Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Jan 14

2017 is in full swing and the dreaded inauguration day is closing in on us. Fast. We will soon have one of the most, if not the, most divisive presidents in American history. There were cries from Republicans after the election. ‘Stop protesting!’ they demanded. ‘It’s time to come together’, they said. Well, I have to say I agreed with the stop protesting part. You can’t protest the results of our democratic process. All we can do is work to change that process. The Electoral College was formed so people like Trump didn’t get into office which makes it an obvious failed experiment. But I have stayed quiet for a while. I sat and waited patiently for Trump to apologise for his hateful speech during his campaign. I waited for him to stop shifting blame everywhere. I have waited for a speech denouncing the rise in hate crimes since the election. So many of which have been committed in his name. Saying you don’t agree with it and it has nothing to do with me is just not good enough Mr. Trump. I have waited for some accountability. I have waited for Presidential Trump to emerge as the reality of the job he was awarded settled in. Yet he continues to act like an overgrown toddler. My favourite shitty Trump moment was his New Year’s tweet that might as well said ‘Happy New Year to those who voted for me and Na Na Na Na Boo Boo to the rest of you. Love!’ It’s almost laughable. If only it were funny. As long as this continues, the idea of coming together seems pretty far-fetched. So, we will probably be coming together to about the same extent that we came together for Obama. As in, not at all. I think the question is more, how do we deal with disagreeing? This is the issue that has me the most stumped. I know plenty of people who voted for Trump. I don’t agree with them, but equally, it has zero bearing on my feelings for them as human beings. These are people I grew up with, people I love dearly. That doesn’t stop because of politics. So, I’ve hemmed and hawed. What’s my roll now? Do I stay quiet? Or do I voice concern over the injustices that I am witnessing? Well, I’m dipping my toe into the ‘voicing concern’ pond and I probably won’t go back from here. But I promise to try to do it with as much grace as possible. But I will also dually prepare myself for the ‘unfriending’ onslaught that is sure to follow.
There is so much to say but I’m going to start with one value most American’s hold dear, Free Speech. I’ve been pretty inspired by Meryl’s Golden Globe speech. I loved it. But there have been many who do not share the same opinion. That’s fine but what’s not fine is this idea that she should have never opened her mouth. I clicked on a few FB links to articles expressing disgust at what she did. What bothered me the most was not the articles themselves, but the comments sections, where I saw absurd statements that she should think before she speaks. Well, I think she did just that. I also saw a littering of hateful words directed at her followed up with the hashtag lockherup, which got the desired multiple ‘likes’. So now it’s not just Hilary who should be locked up but any vocal Trump critics as well? This made my blood run cold. What kind of freedom is that? I’ve seen loads of comments stating that Meryl’s entire legacy is tainted because she chose to speak out. This attitude scares the crap out of me. It’s all too reminiscent of McCarthyism. An idea that still seems to linger in America. ‘If you don’t agree with me, then you deserve less freedom than I do.’ Bush said that not being behind him for the Iraq War was Un-American. Well no actually, it isn’t. Publically not agreeing with your government is quite American, thank you very much. Trump encouraged people to violently lash out at those who disagreed with him at rallies. If we are quiet about this attack on free speech then we aren’t doing our job. Because not allowing people a voice is just not OK. And like it or not this includes the voices of those who disagree with me. It’s your right to do so. But please don’t tell me I’m un-American for my views. That really pisses me off.
The first thing I will be sad to see go is Obamacare. I know one of the main problems for American Conservatives is Big Government vs Small Government. But unfortunately, America with its (now diminishing) superpower status makes a small government impossible. We are too big to be effectively small. But if it truly goes this way then so be it I suppose. But be prepared for what will go with it. This fear of Big Government seems to be wrapped up in a still widespread fear of Socialism which sits uncomfortably close to Communism in many people’s minds. The Cold War is still recent history after all. I don’t know how to go about setting one’s mind at ease regarding these issues but I do know that some socialist policies do NOT mean you are headed down the road of communism. I live in a nation that has exactly that. And guess what, it’s pretty damn capitalist over here. We don’t have Target but we are surviving. I have a pretty big mixture of friends on this side of the pond, who include Christian’s, atheists, conservatives and liberals. In fact, a trip to the pub with friends might include any combination of these. And no, this is not the opening of a joke. It’s real. And in this mix, I do not know one conservative in the UK who would like to see the National Health Service gone. Not one. But what I do understand is that the cost of Obamacare has put a heavy financial burden on some people, depending on your state. Georgia has suffered quite a bit due to flaws in the Act itself and also due to the Conservative State governments who wouldn’t budge and refused to work with the President. These problems are important to address. We can’t let the middle classes drown but at the same time the heal digging in that Congress did was outrageous. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just have a conversation about what might make it better? I had this conversation with Republican family friend this autumn when I was visiting my beloved homeland and it went swimmingly well! Shock. Ahhh but I digress into my fantasy of a bi-partisan society. I know it’s not possible but I love the moments when it happens. I will hold onto these and view them as progress. I will leave it there for now. Feeling a bit braver now thanks to Meryl, like I might jump into deeper waters next time… LBGT and Muslims maybe. Rocking the vote, errr I mean boat, one word at a time.

