At the age of 44 I set off from Gatwick on the morning flight to Austin, via Houston, to start a new life in the Capital city of Texas.
I was leaving behind everything I had ever known. I am English through and through and leaving the motherland was not as easy as some might think.
Although my new abode was a beautiful two storey condo with a large swimming pool and weather good enough to make good use thereof for a considerable part of the year, it was not home. I knew it would take time.
Six years on, I have decided to write about my experiences. I was not sure where to start, so in the words of my heroine, Julie Andrews, 'Let's start at the very beginning'.
Without going into the details of the emotional goodbyes, the long transatlantic flight, coupled with the 30 minute hop from Houston to Austin, the beginning would be when I awoke on 2nd August, 2004. Unpacking was easy. My wordly goods were still in storage, and I was advised that was where they would remain until I became a citizen. I wasnt going to argue before I left, but vowed to 'sort it' when I made my first trip home in October. Citizenship may be applied for five years after residency is made permanent, which takes 3+ years. Eight years to reclaim my goods and chattles was just not on!
With a trip to Hawaii pending and my sister coming to visit, I would not start work until September. I would, in time, settle in, settle down and start to enjoy this different life.
So that was the beginning. Not too much detail, but then details dont always make the best reading. I have always been known for my ability to digress, and digress I will. I have plenty of stories from the last six years which I intend to mingle with the new. Going back and forth will keep me occupied and hopefully bring a smile to those who wish to read.
In order not to bore the reader but give enough to leave you wanting more, I will continue for a little while longer, and describe the highs and lows of the condo.
Three bedrooms, two storey's, semi open plan living area with a pool table in the recess, where the dining table should be, and a large space at the back, big enough to make an alternative dining room with a 'half bathroom' and lots of room for dressers and stands for the excessive collection of 'bits and bobs' I have collected over the years. Then there is the kitchen. My kitchen in Radlett was spacious, lots of cupboard space and a fabulous, yes FABULOUS, double oven with a split level hob. The working area of the kitchen is small. Fortunately the open plan layout keeps the claustrophobia at bay.
As some of you may know (of course, I am assuming someone is reading), I was somewhat known for my baking. I would make more desserts than bodies around my dinner table. My oven here was somewhat primative. The condo is about 40 years old, which by American standards is very old, indeed. I am firmly convinced that when Martha Washington was looking over the plans for the new Presidential Palace, which would be known as the Whitehouse, she said to George, 'There is no way I am using this old thing in my new house. Now take that oven and drop it off to those poor folk in Texas'. The ancient appliance was then firmly planted in the small community which was to become the capital city in what is now the second largest state of the union. A little over a hundred years later. an architect with a warped sense of humour, designed a condominum neighbourhood around the stove and the second condo in the second block drew the short straw.
My oven and I came to an understanding. As long as the recipe did not call for rising of any kind, it would work. I could make scones, but my cake making days were over, for now. Most things took twice as long as they should to cook. Remodeling the kitchen became less and less of a priority as more important things like learning to play the guitar, knitting jackets and swimming, took up my time. My joy was all too obvious the night the oven finally gave up the ghost. Having to cook an almost 'full English' on the barbeque wouldnt be too difficult, I thought, as I transferred the hashbrowns to the outside grill. Buying a new oven was going to be so much fun.
However, that is another story. The story of how I make myself understood to a nation that speaks a completely different English to my native tongue.
And so, I became, An Englishwoman Abroad .