long, longer than movies, so I understand that they are slower in tempo than your average drama, which may not be quite as palatable to some. That's what makes them interesting, and that's why I miss them.
6. The ability to travel to another country very quickly. If you hop on a plane in Britain, you can get to many places in Europe in two hours, and quite a few more in three. Travel for six hours and you’re in the Middle East or Russia. Compare that with leaving California and six hours later arriving in New York, and you see why it’s so easy for people to access different cultures when they live in Britain. I do miss being able to get to France, Spain, Germany or Greece and immerse myself in different languages and great food. Yes, I know in many cities in the US you have Little Italy or China Town and other fabulous ethnic offerings, but experiencing another country is a wonderful thing.