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Jul 14

Life’s greatest decisions come out of those blissful moments of complete silence. For me, the voice is never booming, just clear and strong. If I don’t have the silence required I will miss it. I will go to great lengths to find this silence. Without it I don’t know how to live. If the world gets too loud and I can’t hear my inner voice, I will retreat. Although socially awkward at times, it’s never failed me. Some call it God, some Allah, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, The Universe, Inner Voice, etc. For me it’s not important what it’s called as long as I seek it. Although, I have been partial to the word Universe for some time now. The decision to Home Educate The Monkey came out of one of those profound moments. As did the next decision to pull The Moon out of school. She has been home with us for about 3 months now. The freedom that has come from these life changing decisions has been enormous. I had even been wondering if we would bother putting our youngest in school come September, when he is due to start. I was starting to think this would be how things would progress from here on out. I was a homeschooler now. But, as the old saying goes… life is what happens when making other plans. Turns out, The Monkey had other ideas. He was thoughtful and considered when he came to me and told me that he wanted to go to middle school in the Fall. He has enjoyed being at home but he is ready to go back now. What??!! No! I know this is what we had originally planned back when I first pulled him from his lower school but I was hoping for longer. It’s just gone sooooo well. I’m not ready. He can’t do this to me! Except of course, I was missing the point. This isn’t about me. I started to feel panic as we had pulled The Moon from school now as well. I was committed Damnit. We bought curriculums! We have made friends! So I did what I always do in these moments. Yoga. A bit of quiet. By the end of the day my husband and I agreed that The Monkey should go back to school if that’s what he wanted. In making this decision, we also decided that The Bear would start as planned in September. We went back to our original thinking that the Foundation year is great fun. The Monkey and The Moon absolutely loved it and we want The Bear to have the same experience. The only difference will be, we have decided not to put him in the same school his siblings went to. We are lucky in that there are two lower schools in our small town so we choose the other one. We need a fresh start. Going backwards felt like the wrong thing to do. We are undecided about The Moon at the moment. And that’s ok with me. If you don’t know what to do, do nothing. So nothing it is. For now. If a space comes available to us at the same lower school that The Bear will attend then we will see where we are. In many ways I do feel, either all in or all out. It’s difficult when they are on such different leaning paths. Switching back and forth between child-led learning to the, toe the line, National Curriculum is brain splitting. But again it’s not up to me in the end. I’m going with the flow here. The wonderful thing so far is that it is all working out. Just not in the way I thought. The Monkey has built up his confidence and developed a strong sense of self and what his interests are AND he’s learned his times tables. This is just a bonus as far as I’m concerned. The emotional side was key. By pulling The Moon a few months later, we have given ourselves a clean slate. If she were still in school we would be attached to a school that we’ve fallen out of love with. We are now free to make new decisions. Paul and I are getting good at these now. We have made quite a team over the last few months. My husband and I are very different and there are times when that has caused us great marital annoyance. We are both stupid and smart in completely different areas. We have wasted time in the past putting the focus on the differences, looking for all the things we had in common instead of enjoying the differences, which is what we loved about one another to begin with. I think we have now come to our senses. Our differences have brought us far this year. We have closed ranks as a family and done a lot of soul searching. My spontaneous bursts of spiritual intuition would have never worked without Paul’s thoughtful and practical responses. Over the years he has learned that my intuition rarely leads us astray and I have learned that there are always practical matters to take into consideration. He makes me think before I jump and I make him jump. Together, not only have we made the decision to Home Educate but we have made decisions on how we have gone about it. Equally, together we are making decisions to put, at least some of them, back in school. We have made quite a team and I’m very proud of us. But it’s not over yet. There are plenty of decisions still to be made. We will continue to listen to our children and what their needs are but ultimately I will be listening to the silence. It knows everything.

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Mar 24

Don’t worry. The title is just to get your attention. I’m not THAT crazy. But this post is about choice. Specifically, the ones surrounding Home-Schooling. My husband and I have now taken our daughter, whom we call the The Moon, out of school as well as our oldest son, Monkey Man, whom we pulled after Christmas last year. And if we are having a big Home Ed day out (Home Education is the more commonly used term in the UK) I pull the little guy, or The Bear, out of preschool for the day as well. It’s all been pretty amazing so far. There are moments of absolute panic but generally they are only moments. As scary as it all was to get to this point, the thing I am struck with the most is how normal it all feels. From an evolutionary point of view there is nothing weird about it. It feels more normal then school ever did for myself or my children. The word Home-School is a little like the word Home-Birth I suppose. Seems like lunacy on first impression then you get an education. It’s all a very normal and healthy part of everyone’s history. School is a newish concept, as is institutionalized births. Thank God we have both of these institutions, schools and hospitals are very necessary, but it’s not the only way.

