Tuesday 24 December 2013

A not-so-stiff upper lip!

Was thinking the other day about how British one can become after a few years living here and realised it could really go either way, one can easily withdraw into oneself and refuse all signs of “Britishness” as a repudiation of the former self, some panic when they realise that they started thinking in English so they grow a beard and start wearing boxers, others refuse to speak English to their compatriots but mostly they grow more neurosis and despite their long London tenure they refuse to be labelled a Londoner for fear of what that might represent. Poor lambs!
Meanwhile in a parallel world not too far away, others who have passed the seven year mark have acquired a look, a special kind of look, an annoying mixture of arrogance, jadedness, know-it-all attitude and a hint (or two) of neurosis with a questionable and supposedly dry sense of humour.
These self-proclaimed veterans are also discernible through their slightly larger heads, dress sense and a politeness that is mixed between being a Brit and being wlid/bent Familia , you might not recognise yourself here or realise you’re IT; the following ought to make it easier;
when out of your own accord you’d get in line, any line and start queuing up for pure conformity, or when you say sorry more than 50 times a day, even when the man clearly jammed you with his shopping trolley in the supermarket, when you tut at people then become mortified they actually heard you or when you avoid confrontation at all costs even if it means giving up the last sandwich on the shelf or the last seat on the train! Doesn’t ring a bell? Ok how about this?
-          When you catch yourself trying to sound posh! Might be a good start to try to sound English first then upgrade.
-          When you think it’s cool to speak in a Cockney accent and evidently, you can’t hear yourself
-          When you have a specific and proven method to describe the geographical situation of Algeria using minimal words, you’ve done it so many times…
-          When you always roll your eyes and know when it’s coming “I have been to Tunisia and Morocco but never Algeria”
-          When you alternate between socialising with the Algerian and English crowds and using one as an antidote to the other
-          When someone says your name wrong and you can’t bring yourself to correct them, so forevermore you will be known as Rhonda!
-          When you always pronounce Algeria with a very deliberate A, to avoid the puzzled question “you’re from NIGERIA???”
-          When you are so tired of answering the same questions about your religion, country, race and weather, so instead you send links you have saved in your favourites
-          When you make every effort not to look Algerian (yeah you know who you are)
-          When somebody says you look Italian and you say “Ohh thank you”
-          When someone else says “oh but you don’t look Algerian” and you thank them with a beaming smile (yeah you know who you are too)
-          When you start matching your umbrella to your outfit, because you’re adaptable
-          When you work really hard at avoiding the Algerian stereotypes but people will still find you abrupt, direct, honest, and strong and other synonymous words they invented for rude.  
-          When you dread the Monday water fountain convo of “how was your weekend?” but go through it with a smile and a faint interest
-          When you feel inadequate because you only speak 3 languages
-          When you are tired of explaining such words as Darja, berber, Na3dine and why you speak french
-          When you feel pressured by the international social convention to do something on Saturday night or bare the guilt and shame.
-          When it takes you a few years to adapt to cooking a meal in less than 10 minutes, after you’ve watched your mother do in no less than 3 hours.
-          When you pride yourself in how few Algerian friends you have
-          When you are disgraced by people who pour hot water over couscous to cook it
-          When you think shop assistants are scary snobby little shits but like the rest of Britain and despite your alleged abruptness you’re too scared to say anything
-          When you hold back the tears after your haircut, but smile and say you love it
-          When you lower your voice on the phone when you see or hear another Algerian on the bus
-          When out of the whole empty train carriage, someone would sit next to you, out of indignation; you’d turn to the window and stare at it with loath shaking your head ever-so-slightly so that they don’t notice
-          When you insist on giving directions to anyone who asked rather than admit you just don’t know
-          When your sense of humour becomes a beautiful mix of random, dry with a hint of cynical
All this to drive the point home; you can take the person out of Algeria, but you can’t take Algeria out of the person.
Dz-chick…Dz-Brit with a proven track record ;)

Wednesday 11 December 2013

London's up!

It was Samuel Johnson who once said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” an outdated, Victorian (or whatever), mono-gender quote from this erudite man of letters who gave the English language its first dictionary. What does the average Londoner nowadays have in common with Samuel Johnson to use this as a life-long modus vivendi?  The man was probably filthy rich and he might have even had servants, you, don’t even have a hoover!! His London and your London aren’t exactly the same nor will they ever be, and no not even if you’re playing in a costume drama.
All this to get to the following statement whilst avoiding judgment: BORED of London!
London life has become increasingly predictable and monotonous, perhaps you peeked too soon, perhaps you are too old now and it doesn’t help when you’re being deafened by that ever-ticking proverbial biological clock, finding things mundane and unexciting, getting by on one’s low boredom threshold and very high amazement standards because not everything is “AMAZING”, feeling jaded, provoking change, waiting for a change…
Waking up in the morning; an achievement in its own, going through the same repetitive routine of brushing teeth, showering and choosing something to wear that is suitable for a work environment, one that your bastard boss wouldn’t comment on again, trying hopelessly to predict the weather so you can arm yourself with that polar jacket you bought on sale for that polar trip you think you’ll take one day, getting on the tube, standing under someone’s arm pit and someone who reads with his mouth open and understanding the need to brush ones teeth, supress gag reflex, breath through your scarf and realise you need to do a load of wash. Get to your desk all flustered and bothered cursing the choice of big coat after the barmy temperatures of the tube. Make coffee, read the daily 1000 emails, delete 2000. Smile at colleagues, laugh at bosses jokes and curse hypocrisy but rationalise it with one word: Bonus
Spend all your money and lunch break standing at Pret-a-manger, you choose the same delicious falafel warm wrap, you eat it standing up for a change whilst cursing the corporate machine, you have the same tasteless coffee and go back to slavery, there are emails waiting to be deleted.
Checking ever increasing overdraft on bank balance, never recalling where your money went despite all your best efforts to remember whilst looking up at the ceiling and frowning a little, nothing comes to mind! Nothing moves either; well at least you know the Botox worked.
Getting tired of fighting conformity, hating the fact you feel you are living on the outside because you chose to be different, but you’re not really living on the outside, unless you live on a tree, drink your own wee and shower with the full moon, then you are right in the middle, and you know it and hate yourself for it.
You watch friends and colleagues race each other to the coolest Bar right now or some stupid costume party or rather and think how far away you are from that. Always running to the west End like they had their umbilical cord cut and buried there, sometimes you find yourself standing in the cold for hours holding a drink you’ve been sipping since the first round and wonder what you’re doing there, pretending to be having fun and not freezing at all when you’d rather be on your sofa wrapped in a throw reading a good book and sipping a hot cup of tea, so you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and never come back.
You go about your London life with the same tenacity and stamina you had in your early twenties and expect it to be somehow different, you feel in a race to have more fun, to discover more of its borrowed culture, to do more things, you exhaust yourself with “fun” yet you’re hardly amused.
Just because there is a new restaurant open in town doesn’t mean London is brand new, reinvented or bearable until the next opening of the next place to be.
Sometimes it’s better to acknowledge the change and deal with it rather than go on pretending you still cared what London had to offer and spend your time and money getting there, queuing outside it or schmoozing with its punters or checking-in on your facebook.
Sometimes it’s best to recognise that when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of London and it looks like the only possible plausible FUN solution to this dilemma is to end one’s London tenure, though I doubt the verity of this very solution or the desire to solve this problematic.

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