Yesterday, at 11:20am I finished a long process of citizenship application. It took me about a year and a half between starting and ending. Now the whole thing is in the hands of Home Office. I’ll hear back between 3–6 months. I am bracing myself, relieved, tired and philosophical about a process that would have cost me half as much before June 23rd 2016.
I walked the streets of Brixton this morning looking at a street I used to live on, past another flat I used to live in, to my flat now. And I felt I belonged to my area.
I was invited to an English friends’ wedding party last night and my +1 was my friend C. who is English too. I’m attending another English friend’s wedding next weekend. And in the cloud of the smoke machine, on a dance floor in the middle of Clapton, I felt I belonged.
I also realised this morning that I grew up in Paris, literally 2h on a train away, and soon, in the next couple of years I will have spent more time in the UK than in any other place. I felt this feeling of belonging to a strange island with inconstant weather.
Belonging though is a two-way street. My resentment at being threatened by Brexit exists because I’ve put in the time. I’ve learnt how to work with people, I’ve learnt how to talk about the weather, I’ve learnt to be patient about relationships and friendships. I’ve invested in my local economy, shopping at my local greengrocers until they said hi to me unprompted (took 3.5 years). I waited until I was invited to dinner (took 3 years) at an English friend’s place. I learnt to just talk for hours in pubs and not resent the lack of a dance floor. I learnt to grow a very wide circle of acquiantainces who were English. I learnt to love seeing friends (who I love dearly) only twice a year. I learnt it takes about 6 months before a work conversation turns into a work opportunity. I have been listenening to Radio 4 every single day for the past 5 years and secretly love the Archers. I secretly dream of making such an impact I could potentially appear on Desert Island Discs. I’ve worked with some of the smartest, most educated, most politically engaged people I’ve ever met across the whole of the UK. I travel outside of London often, soaking in its sculpture parks, its estates, its quirky small museums in the middle of nowhere, it’s strange definitions of desserts. I’ve gorged on sunday roasts after a morning of walking. I’ve taken up gardening. I’ve had boyfriends who were football season ticket holders. I’ve had cream tea in the V&A’s excellent café mid-week. I’ve gone to Brighton at the sight of a sunny Saturday at the same time as half of London. I love the transport system in London. I almost never grumble in my heart, but pretend to grumble often with everyone else.
All this to fit in, to belong.
And it’s not acting, it’s infectious this way of living. I now go to Canada, Italy, New York and roll my eyes at different things in different places: crap or non-existent public transport, expensive food or healthcare, the lack of international awareness, bad education, over the top social expectations (no hugging please). Everywhere else has become a place to visit for work or pleasure, but the moment the planes starts its decent into the UK, through that sacrosaint thick-as-mash cloud, I relax. I know how to live here.
Shame on Theresa May for not understanding how much time, money and psychological effort it takes to come to the UK and learn to live here, learn to find happiness.
So when I filed my citizenship application and went to the post Office yesterday for them to take my photo and fingerprints, I was proud and happy. I can only hope the gods of paperwork will acknoweldge my belonging too.