So, here we are in the middle of this other way. Once here, the choices REALLY begin. How to Home-School is perhaps the biggest minefield I have ever stepped foot in. I thought I had it all figured out. I had hired a specialist dyslexic tutor for The Monkey to come twice a week. He set the assignments and we followed the National Curriculum in a very loose way. Fast forward three months and I’ve fired the tutor, we’re pulled another child from school and are now in a process referred to as De-Schooling. This is when we try to forget about school for a while and follow the interests of our children. The idea is after this period is over we settle into either a structured/semi structured learning style or go for Un-schooling, which is basically De-Schooling full time. And here’s where it gets super complicated… Once you choose one of these paths there are about five billion ways of going about the method you choose. I get stressed out writing about it as I just can’t type as fast as I’m thinking. A chart detailing all the little sub groups from the main super groups would probably be a better method of explanation but that is boring so will resist the urge.

The De-Schooling process for me has meant lots of research. I feel like I’ve been doing it wrong as I’m supposed to be relaxing but reading is a great source of comfort for me when I find myself out of my depth. I have to read it to understand it. Hence the obscene amount of money I have spent on Amazon in the last few weeks. In all of this reading, the most interesting books out there on Home Schooling are the ones on Un-schooling. Fascinating, gripping stuff. Un-Schooling is when you don’t sit your children down to do any formal learning at all. Ever. They learn through play and day to day life. They learn reading, writing and arithmetic as they go. ‘Ha! You say?’ Well let me tell you, holy moly it works. I’ve met a few un-schoolers. It’s all happening. These children and sometimes grown young adults, are learning everything they need to know in their own time. They are not weird, unsocialised, or in any way dim. Arguably, they could be the most well-adjusted of the lot. These children have parents who trust them absolutely to learn what they need too when they need too. Powerful stuff. This way of life leads to as diverse paths as any other form of education from farming to law. I am sold. I love it. Except… I am shit at it. And this is what De-Schooling is about for the parent. Finding out where you fit. My creative process only comes after a bit of structure. I’m struggling to inspire a world of creative flow for my children unless I do my research the day before. I am cutting, pasting and reading when I’m not hanging with them. Did I mention I read a lot? Because I seem to have a natural tendency to lean towards a bit of structure my children end up on more creative tangents then they do when I actively try to Un-School. What’s funny is that my husband is probably seen as the more conventional person in our marriage and me a bit more hippy but this really isn’t turning out to be the case. My husband makes the much better un-schooler. He rocks at this stuff. They make fires, grow vegetables, build sheds and poke at dead animals. He even made Monkey Man a necklace out of a fox tooth for a carcass they found in the woods by our house. Disgusting. I don’t want to do that. Thank God we have him. He brings the un-schooling element to the table in a much more exciting way then I can. I like to gather them and engage them in something they have some say in but ultimately I orchestrate. I like to include maths and literacy in these little projects in a non-obtrusive way. For now. Eventually I see us settling into a little more formal structure in the mornings and then off to do whatever we want for the rest of the day. I will follow this as much as I can but I will be flexible. Days out, field trips and travel are priority. My choice seems to be shaping up to be a semi-structured approach.  It’s exciting to see it all start to come into place. The best part of this process is seeing what everyone else out there is doing. That’s the amazing thing about Home Education, everyone has a story. It’s not a boring bunch, that’s for sure. The reasons to Home-School are about as varied as the ways to go about it. The choice has been an overwhelming one and I’m sure I have more to make and that I’ll change my mind a few hundred times but I really dig that there are so many. Certainly this is what it’s supposed to be like. Diversity is key. If everyone took the same path it would get clogged.

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Jan 11

I have had many people, teachers and other well-meaning folks, warn me about labelling my son. I’ve taken this to heart. I have been careful up until now. But that’s over. The time has come to let him in this life changing information. We have a detailed report from an Educational Psychologist explaining Joseph’s dyslexia, dyscalculia (maths) and dyspraxia (motor skills). (Rather than talk about all of these things separately I will lump it all under the same ‘Dyslexic’ umbrella.)  This is where some people get really uncomfortable. To label my child as all of these horrible things! What I find upon further investigation is that the label is generally only a problem for people who don’t have the same issues. This concern comes out of a good place and I appreciate it. However, what isn’t understood is, that far from being a reason to not do something, the label ‘Dyslexia’ is the ticket to freedom. It offers the individual a reason to abandon prior ways of going about something and try it differently. This isn’t a bad thing. The relief that comes with the supposedly limiting label is limitless. I know because I am Dyslexic myself. I didn’t figure it out until my senior year in high school. At which point no one was listening. I was already written off as a lost cause. The Dyslexic label could have saved me a lot of grief. My teenage years were hell. If I was labelled dyslexic I would have been protected from the more damaging labels like ‘hopeless, stupid and lazy’, of which I was called all of. Mostly by teachers. Things have improved some but not enough. As you might imagine my grades were terrible. In maths in particular. I learned some but most of what I leaned came much later after my school years were over. I had one wonderful English Literature teacher named Mrs. Hunt, with an unfortunate nick name, who recognised that I was the only person in class who actually read the book. My hand written papers were a total mess but she saw past that and taught me that ultimately it wouldn’t matter. I had a grasp for the content and I should persue it. And I did. English soon became the only thing I was interested in and as soon as I was able I learned how to use a keyboard. That changed everything. For that one positive experience I have dozens of stories that went a very different way. Most of it wasn’t that dramatic. I spent much of my youth sitting in classrooms trying to concentrate but had no clue what the teacher was talking about. They always sounded a little like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons. I was in one magical history class about the Catholic/Protestant Reformation. I sat up and listened in that hour every day. I think it helped that the room was in techno colour. The teacher seemed to understand the need for visual stimulation. I loved that class and I came out of it knowing more about the subject then most of my peers but barely passed because I was unable to memorize the exact dates on a time line. I can now recognize that the information is what is important but as a kid in the state school system, where making the grade is the only measure of success, the whole thing felt pointless. As a result the most useful thing I learned in high school was how to make a bong out of Coke can. A God send for a dyspraxic whom rolling a joint was just far too fiddly. Just one more clever example of finding a different way of going about something.

