20 October 2011

Pacing in...

...front of Claire's, waiting for the bus, I am reminded of how far my life has come in the last 14 years.

This time in 1997 (just a few days before Diana Spencer died), I'd not long left my job of nearly 4 years at Claire's in small-town Southern California.

Today, I am one month away from being granted permission to spend the rest of my life in the UK.

But how did that happen...?

The things I've done, jobs I've held, places I've lived and people who have come and gone that have led me to this day... I suppose I should be grateful for each and every one of those moments in time. Those moments which brought me to this one right here and now.

It's difficult to remember this sometimes, no?

To be continued...

15 October 2011

Not only Sheena is a Punk Rocker...

Thanks to Twitter friend Mark Perkins today bringing to my attention a band called The Vaccines and their song 'Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra), I have been reminded of 1982 film 'Class of 1984'.

Why? Because The Vaccines mentioned it here in their blog.

So this got me reminiscing about seeing the film on its initial realise to video - which must have been 1983.

Watching the trailer today is pretty comical (yes, that's Perry King, who has become a familiar face on television screens over the last four decades) - and it does not go unnoticed that at age 10/11, I was far too young to be watching it; I probably sneaked it home from the video hire shop!

Mind, perhaps it influenced my not-long-after (and still current today) punk rock tendencies...along with 'Suburbia' (1984), a flick which definitely deserves its own post.

Would you believe these lovelies are on display in
London's Museum of Childhood? Believe it.

This also makes me ponder what other 'students gone wild' films were made between 1967's 'To Sir With Love' and this - long before 'Dangerous Minds' (1995) and its numerous copycat ilk. I can't think of any at present - or, for that matter, any between'To Sir...' and 1955's 'Blackboard Jungle'.

I will have a think about that. Or, if you've landed on this page, please share your titles.

A final comment on 'Class of 1984' is that I remember it also being kind of a big deal that someone so bad (lead rogue, Timothy Van Patten) could be played by someone related to America's favourite Dad, Dick Van Patten. Simply scandalous!

I see now that Timothy Van Patten has become an accomplished Director in his own right. Did you know that? I didn't! Well done, you old punk ruffian.

13 October 2011

I hate to be a killjoy, but...

...I hope the jokes about the Life in the UK test (it is not called the UK Citizenship test) are over for now.

It is easy enough making light of it, but for thousands of people, the test represents a life-changing culmination of years of uncertainty.

Its merits are easily dismissed...it is a means to an end...a necessary evil...a bit of a joke of facts and figures to memorise.

But, for some, taking the test means that their life could soon be their own again, free of restriction.

Some struggle to remember what life free-of-restriction was like.

Most days bring a reminder of being miserable and stifled in work for which they've lost all passion, yet are unable to do anything about it; feeling reluctant to form relationships or put down real roots - because they've no idea if they'll soon be chucked out of the land which, in their heart, is their home...making the last several years feel a waste or failure.

So - if you must - laugh about making tea and knowing the difference between Ant and Dec.

Giggle that you've got only 8 of the 24 mock test questions right and joke that you should be deported.

Snigger that the government think it important that people who've sacrificed much should take more of an interest than you in your country's facts and figures.

But also please consider, just for a moment, that you are unwittingly laughing in the face of what is a vital part in someone's future and long journey to be not only British at heart, but also on paper.

Someone out there who thought they'd never in their life pledge allegiance to a Queen, but is counting the minutes until they get to do so.

That person may be your friend's partner, your work colleague, a writer from your favourite magazine or the barman who pulls your pint. Or me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is not meant to sound curmudgeonly or overly-dramatic about what people consider 'just a bit of fun' - perhaps simply philosophical. This is what happens when you get old(er) and realise that in a couple of months' time, you may finally have something for which you sometimes feel you've waited your whole life.

11 October 2011

Life In The UK...

...test, as opposed to the 'UK Citizenship' test.

As follows, is what was originally a very long comment on a post by Thom Brooks about the Life in the UK test.

I am posting it here, instead of there, ONLY because I do go on, and it got to be so incredibly long that I didn't want to clog up Thom's page with it. NOT because I disagreed with a couple of things that he said, so wanted to run off to post a rant like so many internet soapboxers users do these days.

Not at all! I am in complete agreement with Thom. So I hope that this will be taken in the (light) spirit in which it was meant.

First, it is useful to listen to the BBC's most recent You and Yours programme, and then read Thom's post, both of which can be found here at his blog.

Back already? All caught up? Excellent.

Two weeks ago, I took (and passed - happy days!) the Life in the UK test and, earlier today, listened to Thom’s comments about the test on You and Yours.

I agree that much of the content is out of date, but feel this is to be expected. To update the materials each year would be at further cost, likely passed on to the test taker...which is another issue, in my opinion, after the fee recently jumped from £34 to £50 (I missed the £34) - now taking the overall cost of permanent settlement in the UK (aka ILR) to over £1000 (then, another £900 12 months later for citizenship).

I was admittedly quite bitter about having to take the test after 9 years in the UK (long story), but ultimately found it useful in many ways, and feel that Thom’s comments about the test lacking British history were slightly misleading.

There is an intimation that no aspects of history are covered, which is incorrect; migrants over the decades who helped develop the country, the Second World War, women’s rights and Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland devolution are all accounted for.

Albeit - yes - only in brief.

Whereas, including words such as Churchill, Heath, Cromwell, BBC, Plymouth, Labour, Tory - and perhaps even J Arthur Rank*, East India Company and what means 'At Her Majesty's Pleasure'**! - would certainly not go amiss.

* As a film maddie, this may be a bit self-indulgent.
** Joking. I guess.

There should be MORE about what it actually means to be a part of this country and LESS about on what date Valentine's Day falls, what do British people eat at Christmas and who were founding members of Council of Europe (not to be confused with European Council).

I felt that also misleading - and somewhat contrary to the point Thom was making about the test content - were his comments about many people with whom he’s come into contact failing the test due to erroneous information given as study material.

As Thom states, tests are mostly about memorising information than anything else - therefore, given the availability of study guides (I personally found the gocitizen.co.uk website 1000 times more useful than the books), I can not agree at all with his suggestion that people fail due to out-of-date information.

It is not an ideal situation, but this is not the US (Yet! I left there to get away from it, but feel we are gradually turning until Little America here!), who (and, therefore, their citizenship test, one conjects) must always be seen as leading by example and win, win, winning!

On a lighter note…

Thom's suggestion about involving those who've taken the test on what sort of content should be included is a very good one: but why stop at academics? My ongoing nemesis that is the UKBA have record of test-taker data - how about assembling a cross-section of people of different background and age to share their feelings on the test and what they would’ve liked to have been asked to learn?

While the majority probably couldn’t be bothered, surely there are enough people like me and Thom who would be happy to spare the time and effort to help make improvements for the future.

Which brings me to a related point...

Now I’ve finally taken the test, I personally feel that it should be taken on arrival rather than simply in order to meet a requirement 2/5/10 years down the road.

It seems rather ridiculous for people to be learning how to get a National Insurance no., a driving licence, at what age their children will be tested in school and if their neighbours eat turkey AFTER they've been here for a number of years, no?

For example: New arrivals are given a six-month window to take the test...for £10, rather than £50...perhaps even making it voluntary so that one can get it out of the way early on if they know (believe) they will be making the UK their permanent home.

I realise this would not work in all cases, but think the idea has its merit.

I feel a letter coming on!!

Perhaps best to wait until my long-suffering ILR application is finally submitted, though...

Tick tock goes the clock.