For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be British.
Until recently it was especially true. This idea became an obsession
after all my British friends informed me how cool it is being British (especially
being just plain “English”). They also pointed out how outré
it is being American. It was never clear to me why they used a French
word to describe Americans, but I accepted it at face value, since they
are so close to France, and we are so far away. No doubt there is
a good reason for it. Perhaps it’s their Raison d'être.
But the main reason I wanted to be British was because all my favorite
rock stars were British… The Beatles, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, Tom
Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Herman’s Hermits, Little Richard, Buddy Holly,
Jerry Lee Lewis…
Ok, so they weren’t ALL British, but I’m sure the ones who weren’t secretly
wanted to be.
So with the new millennium dangling on the horizon, I was determined to
change my life for the better. I decided to become a British “subject”
— after decades of being a British “object.” I now dedicated myself
to a future of English gardens and fish n’ chips.
The first thing I did was to go to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.
and announce that two of my ancestors, on my mother’s side of the aisle,
landed at Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower on November 21, 1620. “The
No fooling! Check it out. My mother was born Katherine Ainsworth
Fuller in 1918. Edward Fuller, my great-great-great-great… (11 "greats")
grandfather, sailed on that very ship. And Elder William Brewster
— who started a long line of little Brewsters in the colonies, who then,
through nuptials, became Bliss’s and finally Fullers — was also on the
I was directed to a small office at the Embassy for a chin wag with one,
Rupert T. Schrivener, who informed me that it wasn’t good enough to have
ancestors sail on the Mayflower to instantly qualify as a British subject…
or even a British citizen. Rupert was, in fact, a bit prissy about
it, but he was from Kent, so I didn’t let it get me down.
I then began the long and arduous route of naturalization… I’d like to
be more precise and write it “naturali-s-ation,”
but whenever I type it out the English way, my spell checker keeps changing
the “s” into a “z” automatically. I suppose I need a British computer,
maybe a Misco.
To make a long story short enough that you will get to the end, I’ll have
to jump ahead. After 7 years, I had completed all the basic requirements,
paid my 836 Pounds, and had only to pass the final entrance examination
to become a genuine British subject. So at 10:00 AM, Monday, March
12, 2007, I returned to the Embassy, sat down and took the test.
It really wasn't all that hard. I finished it before anyone else
in my group. Sure… I forgot the name of the Queen, but, pretty much,
I got everything else right. I even knew about Shakespeer’s Sonnits.
I handed the paper in shortly before noon, brimming with confidence.
To see the results from the exam, I was sent to another small room, only
to be informed by one rather overweight, chalky-skinned bloke, Mycroft
Woodruff, that I had failed. I asked for an explanation, but all
that he could tell me was that I wasn’t cheeky enough. Mycroft’s
exact words were, “You aren’t cheeky enough.” And as I was walking
out the door, he added, “Get stuffed!”
Well... to be honest... I was dumbfounded. I have met many Brits
who are thinner than I, and they were allowed to remain Brits. Look
at Mick Jagger for Christsakes... his cheeks are concave. I figured
I was just another victim of British retribution for the Declaration of
Independence and the Boston Tea Party. But I wasn’t going to let
that stand in the way of my life’s ambition.
The next day I started eating lots of mutton and drinking pints of Guinness.
At the end of the first day I was definitely stuffed, and really bladdered.
But no matter. I slogged on for 6 months and put on 25 pounds.
That’s almost 2 Stones! When I figured I was cheeky enough, I went
to take the test again. This time I was a hefty 195 pounds — that’s…
well… very nearly 14 Stones in the breadbasket!
But my stars were not yet aligned with Greenwich. I failed the second
test as well. I was gobsmacked. Bloody hell! No one ever
expects the British Inquisition!
The failure notice didn’t provide me with an explanation, so I went back
to the Embassy and met with a young lad, named Arthur Landsworthy.
He pulled out his I-Pod’s left earbud and mumbled that I was, “too daft
to become a British subject.” I wasn’t entirely sure that I had heard
him correctly, so I asked him to spell it out for me. He wrote, “D-A-F-T”
and then shouted it out very loud; to make sure I heard it right. Actually,
that’s what I figured he had said, but he had such a peculiar accent that
I wanted to double check.
Ok. I admit it. Never before had I heard that particular word
used in the past pluperfect tense, but I knew what it meant. Straight
away I drove my Nano rental car over the Potomac River on the George Mason
Memorial Bridge, down Route 1 to Alexandria, Virginia where I found the
Miracle Ear Hearing-Aid Center. And I purchased my first hearing
aid. “That ought to do it,” I said to myself.
Now… before I took the exam for the third time, I purchased the box set
— all 12 episodes — of Fawlty Towers, and watched them over and
over, just so I wouldn’t make any obvious mistakes this time around.
In a short time I learned how to be appropriately condescending, and I
discovered how the English feel about Germans, Spaniards, and Barcelona.
A fortnight later I was finally ready. I drove back to the Embassy,
with my hearing aid turned up to the maximum setting, and demanded to take
the test one more time.
The third time was the charm!!! I passed the exam, got my papers,
signed a note that said I promised not to be a hooligan, and was pronounced,
“A British Citizen.”
Immediately I booked a flight on Virgin Airlines bound for London,
and flew “Home” for the very first time in my life. I landed at Heathrow
midday on June 12, 2010, ready to “destroy England.” But when I got
off the plane, I was thrown completely off my trolley. It was so
damned cold, that I shivered the whole day. The temperature peaked
at 58 degrees about 2:30 in the afternoon. The next day was the same.
And then it rained.
Hey! No one warned me about this! It wasn’t on the brochures.
No one ever mentioned the lousy weather. Then, alone in my flat,
in the middle of the second night, I awoke, still shivering and honking,
but with a clarity I had never known before. Everything suddenly
fell into place. All the little odd feelings I had had, but never
voiced, suddenly took shape into The Big Picture… clear as Waterford
Crystal. No wonder those Brits spend so much energy trashing Americans.
They’re just trying to keep warm.
To make a long story short enough to get to the end… I turned in my citizenship
badge, burned my papers, and flew back to Arizona. When I landed
in Phoenix, it was 7:30 PM and 104 degrees. That’s more like it!
Sure, it’s a little balmy, but hey, it’s a dry balmy!
I drove my Chevy Volt* back to Sedona.
“Honey, I’m home. Toss out that dreadful Guinness. Let’s go
to Maria’s for chili rellenos and margaritas.”