The more we talk about Dyslexia the less stigma it has. It really shouldn’t be that big a deal. No one has ever died from a misspelt word. The issue is in the handling of the problem. This is what leads to depression, low self-esteem, and much worse. Back in age of evil school masters, left handed children were treated as freaks. They were physically forced to learn how to write with their right hand. We look back on that now as totally insane. Left handed children are catered for in the schools with correct scissors and seat placement. It costs very little to allow a child to be who they are. My wish is that this was also the attitude to dyslexia. It wouldn’t cost much to leave colour overlays on tables for children to pick up if they think it would help. It costs nothing to explain the end goal at the beginning of the lesson rather than the end. Dyslexics need the full picture before they can break it down into details. This is probably an over simplified view of what needs to occur but it’s a decent starting place. The smallest bit of education in this area could change the course of schooling for a child.

The decision to pull my child out of school has felt pretty radical at times but ultimately right. I have been questioned by people who worry that I am putting my issues onto my son. I’m not. He’s got them. Yes, I gave them to him, but by birth, not mind control. I’ve watched Joseph change over the last few years and don’t see any good from letting him continue the way he’s been going. The very fact that I am like him makes me the best person for the job of getting him through it. Joseph and I have a more colourful way of learning that often involves big complicated theories, intuition and resourcefulness. I want him to treasure these things about himself. They are amazing skills. In the one week we’ve been at home he is a different child. I have my happy, confident, inquisitive boy back. Makes it all worth it. Watch this space…

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Dec 9

I would not call myself a natural born home-schooler. After more than 8 years at home with three young children, feeding, weaning, potty training, ups and downs with pre and post natal depression not to mention a huge house renovation we lived onsite for in the middle of it all, I now like to enjoy myself from day to day. I happily treat myself to a manicure and/or a facial in the middle of the day and I’m not above a boozy lunch with girlfriends. I take long walks and I do a circuit training class once a week after dropping all three kids off at school and preschool. Basically, I’m living the life of frickin’ Riley… for two more weeks. Come January I will be home-schooling my oldest Joseph in preparation for his move to middle school in September. Gulp. The lower school he attends has done all they can for my guy but he’s dyslexic and he needs more. I’m sure I could find lots of people to be angry at or blame but there is no point. I am lucky enough to be in a position to step in. So that is what I’m doing. The decision to take this on started as a barely audible whisper in my head… psst psst ‘home-school Megan’. I quickly dismissed it as lunacy. Not for me. Home-school was for religious people. What about his friends? ‘Socialization’ is the buzz word when searching for reasons why not to home-school. But the smallest bit of research quickly dissolves these excuses. Yes, home-school is an option for people of faith but what interests me is that it’s ALL faiths. It’s more multicultural than most schools. I also found there are people just like me making this choice. I even found a ‘feminist home-school’ blog. Right up my alley. Socialization isn’t an issue as Joseph does better anyway when his social life and school don’t collide. He feels embarrassed all the time at school as he knows he’s behind. He’s much happier on playdates or at the weekends doing football, rugby and swimming with his mates. There are no maths lessons at the end of these events. He’s free to JUST socialize. There are also so many home-school groups its mind boggling. Joseph makes friends very easily. Socialising isn’t a problem. The word was getting louder in mind. Home-School. The biggest turning point has been hiring a specialist dyslexia tutor. He comes for one hour every week and teaches Joseph in a language he understands. It’s amazing to watch, Joseph is taught in a way that is personal to him, the penny drops and his confidence soars. It’s such a simple formula that I couldn’t keep myself from asking ‘what if he was taught like this all the time?’ This is when the whisper turned into a full on scream complete with a couple of wake up slaps across the head. HOME-SCHOOL! OK already! I’ll do it. Jeez. I haven’t entered this lightly though. My husband and I toured other schools including the State run Middle School he is due to start in the Autumn. We looked at it twice, once with Joseph and once without. It’s a good school with some passionate teaching going on. We liked it. But it’s big.  If there is any hope of Joseph being ready for that school we need to intervene. We also looked at a private school that we loved.  It’s certainly a contender but for now it’s still not as personalized as what he’ll get with me at home. Plus, I’m cheaper. No comments from the peanut gallery please. The tricky bit is that we are only doing this for Joseph. That is where the need is for now. My daughter Milly will stay where she is and my youngest Lucas is due to start school in September. He WILL go to school. I need him to go. Aside from my selfish need, that first year at school is magic. They play all day and make wonderful friends. Joseph and Milly loved it and I want Lucas to have the same experience. He’s also a different animal then the other two. I could send that child to school on Mars and he’d be fine. But Milly, well, I’m not sure. She’s sensitive and she’s already a bit jealous before we’ve even started. In the words of one of my mother’s good friends who home-schooled her two children, I will need to ‘find a way of making school special for Milly’. This is probably going to be my biggest challenge. I’m nervous and excited and getting used to people looking at me like I have two heads when I tell them what I’m planning on doing. Although, it has to be said that most people are amazingly supportive. To the critics, yes, it’s possible I am crazy. But I don’t think so. I’m only committing to six months for now. It’s a small step which I know is well within my capability. I’m following my gut. It’s never failed me before.

