And then there were four…
Husband left tonight on a flight back to London. It’s the first installment of our new ‘life plan for the year’ where he goes to London every so often for work. He left with man-flu, so it wasn’t a great sending off. I was trying hard to give love and hugs before he went, but I’ve only just felt healthy myself and I kept wincing with that horrible need to stand a foot away and detox everything he touched, the very moment after he touched it. He’s a germa-phobe so fortunately he understood. The flip side of that, of course, is more the truth; that I worry about him more than my other four boys put together but man-flu is unbearable!
From the moment he left, I felt that awful distance. Not so much between us, but the physical distance of our lives in both of these countries. London and LA are so far away from each other, the plane journey is a significant one and the time difference challenges any relationship, business or personal. To have a real life in each requires a slightly schizophrenic existence where you’re never completely where you are because there is a part of you that exists fully in the other land, far far away.
Now this isn’t a bad thing and unlike previous moves in my life, I don’t feel like I live in the middle of the Atlantic, instead of one country or the other. I just feel, secretly and shockingly, more English sometimes than I care to admit to my LA brethren and that makes me a bit of an alien in my own country. Weird.
We went to the new Soho House here in West Hollywood where London meets LA in the most spectacular way. On top of a tall building sits the penthouse club with 180 degree panoramic view of the ocean to the San Gabriel mountains, vintage European styled furniture that resembles London lounging spots, a snooker table and a 30′ bar to sit at and pose/chat/drink. I remember sitting, probably 15 years ago, in the construction site in Soho with bottles of cheap wine and four or five girlfriends as they were building the first Soho House – one of our mates was in charge of the build. Somehow, all these years later, I’m dining under California olive trees, discussing English politics and the Millaband brothers, quietly acknowledging the merging of my two worlds and thankful I am now able to drink the good stuff.
Everyone always wants to know which place I like better, London or LA? To me, it’s become a question I can’t answer. I feel strangely English in my LA reincarnation, not because I have a weird, affected (as they say) accent, but because I understand and can feel the nuances of the English culture as I analyze the American one. Americans live by a lot more rules and actually seem to enjoy having them. The ‘do’s and don’ts’ list is huge in every aspect of one’s life; mustn’t park the car that way, mustn’t let the dog off the lead, mustn’t eat that, mustn’t cross that line.
Everyone thinks the Brits are far more proper and concerned with etiquette, but that’s because their ideas come from age-old cultural values, good or bad, and it’s all said with that accent! Americans will want to buy the book on etiquette, take the class that qualifies you to have that opinion, or, form a consensus on the right thing to do, and they’ll voice it loud and clear. I love the enthusiasm that being amongst Americans gives me, but at times the rules feel like they are there for breaking.
Take the soccer league here, called AYSO. A parent is not allowed to scream from the sidelines too much. I’m serious. Husband already had a ref flag him down twice for shouting and that was only game one. In Kingston where all my boys played and husband was the coach, it was almost expected that the dads, and moms thank you, yelled abuse at their sons to perform. The coddling came later, the game was fierce, loud and full of expletives. Not so in sunny California. Here the rules are what’s fierce and the ref is loud and ready to penalize you. They are unfortunately influenced by the litigious society we live in and I’m told the board of AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) had to employ more lawyers last year than ever before due to law suits from parents and players. Game two, with husband away and not nearly enough sleep, I challenged the ref on a penalty call and nearly got thrown off the field. Son wildly embarrassed, mother sensationally fulfilled.
My emotions were running high, clearly, and raw this past week because my eldest son was also away. With just four of us around the table, life seemed small and not as significant. Strange to wish for more chaos and loud voices. I’m a taxi service enough already but not having the other mouths to feed, and shut, made me feel terribly unsettled. Humour always helps and my little one did his trick by the week’s end.
He came home from school elated. He couldn’t wait to tell me the good news. His teacher gave him a ‘listening card’. Only him. A real treat. “And then,” he says, “if you get two cards you get to have a conversation with just you and the teacher. If you get three cards, you get to sit outside the classroom and,” he went on without drawing a single breath, “if you get FOUR cards you don’t have to go to school!!” Priceless. I guess little one’s a bit of a rule breaker too.