Tag Archives: England

Smells of the past

One of the things that I remember the most about my first visit to the UK, when I was 15 years old, is the smells.

My host house had a certain smell, definitely not something I had smelt before in Spain. It wasn’t unpleasant, it was just different. My room had this particular smell, so did the living room and the dining room. I remember coming down for breakfast the first day and sitting down at the dining table and looking around me, taking everything in, and trying to figure out what the smell was.

I then went to the school were my course was taking place. And this place had its own particular smell too! The classes, the bar, the restaurant. It was all so different. I knew I was in a different country and I expected to find differences. It just didn’t occur to me that even the smells would be so particular.

This didn’t bother me, so I stopped paying attention. It just stayed in the back of my mind until I returned the following summer. I had had a great experience the first time round with my host family, so I requested to stay with them the following year too.

When I got there, the second time, and I put my first foot in the house, the smell abruptly hit me in the face. Suddenly it was like going home, the familiarity of the smell simply made me happy.

I have never been able to discribe the smell, although I have come across it several times during my travels in the UK. In the back of my mind I have always thought that it’s a mixture of old carpet, cooking butter and whatever product the use for cleaning. But I have also smelt it (or something very similar) in places with new carpets, or kitchens where I know for sure that butter isn’t used for cooking. So I honestly don’t know what it is.

If I am lucky enough to smell it, even if it’s just once a year, the smell transports me to that first summer in Kent, where I discovered this country that I love so much and where my passion for everything anglo started.

Thanksgiving 2012

The States are celebrating Thanksgiving today. Along side Halloween, Black Friday and other special days, Thanksgiving has slowly crossed the Atlantic and more and more Europeans celebrate this day as well. Not because we feel the need to say thanks to anyone, but because what better excuse to gather around family and friends and feast on turkey? Jon and I already had a “Hallowthankmas” dinner with some friends a couple of weeks ago (no need to explain that Hallowthankmas stands for Halloween+Thanksgiving+Christmas, although none of us dressed up.. the Halloween bit came from the pumpkin pie we had for pudding)

So since today is Thanksgiving, and I don’t mind adopting north american traditions, here is my list of reasons why I am thankful today:

– I am thankful for my husband. He is my best friend and I honestly can’t figure out what my life would be without him. He understands me, he makes me laugh, he is patient with me and above all, he loves me as much as I love him. What else could I ask for?

– I am thankful for my job. I know I have complained lots about it in the last couple of years, but when I come to think about it, I am so very lucky to be where I am. Here I have been appreciated for my work, I have been promoted, and the most important thing is that I am comfortable. Comfortable with what I do (yes, I’ve had my struggles, but I have conquered them too), comfortable with my boss (he’s the best), and comfortable with the rest of my colleagues. I know how important it is to feel both comfortable and appreciated in the workplace, and I am thankful for having found it (despite the negatives)

– I am thankful for science. Scientific and medical developments have been an important part of my life in the last few months (more to come on this) and I am so very helpful for that.

– I am thankful for technology. For making my life easy everyday (although I sometimes reminisce and say how easy life was before we all had mobile phones…)

– I am thankful for this country. England took me in when I was trying to find myself. It protected me and has looked after me since. I love it here and I am thankful that I have never had any problems. I am also thankful for its beauty, its wildlife, its scenery and countryside, its small villages and country pubs, for its diversity and for its seasons.

– I am thankful for my family. They are all a bunch of crazy folk but thanks to them I have learnt many things in life and I became the person I am today – And I must say that I am actually proud to be the way I am. From my mum I learnt not to be promiscuous, from my uncles not to be greedy, from my older brother not to depend financially on anyone, and from my younger brother not to do drugs. Unintentionally, just by observing their behaviour, I learnt and became who I am.

– I am thankful for my friends. All those people who listen to me, talk to me, understand each other, laugh with each other, enjoy each other’s company. All of them. Thanks.

We won’t eat turkey tonight, or even meet with family or friends, but I am thankful for the opportunity to sit for ten minutes to collect my thoughts and realise that there is actually a lot of things out there to be thankful for.


I think I’m special

Don’t know about special, but definitely different.

I used to be part of an online community of Spanish people living abroad (Spaniards.es – I am sure I have talked about it here before) and the main reason why I stopped participating was because I was getting fed up with all these people complaining about the UK, big things and petty things. Okay, everybody is entitled to their own opinions and of course at some point we all stop and compare our mother land with our host country. What I do not understand is all those people who willingly come to the UK, are happy to make the most of the things on offer (jobs, salaries, benefits, etc) but then can’t stop complaining about stupid things like the weather or the food.

Through that online community I have “met” lots of people who I keep in touch with via facebook mainly. Some of them happen to have a blog which they update regularly and others simply post links to external websites on their facebook wall. These links or the blog posts they write sometimes deal with “being an immigrant” issues. And despite them having lived in their respective countries for quite a while (and I am not only talking about the UK here), a lot of them still complain about the silly things.