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Oct 4

I’ve been in fear that this blog might be dead. Some of you may have already come to that conclusion seeing as it’s been over a year since my last entry. I have tried to forge ahead but everything I write seems to be so dull that I am left with no choice but to abandon it half way through. It’s not as if there hasn’t been loads to write about. Still, I have been unable to muster up the enthusiasm to eek out 1000 words or so on the hundreds on interesting things happening on both sides of the pond. However, I have recently been inspired, at a 2 year olds birthday party of all places. I got talking to the grandmother of the birthday boy who reads my blog on occasion. She asked if I was still writing and I confessed my ongoing internal dilemma. I was not being lazy, I just couldn’t write it. She regarded me for a moment, sipped her tea and then asked if I thought it was because I was becoming more anglicized and therefore the conflict of living between the US and the UK doesn’t exist for me anymore? I froze mid bite of chocolate cake. I think this is what people refer to as a ‘watershed’ moment. Was this true? Am I no longer ‘floating’ but fixed? Maybe, but this is not an easy thing to admit. My politics have already branded me ‘un-American’ from time to time. I am deeply offended by this term and my worry is that this theory adds fuel to that annoyingly persistent fire. But it’s something I have to look at. It’s true, my world has become more insular. I’m raising three children in Bedfordshire, England. This is our home and the things that happen here are what my day to day life consists of. I’m on the PTA and one of the local preschool committees. I am involved in a local protest against a strip club being erected (sorry, couldn’t help myself) in the beautiful market town I live in and I watch my oldest son play rugby every Sunday at Ampthill Rugby Club. As much as my husband and I are determined to raise our children with a world view, we reside in a bubble. Don’t get me wrong, I love this bubble. I have no desire to ever leave it. And I suppose that is exactly the point… I feel like I belong here. I am indeed, fixed. Not floating at all.

I had an acting teacher in New York, Fred, who used to say, ‘If it ain’t personal, it ain’t shit’. I could never quite connect to this as an actress. I was far too young and self conscious, but the words stuck and this is now how I approach writing. My aim for every blog entry has been to stay true to the title, ‘The Floating Expat’, not fixed in one mind set or the other. However, It wouldn’t be completely honest to claim that I still ‘float somewhere in the middle’ as I mentioned in my opening piece ‘About’. Before anyone takes away my passport, I still feel like an American but I don’t feel the land I’ve ended up in is so strange anymore. Being a parent makes you land. I make firm decisions every day regarding seemingly small and insignificant things that will help shape the character of my three children. I can’t afford to ‘float’. Kids smell indecision from miles away and use it to wear you down. My goal in child rearing is not to be liked all the time but to be consistent and therefore, hopefully, respected and loved. Diplomacy is a good, honourable trait, but can also feel like a bit of a cop out.

Fred also said never to worry about ‘how good it is’. I’ve been true to this so far which is why the moment I did start worrying about it I couldn’t write anymore. I have no idea where this leaves us. I won’t say this is my last blog because no one respects a fake retirement but I suppose I do feel things starting to go in a different direction. The whole ‘having it all’ concept is a myth, so it’s possible it will be another year before I write again because I’ll be busy changing nappies, doing laundry and cooking dinners no one eats. But I will leave you with a few words on a small handful of the missing topics I couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t cover this year…

The Olympics… Amazing!! I was in Atlanta in 1996 and London for 2012. Lucky me! Both experiences were equally fantastic yet utterly different.

Ampthill History… Paul, my husband, recently sent me some information on the first governor of New York. His name was Richard Nicolls and you’ll never guess where he was from. Ok, I’ll tell you. Ampthill! Born and Buried. It’s a small, small world.

Chick-fil-A… Come on people, agreeing with homosexuality is NOT the issue. Is America a country of equal rights or isn’t it? Chick-Fil-A appreciation day was truly ridiculous. However, I will hand it to that dude, he makes a mean chicken sandwich. That pickle! Yum.

Obamacare… Obama was never going to save us. He is not Jesus. Nor is he the Anti-Christ. Anyone who thinks so is nuts. If Obama achieves one thing in that oval office of his, I hope it’s to make headway in America’s broken health care system. Everyone deserves healthcare. The most conservative British person would not argue this.

One last and final note… I hate to name drop BUT I happen to know a well known celebrity who lives here in Ampthill. No, it’s not the Queen. It’s Tinky Winky from Teletubbies. His real name is Simon and he has just had his third child. He is not gay. He’d like the world to know that it was a lap top case and not a handbag. I wish Jerry Falwell was alive to read this. I’m sure he’d feel enlightened.

