22 September 2011

Heart, soul, bollocks...


I made a decision recently, to remain exiled, well distant (non-melodramatically speaking) from my cultural landscape, meine Heimat, my home land. To remain in a job and land that is not England, but culturally very similar to it, at least in many areas. A well off Western European democracy, at least until rocked by the changing economic climate from which no country seems immune. Similar reality tv shows, cooking ones, pop idols, superstars, selling your house. The same things interest the German & English people, it seems.

It started me wondering, what exactly is my cultural landscape? What is it that I miss most about England now that I do not live there? Fish and chips, roast beef dinners? Not so much as curry, good Bradford curry takeaway... Marmite, stuffing, the supermarkets being open on Sunday so that Saturday is the heave of relief at another work week finished, a day of idling and pleasing myself, and Sunday is the day of sorting stuff out. I have to be more organised here, think ahead. But wait, this is things, not culture...

English music, often original, at least in the sub-culture; all I hear here are chart hits, Americana and the occasional Kult-hit from the 80's. English books... thank you Amazon. There is nothing like browsing in a bookshop, so I make sure to do this when I go home, make sure I pick up new authors that might be interesting rather than collecting the back catalogue of ones I already know about. English film, well, I tend not to watch too many films anyway, do occasionally watch English ones (as opposed to Hollywood ones) as well as independent films - Chinese, Korean, Mexican, German... I am not sure I would call watching a film culture though, although conversely, English tv is something I miss - surreal sit-coms, comedy that celebrates cleverness and word-play (think QI, Have I got news for you, Whose line is it anyway?) but even then they are green triangles in a Quality Street morass of toffee.

My heart and soul... well, the logical scientist part of me says, they are where they have always been, firmly embedded in my chest, thank you very much. The emotional part that says I am so far from loved ones gets battered down most of the time with logic - they are a phone call away, it is a short plane ride if there was an emergency, even if you lived in England you may not live close enough to pop in. My heart says if I made myself more available to people they would love me more... my soul says, bollocks.

The landscape for sure, I miss the sea. My friends excuse my strangeness, Sie ist auf der Insel, we are expected to be strange there. The island-ness of England is not something I miss so much as the edge; at the shore there is a definite edge. Not so much a yearning across the space for something, more a content-ness to be on the edge, distant from clamour, time to watch the tide, the waves wash in and out and feel the liquid pulse of the world. There is perhaps a little bit more distance in most English psyches, and that perhaps explains best why I chose to remain wistfully, nostalgically away for a couple more years.

There is no conclusion, I will keep on wondering what a cultural landscape means, whether I am a citizen of Europe rather than a country, whether home is where you live or where you would like to live, and pine quietly for the edge of the Insel.
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