Martha and I are off to the United States, my first visit for about eighteen months. That’s the longest stretch I’ve been away from America since I first went to New York as a callow twenty-five year old in 1967, and I’ve been wondering what the prolonged absence means. It wasn’t enforced by professional or other commitments. I could have booked a trans-Atlantic flight at any time. I just didn’t bother to. Have I gone native? That would not be so much a conversion as a reversion, because, while I’ve lived in and around New York for half my adult life, and have long been an American citizen, I was born and raised in Britain. I think I must have reverted. Where once I scorned the country of my birth as old and tired, I now consider Britain, on a ranking list of developed countries, as decent a place in which to live as any. London remains one of my favourite cities, and seems much more vibrant and affluent than I remember the place from my youth. Perhaps more tellingly, I’ve become re-engaged with my two favourite sports, rugby and cricket (though these days only as a spectator). Besides all that, our circle of British-based friends is now longer than its American equivalent. So here in Jolly Old England we shall probably stay. What about Martha, a native, and some would say typical, New Yorker? In the matter of residency preference she’s a more interesting study than I am. I’ve always thought of her as a Manhattanite through and through – bold, brash, slightly on edge, her vernacular steeped in the Yiddishisms of her home city. Yet here she is, a pillar of society in Esher, Surrey, in the heart of London’s stockbroker county. If there’s a committee hereabouts she doesn’t sit on, I’ve yet to discover it. And she’s happily adopted the attitudes of the permanently disgruntled natives, complaining each morning about the dreary weather, the inescapable traffic jams, the inexorable decline and incompetence of Britain’s ruling elite. At this point I paused to review the above text, and it occurs to me what’s happened to us. We’re neither American exiles nor confused stateless wanderers. The answer is, we’re approaching Old Age.
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