When I was about six months old, my parents moved to the States.
Don’t worry, that’s not the start of a “I managed to find them” joke – they took me with them.
We lived there until I was about three. Consequently, my very formative years were spent in a country I remember very little about, and what I think I remember I’m not sure if, and as I suspect, by some weird process of osmosis, I remember because I’ve seen pictures and slides of us living in America and I’ve subconsciously assumed those as my own memories.
(At this point, if this were a documentary, there would be footage of me running around in a garden somewhere, or getting my head stuck in some railings (a popular past-time of mine, I’m reliably informed), or trying to run off with Mickey Mouse. And at this point, you, instead of thinking “Awww, what a cute kid!” would be thinking, as I always do when I see documentaries including such footage of the subject: “Rich fuckers, owning a video camera in 1972!”)
So there is no video footage of me as babe in arms (seems an appropriate term) in the US of A.
When I returned to the UK (with family in tow), as I had learned to talk in America, I had a Yankie-Doodle accent. This stayed with me, unchallenged, until I started junior school, when it was emphatically punched out of me. Several times. S’why I’m so pwetty.
Years later, when I left home, I found myself living in Wales for twenty years (I’ve made that sound like more of a penance than it actually was – for the record, I would not trade my time in Wales for anything), and nowadays, when I tell people I lived that side of the border for so long, they often comment, surprised that I don’t have a Welsh accent (conversely my Welsh friends tell me I cannot even do a Welsh accent). I suspect these two things are linked, and that my subconscious-self refused to let me pick up another accent, for fear of having seven bells of shit kicked out of me again. (It almost happened twice when I lived in Cardiff, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both occasions took place when football was involved. But, these are stories for another day)
Since I’ve lived back in the UK, I’ve noticed, as I’m sure most of you have, more and more American-isms creeping into our lives: McDonalds; Drive-throughs; Saying “Can I get…” instead of “Can I have…”; Refusing to take responsibility for our own clumsiness and suing someone you have a vague idea you may be able to pin the blame on; Clinical obesity; Warmongering (actually, we were pretty good at that before we got into bed with the Americans) et cetera, et cetera, in the midst of life we are in death et cetera.
I don’t think those early years living in America have had too adverse an effect on me. Although, now I think about it, it would explain my predilection for starting illegal wars over oil fields I have no ownership rights to, and how I love to spend a Tuesday morning gunning down innocent multiple school friends of mine whilst wearing a big heavy leather overcoat, like Keanu in The Matrix, whilst imploring that I have a right to bear arms, as laid down constitutionally in 1791, because nothing has changed in the world since then then, right?
Anyway, one of the things I think I remember from living in the States, is Halloween, another Americanism foisted upon us Brits.
I do have some vague memories of being dressed up as Spiderman (scary, right? I think my costume perhaps reflects well on my parents not wishing to get too immersed into this tradition) or something similar and being dragged round the houses in my block, a bucket shaped like a pumpkin on my arm, ready to take ownership of any sweets or chocolates kindly neighbours may decide to festoon upon me.
I say “think” because the sensible part of my head screams “You were only two, how can you remember this??”
Which means I probably have osmosed this scenario into my own time stream.
That’s right: for me, ET is at least one part documentary.
Anyway, I now have my own Halloween ritual. It goes like this:
- Go to local supermarket and buy loads of chocolates and sweets
- Return home, draw curtains and take the batteries out of the doorbell
- Spend the rest of the weekend eating said chocolate and sweets, ignoring the shouting from outside
4. Listening to the only Halloween record worth listening to. The only record that makes me feel about 8 years old and excited about Hallow-fucking-een.