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Sep 12

 It’s the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. Three weeks from now will also mark the ten year anniversary of my move across the pond. As I’ve touched on before, the two are intricately laced. It’s hard not to reflect back on those surreal days come this time of year. I do a pretty good job of avoiding all press, documentaries, conspiracy theories and personal accounts, but still it looms. Most accounts seem exploitative and make me feel a bit sick but I’m finding this year I’m a little less bothered by it all. I’m not so angered at people’s desires to make films and write ad nauseum about September 11th. Everyone copes in different ways. People need to feel connected to events that shape the world they live in so they sit and watch the news all day once a year on Sept. 11th. I get it now, which I suppose is why I am breaking my own rule and finally writing about it.

 It helps that I don’t feel like a New Yorker anymore. It was a different life and a post 9/11 New York is a different place. One I don’t know. That distance has given me perspective. I am not however, setting out to write a piece on the tragedy itself but rather how that day and the days that followed shaped my future. How it gave me the courage to jump off that cliff and move to London with a man who I had only seen a handful of times. 

Paul left my Spanish Harlem apartment for his overnight flight to Heathrow on September 10, 2001. He had asked me to come with him but I said no. I wasn’t ready. Plus, I had to work in the morning. Dropping everything and flying to London on moment’s notice was just not my style. He flew into London bombarded with news coverage of  dramatic events, one of which was taking place in the city he just left. New York’s phone lines were jammed and no one could get a line in or out. Meanwhile, I stood in amazement watching the whole thing unfold on the big TV screen in the middle of Times Square. I looked south for evidence and saw smoke and dust billowing into the sky. The smell of burnt rubble and paper would soon fill the air and last weeks.  Times Square was silent. ‘Holy Shit’ was about the most profound thing I could think of.

It became obvious on my walk home with the thousands of other people, as the subways were closed and buses were reserved for people coming directly from ground zero (as we would soon refer to it) that this changed everything, not only politically but personally.  Life, as it turns out, is indeed, very short. I was scared. Not of terrorists but of the thought of not fully living. What if I was on the top floor of one of the towers? Had I have lived enough? Was I ready to go knowing I had done my best? No. Not even close. Making my mark in the world suddenly shifted from the superficial wishes of my youth into more personal wishes that at one time I may have considered mundane. Those choices now felt vital. I could have been in London that morning if I had taken Paul up on his offer but I wasn’t. The idea of staying behind for a job I hated now seemed ludicrous.  It was time to go. I chose love. Cheesy but true.  

A few weeks later I sat on a virtually empty plane on my way to Heathrow. London felt an amazing oasis from where I had just come. The foggy city is surprisingly bright. The grey skies make the shading in material surroundings stand out all the more. The phone booths and double decker buses leap to the forefront of your sight as if you were looking at a sepia photograph with pops of red.  I took to these cartoonish looking streets with my new best friend who would eventually become my husband. I felt awake. I hadn’t known I was asleep but I was. Life, as I had planned it, wasn’t working anymore. It’s a terrifying thing to realize but I could finally see that not realizing it was in the long term more terrifying. Those first few months in London were some of the most freeing times in my life. I felt like I was flying. I usually refer to my decision to move to the UK as jumping off a cliff, a jump I survived and am all the richer for it. My analogy is a curious one though, as the most haunting memories I have of September 11th are the images of the people jumping from the burning towers. I often wonder what they were thinking in that time of free fall. I am blessed that my jump was a metaphorical one, and one that signified a beginning rather then an end. I hope they lived while they were here. I pray there was peace in those moments.  

I can’t say for certain that my life would have turned out differently if that Fall day in September 2001 went on to be the clear and beautiful day it was seemingly shaping into, but at the very least, I think it would have taken me longer to come to the same conclusion. I would have agonized over the whole thing, made lists of pros and cons and discussed it to death with friends. But instead I just felt my way through it. Your gut is always right. That very well might be the most important thing I took from that dark day. One husband and three kids later, I could not have made a better call.

posted by Megan Wadsworth on May 10

I’m three months into baby number three. Lucas. He’s divine. And we are tired. They say write what you know and as having a newborn is all-encompassing, this is about the only thing I know at the moment.  It’s not a bad topic for this forum as the UK does seem to differ greatly from the US in regards to childbirth.

More and more American woman are electing to have cesarean sections over normal births these days for no medical reason. They just don’t want go through the whole labor ordeal. This is what many UK woman refer to as ‘Too Posh Too Push’. I don’t think this would register as an insult to an America woman, as being called ‘posh’ is quite exciting, but it’s not a terribly respected choice over here. I never thought of it as a problem until I found myself pregnant five years ago, not in the US but in the UK. I have since had quite the education.

