This weekend I celebrated my first year in DC and felt I deserved a reward. What do you give to mark the first anniversary as an expat in the United States? And why don’t they sell greeting cards for this auspicious day? ‘Well done on not getting shot’. Or ‘Congratulations, you’ve avoided Richard Littlejohn for a whole year’. I could make a fortune.
Moving to the States from the UK is like two rather incompatible people coming together; you speak the same language, but don’t really understand what the other person is on about, which is actually where the fun begins. The traditional gift in the UK for surviving a year of marriage is paper. In the States it’s cotton. You can’t make a celebratory cocktail with either, so I did the sensible thing and bought a decent bottle of wine and some pâté. Hurrah for me, Hebe in DC.
It got me thinking about the past year and so I dug out the list I had made on arrival of all the things I might do in my new life. I called it my Fuck-It List. It’s clear I was a little ambitious:
- learn the trapeze
- make my own soup
- wear high-heels regularly
- stop smoking.
Which is about as realistic as me not shouting “fuckitybollockshitwank” every time I stub my toe. So here’s the list of some of the things I have done over the past year:
Found a beautiful apartment: When I first looked for a home in DC, I was particularly pleased to discover that not only could I check the average utility prices but I could also plot the sex offenders and crime stats in the area. Never mind if an apartment is close to a gym or a bookshop. No idea about them. But kiddie fiddlers? Spot on.
Bought a Smartcard: Ok, you all have your Oyster cards but I never got one. It all seemed a bit complicated to me. Now I have the DC version. Forget about social security numbers or identity cards, once you’ve got your Smartcard, only then do you really feel you’re living in DC. I love swiping mine. Look at me, I live here! See my Smartcard!
Got my DC ID card. The photo on the card is awful. I look like a corpse. I showed it to a friend. There was a long pause.”Well,” she said. “your forehead looks nice.”
Tried some authentic American coleslaw: Looked like a nest of tiny albino worms that had drowned in a puddle of halibut sperm. And before you ask, yes I know what halibut sperm look like. I’ve watched the Blue Planet documentary. Halibut migrate annually to the same place to fertilise the ladies. You can see their sperm from space. In case you wondered, it tasted like sweet, corrugated drizzle (the coleslaw, that is).
Ate a Five Guys Burger: I don’t think I’d had a burger for about ten years and now I remember why. I slipped into a burger coma whilst looking for something sharp to prop open my eyes with. It will still be in my colon when I celebrate New Year in 2014.
Learnt how to swim under water properly: I had lessons at the local YMCA and now I am Front-Crawl Under-Water Swimmer Extraordinaire. Took a bit of work, though. I would surface, spluttering for air, as the lovely instructor yelled “Dip your shoulder, your shoulder! Else you’ll get a pie-hole full of water!” He was right. Pie-hole full of water every time.
Did stuff in the evenings: After years of working a 12-hour day, it took time to adjust to arriving home from work every evening at 6pm. I’d sit there with that look on my face that babies get when they discover they have feet. Now I have time. Theatre, museums, dance recitals, concerts, yoga, cinema, great bars and restaurants .. you name it, DC has it. One week I managed to go out every single evening. I haven’t done that since I was in a gymnastics play-off competition in 1977. And you can be home by 9pm during the week after a good night out. Here’s how to do it: leave work at 5.30pm, go for cocktails and dinner, then walk home. Bed by 10pm. IT CAN BE DONE. You just have to not live in London to do it. Yeah, sorry about that. Or you can just laze about at home. The other evening I danced around my beautiful apartment listening to loads of music on Spotify, drinking nice red wine and shouting “fucking genius” every time I played Beethoven’s Symphony No 7.
Watched the Superbowl: American football isn’t a game, it’s an equation. I don’t understand it at all. The televisual build-up to the big game earlier this year by Fox Network included extraordinary footage of American heroes – football players, military types – reading passages from the Declaration of Independence. Forgive me for being a thicky but what has a 1776 document that basically told the Empire to take a flying fuck got to do with sport? It would be like Motty reading out passages of the Magna Carta before the FA Cup Final.
Enjoyed the perfect Sunday morning: Proper coffee, the New York Times and DC’s best radio station, Classical WETA (www.weta.org/fm – thank you PBS). Back of the net.
Celebrated Gay Pride Week: The very first thing anyone moving to DC must do is be adopted by a group of lovely gay gentlemen. This will provide many nights out and much laughter. Plus you get invited to all sorts of fun and games during Pride Week. One of the highlights this year was attending a charity fashion underwear show featuring muscly young men in their knickers, a couple of drag queens and a lesbian called Hunter.
Lasted a year in DC without being fired: Managed this despite telling my boss that if he wanted someone infallible, he should have hired the Pope.
Let’s see how the next year goes.