6.16.2010 permanent

I was up all night filling out naturalization paperwork. Do I know how to party or what?

Fun fact: criminal convictions eventually drop off your permanent legal record. Marriages never do.

But all of my character references have been knighted - so I should be fine, right?

I just mailed the documents. I have officially applied to become a citizen of the United Kingdom.

This is how I feel about it (photo courtesy Mina Lavender):

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6.14.2010 smack

The Bumps, Suicide Sunday, fireworks every night. Balls at Clare, Jesus, and Trinity all at once with the ruckus echoing across the commons: May Week.

Quite the feature of life here, if you are an undergraduate. But if, like me, you are a displaced elderly curmudgeon, the festivities inspire nothing but the desire to smack.

But then the city yielded jousting, tractor rides, a sheep show, and a rogue infestation of Morris dancers! Plus loathing of all things football means I can ignore 98% of the conversations around me all month. Neat!

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6.14.2010 congratulations

Happy anniversary to Curt & Laina Lavender, aka my parents! The obstacles they have faced, the troubles they have endured, would have shattered any average human. But they did their best in a very bad situation - and kept laughing.

I owe them endless gratitude and of course, lots of treats.

Sincere congratulations on keeping it together for forty years:

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6.4.2010 loss

This morning brings news of an incomprehensible loss. My thoughts are with the Granju family.

RIP Henry

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6.2.2010 proximity

One of the only redeeming aspects of Cambridge is proximity to other esoteric things, like Ely!

I do adore that creepy little cathedral city. Away to antique shopping and tea with teenagers, where we encountered a bumper crop of Muscovy ducks:

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6.2.2010 maybe

If it seems like I have a tendency to make abrupt life-changing decisions without much analysis or explanation, that is because, well, I do.

However, there are always a few fundamentals. Aside from food, water, and shelter, I also require access to adequate health care. I am willing to work hard for these basics. I am also willing to compromise my preferences, integrity, and reputation by not just marrying for benefits, but admitting it in public.

I've written articles for numerous magazines and newspapers detailing the fact that I married for health insurance. I've said as much in countless interviews, including a few for the BBC.

Is there any way I could state this more clearly? How about I put it in bold font: I married for health insurance. In doing so I merely exercised the classic and traditional rights accorded by the marriage contract. I'm working within the existing legal framework to stay alive.

Relationships are something altogether different. As it happens, I have enjoyed congenial and collegiate marital relations. But I do not recognise any emotional bids to alter the essential agreement.

One example is the conundrum of geography.

My health (remember, I have two different kinds of cancer, a rare genetic syndrome, and an auto-immune disorder) is fragile and complications are often triggered by weather. Husband has career possibilities in a warm climate, or an icy landscape? So long, friend. No matter how good the program, institution, or offer, I decline consent.

While I might consider visiting, I have refused to move to Georgia, Texas, Alaska, Michigan, and Sweden. Not because I am a heinous bitch (though various husbands might say as much) but because I simply cannot live in those places, even if the jobs come with excellent affordable health insurance. Which, in my irrational homeland, they often do not.

Over the years I have accumulated additional complications - switching husbands, raising kids, abandoning and acquiring careers. But while my admittedly hardcore beliefs have softened in some regards, they have grown more stringent in others.

I can afford to live anywhere in the world. I moved to the United Kingdom because I wanted to live in a place where all citizens have equal access to basic health services. Not just me, my coworkers, my friends. I want to go to sleep knowing that every asthmatic baby, fragile pensioner, junkie, stockbroker, everyone is looked after, regardless of income.

It will take something historically tantalising to get me out of here.

And of course, it happened. B was offered a job with a prominent European research institute (for simplicity we will refer to it as Prestigious Institute, or PI) in a country with superior social benefits. However, as with all similar decisions, this was his own choice to make, strictly according to his own need and desire.

He accepted.

The question became: would I entertain the prospect of another move?

The answer was: maybe.

Before he agreed to so much as an interview, B was emphatic about one point: he would not consider taking the job (as a director) unless the contract guaranteed permanent residency for all four of us.

PI, in the form of a fellow director, agreed to this verbally over the phone. The director reiterated the statement in email. And, when I flew out to look at the place, the director made the same declaration to me, smiling and saying No problem.

The acting director even made the claim right after I said I'm a journalist. Nothing is off the record when you talk to me.

Clear enough, eh?

Those not encumbered by immigration concerns might not understand why this is important, but residency status is a critical element of life as an expatriate. I'm not a tourist or visitor. None of us came here for a temporary job placement.

This is real, forever - and your technical immigration status controls everything: the ability to work. The right to vote. Taxation. Education. Health care. Pension. Border crossings. All of it, every single formal or public aspect of life, is determined by what is stamped in your passport (or not).

It took five years to qualify for permanent residency in the United Kingdom. In a few weeks I am eligible to apply for citizenship in my own right without reference to a husband or employer-sponsor. My children are in the same situation. If successful (and it could take an entire year to hear the result) we will then have the right to live and work in any EU country.

But if we decide to move to another country now, we lose our place in the queue. My kids might be hearty enough to start again, but I am hurtling toward forty without a pension or home of my own.

So from my perspective, B can take any job he likes, anywhere in the world. If he wishes to enjoy my company he will provide access to health insurance and robust residency status, in a location that does not threaten my continuing existence.

Pure pragmatism on my part, and surely, in the rarefied world he inhabits, not that difficult to achieve.

B proceeded to negotiate other terms of the contract, periodically confirming that permanent residency for the whole crew was a core requirement of the deal.

No problem, said PI.

The contract was settled and signed.

I looked at properties, toured schools, initiated new work contacts, signed up for language classes, informed my agent and friends that I would be leaving. I started to pack. Then I asked about the process to set up residency.

Bafflement, shock! Employees junior to the director said: but that is impossible. We only offer family members assistance getting a visa, renewable each year.

Hmm. So the question I have right now is - did PI lie, renege, or were they just unprofessional to an inconceivable degree?

Regardless of the answer, one fact is clear: I will only move if provided with permanent residency.

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6.1.2010 visit

Margaret came to visit from NYC and we made an audacious bid for a transferal of allegiance. She was born in Europe, is entitled to an EU passport - why not move here?

I borrowed the most effective campaign strategy from previous jaunts with Ana Erotica. What does London have that NYC cannot deliver?

Boys!

Teeming masses of single young gentlemen!

On sunny days in the capital some of the best hunting grounds can be found in London Fields, where Young Margaret was rendered nearly speechless by the acres of attractive men in cardigans.

The visit was of particular interest to me as this guest enjoys all the creepy things I most adore. Pickled body parts? Check.

We hit the Hunterian and similar before making time to peruse Sir John Soane's house and other more benign cultural attractions.

Late one night we found ourselves in a bar in Shoreditch (I spend an inordinate amount of time in that neighbourhood, have you noticed?) to see a band.

But instead of listening to music, we stood pressed against the wall watching in nauseated amusement as strangers experienced all the stages of a relationship breaking up. Notable mainly because this place churns up so much visual freakery, and the couple were entirely mismatched. I whispered It is like Right Said Fred making out with a lady yoga teacher.

Margaret is excellent fun. I am quite serious in my vote that she kicks Manhattan as a bad habit and moves here.

Breakfast at the Front Room:

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