My husband and I attended ante-natal classes the first time around, as you do. We had to miss one class in the six week course but I wasn’t worried. That was to be the class on homebirths and I wasn’t remotely interested in that. I’m American. We don’t really believe in such things useless you are uninsured, a hippie, involved in some religious cult, or any of the above. I was shocked to find on our return the next week that more than half the class seemed to be considering said lunacy. I jokingly mentioned they could have fun but I was headed out to the hospital for some drugs. I was particularly looking forward to the gas and air they give you here. We stayed after that night for a chat with the instructor. In that hour I became completely convinced that a home birth was exactly what I wanted. Brainwashed? Maybe.  But I’ve have other friends who have had a similar epiphany after educating themselves in just the smallest degree. 

I don’t know what homebirth statistics are like in the US but over here they have a very high success rate. Part of the brilliancy of the way it all works is how it’s all seen as an extension of the hospital. Once you go into labor your home effectively becomes an offsite delivery room. You get two midwives at your service whose only focus is you AND they bring gas and air. Brilliant. If there are any problems they are seen early on and you are brought in to the hospital to a well informed staff that is completely ready for you. If it’s a c-section that’s needed the time it takes to get to the hospital is what it takes to prep the theater for surgery so there really isn’t much of a difference there. Admittedly, being transferred to hospital by ambulance does sound terribly dramatic. However, I know a woman who had it happen to her and she barely remembers it. What she does remember is the time she had at home and is grateful for it. I was a believer.

While I still feel a homebirth is a great option, I’m totally full of it because I’ve never actually had one. I had my third c-section on the 15th of February this year. I was advised in my first pregnancy that due to the monster size of my baby and his inconvenient position, that I should go to the hospital as chances were I was going to need a c-section in the end anyway. I did stay at home as long as possible, which was lovely, and eventually ended up with an emergency c-section 18 hours in. Oh well. It’s rare these things happen according to plan anyhow.

The first c-section was unplanned but the last two were scheduled. I’m certainly not too posh to push but there are perks to c-sections. Scheduling a birth is great. I set the alarm, took a leisurely shower and arrived at the hospital in plenty of time. By mid morning you have a baby. Magic. The recovery sucks but nothing for me is worse than the final stages of pregnancy. I have huge babies.  We now have our newest addition and the way he got here is a distant memory.

What both countries have in common is the emphasis that is put on the birth, something that is over in moments. Once that’s all out of the way your troubles, combined with moments of absolute bliss, really begin…

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Feb 7

The British don’t do TV the way American’s do it. It’s a difficult adjustment from growing up with an endless selection of shows.  Watching evening television in America is not so much a choice but an addiction. Once you find the shows you want to watch that’s it. You’re sucked in, for however many years they run the show. ER was on for 11 years. You are unable to forget when a program airs if you wanted to, even the ones you don’t watch. The constant barrage of advertising makes this impossible. You will always know the exact date and time a new season is starting, what channel it’s on and if there are any schedule changes. The later tends to happen rarely and if it does there will be so much press surrounding this major network decision you will know long before the event. And I don’t say ‘event’ lightly. American’s take their TV seriously.

The programming itself is brilliant. You cannot fault American TV. Those who do tend to be self- riotous, pseudo intellectual types or reformed television addicts who don’t watch it at all.  If they tuned in they’d love it too.  It’s impossible not to. Whether it’s mainstream network programming or the edgier HBO productions, there is literally something for everyone and now with the new gadgetry of digital TV, choosing is no longer necessary. We have the same technology over here but it’s not half as sophisticated. But it doesn’t have to be because there isn’t half as much to watch. This is where you might expect me to pontificate about quality over quantity but I will not. American TV is superior. Period.  There are, however, exceptions to this rule.

When the Brits get it right they get it oh so satisfyingly right. Comedy is where TV tends to soar over here. I’m not a fan of too many UK dramas as it often feels like I’m watching cheap imitations of American shows. Oh, but the comedy… sketch comedy is irreverent and brilliant. It’s Saturday Night Live on its best night, Kids in the Hall those first glorious seasons. Little Britain and The Sharon Tate Show are the two big ones of the decade over here. Still on comedy, there is The Office of course, which Americans know well since its Stateside makeover. More recently there is Gavin and Stacy, arguably the best comedy made in eons on either side of the pond. I watch with my mouth agape. The writing is dead on and the actors perfectly cast, it’s impossible not to need more more more after one episode. Father Ted, one of the older comedies was the same. Laugh out loud funny. The best comedies over here have this profound understanding of the comedy/tragedy link. Father Ted himself is a pretty lonely man. Sad and hysterical all at the same time. Just like life.  

The main trouble with all of these programs is you don’t get more. You’re expected to be satisfied with a couple of seasons and then settle for reruns and documentaries on the said program aired once a year or so. They air the best scenes, get you laughing again, and writers and actors are interviewed. The British don’t seem to see it this way but to me its manipulation tactics plain and clear. It’s a way of airing the program without the hard work and money involved in writing and making anymore. To be fair to Father Ted, the lead actor did die but I don’t think there were any more series in the works anyhow.  Now they just had a really good excuse to stop writing. But even death wouldn’t stop American’s from carrying on with a good thing. They’d simply cast a new a Ted.

