This alien has finally landed

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The Independent Online

For 20 years now I have been an Englishman abroad. It's a long time and, well, sometimes I feel like my Sussex roots have long since withered. "Where will you be when you get old?" People ask me this more and more and, truthfully, I don't have any idea. Am I really English any more, and if not, what am I?

For 20 years now I have been an Englishman abroad. It's a long time and, well, sometimes I feel like my Sussex roots have long since withered. "Where will you be when you get old?" People ask me this more and more and, truthfully, I don't have any idea. Am I really English any more, and if not, what am I?

American I am not. We won't get into a discussion here about my love or otherwise for this country. It has good points and bad. A few years ago, it was generous enough to give me a Green Card. This assures me tremendous convenience. No fingerprinting at JFK.

But a Green Card does not make me a citizen. No, I am what the American State Department calls a "Resident Alien". That is not a term that makes me feel warm and fuzzy about Uncle Sam. An Alien in America. I pay its taxes. If I was younger I could be called up to fight in a war. But I can't vote.

For a long time, through stints in Brussels and Washington before coming to New York, I suppose the Britishness in me lingered. Marmite in the kitchen. Nostalgia for the Today Programme. (I still suffer a little from that.) And a circle of friends who were themselves mostly from the UK. British dinner parties. British bangers from the inevitable British shop. And a misplaced sense of superiority.

Most of this, I have now set aside. No longer do I scan the 600-channel TV listings here for episodes of To the Manor Born or Are you Being Served? I am left cold by BBC America, a channel that seems to rely entirely on programmes about strange people decorating strangers' houses in strange colours. I would like to watch BBC World. But, for some reason, it is still not available in New York.

Could you say that I am simply a New Yorker then and never mind nationality? This seems like a stretch. I have never been to a New York Jets game in my life. That's American Football, by the way. I don't like my sandwiches more than five inches high. I drive politely, usually. And I am still perfectly capable of getting lost on the Subway for an entire afternoon. I can't name all the bridges correctly.

And yet, a New Yorker is exactly who I am. The city, as the cliché goes, is made up of all the nationalities. I learned this again the other night at a dinner, hosted, as it happens, by a Brit. The deputy mayor was another guest. Name the only two member countries of the UN that do not have children enrolled in the NYC school system, he asked. Err. One was the Cook Islands, the other Vanuatu.

I have precisely become part of this kaleidoscope. I fully understood it at a birthday party recently for a Mexican girlfriend of mine, Andrea. On the surface, it was a perfectly American affair. We were invited for 4pm on the roof of Andrea's apartment building in the Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood, where we would doubtless grill burgers and drink beer until gastric discomfort drove us back home. That is more or less what happened. A guy from New Jersey called Will and I attended to firing up the barbecue and piling it high with corn cobs, Portobello mushrooms, potatoes in silver foil and beef patties, blanketed at the appropriate moment with squares of processed cheese. There were hot dogs, Red Stripe beer and mustard and ketchup in squeezable bottles.

Not much internationalism so far. But wait. Will had bought Polish sausage from Hoboken. The Austrian wine came courtesy of my Viennese friend, Veronika. A Brazilian called Mark revealed a Tupperware jug filled with Caipirinia, a vicious cocktail with more sugar and lime quarters than drinkable liquid. Emily, a Chinese American, brought Indian samosas. My contribution was a chocolate cake baked by a Japanese lady in my neighbourhood with Happy Birthday on top - written in Spanish.

Before I left, I had chatted with a French Jewish man and his pregnant South African wife, played the word game Taboo with two Mexicans, one Colombian, an Austrian and a Swiss - the only native English speaker, I lost - and happily accepted - an invitation to dinner next week from a Russian couple on the Upper East Sides. They are promising to make the best Chateaubriand in the city.

So if we are what we eat and drink, I guess I am stateless. If we are identified by the friends we keep, I am still stateless. And if you are stateless, there is no better place to be than New York City.

Why men are really switched off by TV

When I read this week about men not watching the box any more I counted myself in. I don't watch much cable. I can't take the ads. So I watch movies on DVD. But there is something else I haven't done - visit the video store.

I am a Netflix convert. It is a rental shop on the internet, coming to Britain soon. Pay a monthly fee and they will send you films through the post. Pop it in the postage-paid envelope after viewing and send it back. No browsing in the aisles, no lining up, nothing.

Hey, Netflix, now I have given you this free advertising, do me a favour. Send me a boxed set of The Good Life (some habits are hard to break).

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