I’ve just spent ten days in the UK, visiting family and friends, the first time for a year and a half and the longest time I’ve spent over there in eleven years. So, impressions as an expat…? Well, it’s nice to be able to speak colloquial English without worrying whether anyone will misunderstand it. But, overall, it’s changed so much. In short, I found it frenetic. High streets are full of pound shops and the TV is dominated by ambulance-chasing solicitors and ‘compare the meerkats’ sites. What was 4 TV channels is now a million, all of which remind me why I stopped watching TV years ago. The motorways are an obstacle course and it’s still raining in Manchester. On the up-side it’s great to see my adult kids, confident and comfortable.
Now I sit here, back in Portugal, watching the sun kiss the horizon and disappear. Today, 17:30, a whole 10 minutes later than before Christmas, and so the new year starts with its promise that it’s going to be whatever we want it to be and that summer is coming. Every now and then, we get a plague of fruit flies which plunge into my wine glass with reckless abandon. Now is one of those times. I fish them out and squash them into nothing but occasionally get one in my mouth…a little extra protein, I like to think. I don’t know much about fruit flies but I’m pretty sure that if they were exterminated completely, the world would hardly notice. Still, they probably enjoy their brief existence even though they mean nothing to us.
We all have problems – life wouldn’t be life without its problems – but when I contrast mine with those of my family, I realise that mine are rather selfish, possibly self-inflicted and rather inconsequential. And, I think it’s part of growing older because such things should be related to those with the larger measure of life to live and the most to achieve in their lives. The future belongs to them and we older buffers can merely observe and mutter. Don’t misunderstand me – life has not passed us by – it’s just that our contribution is less important and, on occasions, simply out of step with the modern world. We have been deluged by a tsunami of new technology and, although I have tried to keep up, you reach a point where you feel out of your depth. My parents don’t even have internet and are happy in their ignorance.
As I watch the sunset and squash a fruit fly, I wonder whether they have souls.