The writers of Gavin and Stacy have literally stopped after three seasons. ‘Oh you can’t push these things’ people love to say. ‘It’s good to stop while your ahead’, is another one. ‘Wouldn’t want to ruin a good thing’.  ‘Rubbish’, is what I say. Come on already! Write another season. It’s not like Gavin and Stacy is all tied up. There are loads of story lines to carry on with. They just won’t. Can you imagine if Grey’s Anatomy stopped airing after three seasons? People would go mental. Even the Brits wouldn’t be happy with that. Because the TV over here is so hit or miss we rely heavily on US imports. Trouble is I never have clue when they are on. Thank God for friends who seem to be in the know and send me texts messages letting me know when a new season of the big hits are starting or I’d miss it all, Grey’s, Glee, Desperate Housewives, all of it. Occasionally you run across advertising for a favorite program and it will just say ‘Coming Soon on Channel 4!’ but that’s it. There will be no mention of when or what time. Someone would get fired for that in America, deservedly so.   

The other issue is that you normally know around the time of year something will start up again in the States. This is why they break shows up into seasons instead of series as they do in the UK. Things sort of start and stop all through the year over here and you never know when something good is going to pop up. It often changes from year to year and season duration over here is much shorter as they don’t show repeats in the middle of a run, which is, admittedly, one thing I don’t miss.

It’s a bloody big job keeping up with it all. For the most part I’ve given up. British television isn’t worth the investment because it’s just going to disappear as soon as you’re hooked anyway and American television aired over here is too unpredictable. I have the stuff I do my best to keep up with but it’s not half as much as it would be if I lived in the US. I’d love to say that’s a good thing and I watch far less TV but that would be a lie. I just watch what’s on. Lots of cooking shows, property and development programming, talent shows, and documentaries on those blasted ‘brilliant’ television shows of yesteryear. There is always stuff to watch but if I missed a week I’ve not really missed anything. Makes me question why I’m watching really.

posted by Megan Wadsworth on Nov 3

There is no American translation of the phrase ‘taking the piss’. If an American were to vocalize some of the things an English person feels free to express, we’d call it ‘being an asshole.’  Taking the piss is akin sarcasm, but usually far less mean. It can also mean ‘to take advantage of’ but the former is the interpretation I’ve experienced the most.  

English don’t poke fun at someone to be cruel or make a point they do it show a familiarity with their friends, to let them know they see and accept all sides of them.  Rule number one of taking the piss is that you do it to someone you know well. The Tesco check out girl with the bad attitude and blue mohawk would be out of order. Valid, but out of order. Interestingly enough this is where an American would step in and vocalize their distain. But it would not be funny. Bad service is not something Americans find amusing in contrast to the English who seem to hardly notice. Taking the piss however, is meant to be very funny. Rule two is that the recipient must have a good sense of humour and be able to laugh at themselves. Most English are pretty thick skinned so this isn’t an issue. American’s skin? Not so thick. Human flaws to an American are not something to be spotlighted with light humor. Flaws are to be fixed, or failing that, hidden. It’s not as if people don’t notice them it’s just not considered polite dinner conversation. The English are of course well versed in what is polite dinner conversation but every so often they will defy the rules and this is one of those times. 

The British love to talk about their collective clever sense of humour and how it’s difficult for foreigners, especially American’s, to understand as we don’t get irony. This annoys me as you might have sensed. When I was once accused of ‘not getting British humour’ because I didn’t laugh at an asinine  joke, I made an attempt at a ‘piss taking’ rebuttal explaining that I didn’t laugh, not because I didn’t get the joke, but because (gasp) I didn’t think it was funny. I was met with a stare of death. I must admit, I knew I was entering a no-go area. The Brits are very sensitive on this subject. They are allowed to imply you are a stupid but you may not accuse them of not being funny. This is considered very bad form. There is an art to taking the piss and I had failed miserably. The fact that I was completely justified is not the point. I tried my hand at taking the piss, or sarcasm, with a topic that already annoyed me. If a person senses resentment it’s no longer a light hearted game. It’s confrontational. Which is certainly more American. I suppose I can’t help who I am but I can keep my mouth shut. Or try to anyway. Taking the piss is only successful if you aren’t angry. One needs to fully accept and even cherish the flaw they are bringing into light. Only then are you met with laughter.

I have grown up with American sensibilities and behaviour patterns but the longer I live here the more I notice a merging of two ways of living and relating to people. Having said that, the two do often remain separate. Of all the people I know in the US there is one single person whom I allow to take the piss at will and never take it negatively. In the UK? Loads of people take the piss out of me and for the most part it’s quite funny. It’s an inclusive act. It’s all part of forging friendships over here. Even though I’m much better than I once was at being at the receiving end of these antics, I still remain terrible at being the one dishing it out. I end up hurting someone’s feelings and having to call and apologize. It’s just not me really. The English are good at sensing boundaries which makes them innately better at this than many Americans as our borders are more blurred lines rather than stone walls. This is evident both emotionally and physically. English gardens are fenced off from their neighbours where in America it’s often difficult to tell where one property ends and another one begins. 

None of this is to say that the English don’t also get it wrong sometimes but it’s gotten over faster as the British ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ won’t allow for too much wallowing.  The Brits don’t necessarily do long drawn out conversations about feelings and the meaning of life. They like to try to find the humour in life first. Perhaps they have point. Maybe we American’s don’t always get it.

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