Okay, I admit that the English aren’t the easier people to get on to begin with. It takes a bit to get to know them, warm to them, and them to you. But of course it’s not something that it is going to happen overnight. I moved to the UK in 2005 and it took me a while to get friends of my own. I managed it, but it took a while. In the meantime, my work mates looked after me (English, most of them). They understood my situation (new foreign girl in the country without any friends) and did their best to make me feel welcome and comfortable.

I have accustomed to the food and adapted it to my own preferences, and I have acclimatised to the weather. The fact that it gets dark at 4 in winter does not affect my health. I do not think that English people are dirty or rude. I do understand the stupid two-tap sink issue that seem to drive Spaniards crazy, I know I live in a different country with different customs. It would be ridiculous to expect every aspect of the British culture and way of living to be the same as the Spanish!

So, yeah, I get angry and it upsets me every time I read such generalisations on the web. Just yesterday I read a comment on a site that someone had posted about living in Germany, and the comment said something like “the only thing that keeps Spaniards abroad sane is knowing that they’ll come back to Spain soon to baste in the sun and eat jamón”. Well, I am sorry to disappoint all my fellow countrymen, but that is not what keeps me sane. What keeps me sane is knowing that I am happy with what I’ve got, knowing that my choices in life have taken me to the exact place where I wanted to be. The rest is secondary and superfluous.

So that’s why I say I am different. Because, I haven’t met many Spaniards that don’t feel like they are in borrowed land, that they don’t belong. I am definitely the odd one who actually prefers the cooler summers of the UK.

New Adventures in Hi-Fi

Yes, I think I am sure.

New adventures in hi-fi is my favourite R.E.M. album.

Not Automatic for the people. Not Out of time. Not Monster. Not Murmur (although these 4 are next in my list of favourite R.E.M. albums)

It’s not something that I’ve thought about much.  But this afternoon I really fancied listening to them, and which album came first to mind? New Adventures in Hi-Fi. And when I queued it on Spotify and the fist few notes of How the west was won started to play, a big ray of sunshine shone in my heart.

I remember exactly where I bought the CD. I was in Ramsgate in the summer of 1996 when it came out. I was big on them back then so when I walked past a music shop and I saw the big poster announcing the release of the album, I couldn’t help but to go in and buy it. I did not have a portable CD player then. I think I had just  a plain walkman, so it was a bit of torture to buy the CD knowing that I wouldn’t be able to play it until I went back to Spain a couple of weeks later.

So I then went to my house (well, the house of the family I was staying with) and I saw Matt, the teenage son of my family, and, gathering lots of courage, I managed to ask him if he could please play the CD that I had just bought (I was a tiny bit shy). To which he looked at the CD, then at me, then back at the CD, and said in surprise: “You like R.E.M. too?!” As it happens, he had just bought the album that same morning as well 🙂 Bless him, he was so sweet. I was 18 and he was 13 or 14 then and we kept in touch for a year or two after I went back to Spain.

So it’s not only the sweet memories that this album brings (teenage me, discovering this country that I love, and discovering myself too), musically the album is one of R.E.M.’s best too. There aren’t any big massive hits like in any of the previous albums (Automatic for the people – Everybody hurts, and Out of time – Losing my religion) but every single song manages to hook you into that mysterious world that the cover of the album seems to depict.

My favourite songs?

In no particular order: E-Bow the letter, Undertow, Leave, How the west was won…, Electrolite, Bittersweet me, and Be mine.

A positive experience

There’s a lot of controversy going on about the NHS these days in the UK. There have been so many complaints about incompetent doctors and uncaring nurses that you always see something in the news that make you shiver about it.

However, I have always defended the NHS. In so many years in the UK, I’ve never had a complaint to make. Not that I’ve needed medical services that often, but when I have the service has always been correct. All my GPs, from the very early ones in Portsmouth to the latest ones in Basingstoke have always treated me correctly, with respect, as a person and not as a number.

I had to go through minor surgery earlier this week. Due to the nature of the operation I was worried and stressed. It was my first ever operation of any kind. I’ve been lucky in the past and I’ve never needed medical services going beyond something that can be sorted on a quick A&E visit. So I think it was quite understandable that I was nervous.

From the moment I arrived in hospital until the moment I was discharged the treatment and manner of the staff was fantastic. Reassuring, caring and professional. At no point I felt like I was being looked down on, or even treated with contempt, like I’ve heard so many times on the national news. On contrary, everybody seemed very interested on my name (having an “exotic” surname can be an advantage in certain circumstances), where I came from, and everybody seemed to have friends living somewhere near Málaga.
I really feel sad for all those people who have actually been on the other side of the coin and experienced the worse side of the NHS care. Doctors and nurses probably deal with hundreds of people a day and I would bet that at times it is difficult to just show that you care, because, let’s be honest, they can’t care about every single person on that ward at once! No excuse, I know.. but let’s try to be on their side for once..

So here’s my little contribution, my little piece of praise towards the NHS and especially the gynaecology department at Basingstoke’s Hospital. You were all great and I deeply appreciated it. Many thanks.