More proud of America than ever

The week of thanksgiving I sat down to book tickets for my up and coming trip to the UK. One of my cousins was getting married in February and I promised that we would make it out there for the special day.

I’ve always tried to find the best priced tickets and have driven as far as Toronto in order to save money. I was fully prepared to drive out to another airport this time, when my wife came home and told me a bunch of her photographer friends were messaging her saying that ticket prices to Europe were really low.

President Trump had just been elected and the stock market was soaring. The dollar was getting stronger and it was thanksgiving week, where retailers are usually looking for your buck.

So, on the day I was ready to commit to another long drive across countries in order to afford to see my family, I typed in a search from our local Cincinnati. Sure enough, the prices were cheaper. A lot cheaper.

On this day you could buy tickets for nearly the same cost as Toronto, which always has cheap flights to Europe. I pounced on the tickets from Cincinnati. Glad to be able to get affordable tickets from a much more convenient location.

As soon as I bought the tickets I thought about my in-laws and how they had never been to Europe before. They had always wanted to see my home nation, but time and money had always been a barrier, just as it had been for us.

“Why don’t you message your parents and ask them if they want to come with us?” I suggested to my wife.

As soon as she messaged them, I added that I had never seen tickets priced that low before. I really hadn’t.

They messaged back saying that they would think about it. I thought for sure that the prices would go back up the next day.

In the morning they messaged back saying that they would love to come out there with us. I quickly checked the prices, they were still incredibly low. “I’ll be right over!” I text back.

I managed to match up flights and get them seats right next to ours on the four separate flights. I became incredibly excited about the prospect of my in-laws finally being able to see where their son-in-law grew up.

Over the next few weeks I planned and mapped out many things for them to do on their trip out with us. I wanted them to taste all the highlights and see the best parts of where I grew up. I wanted them to experience as much of the history and beauty England has to offer as possible.

What made the trip more challenging was my 10 month old son. Being so young, he needed a lot of sleep and a lot of attention. He did really well on the planes heading over and we were glad to have an extra set of hands to help out.

We decided to stay in a two bedroom flat in the heart of Canterbury, as I wanted my in-laws to be able to get straight on the train to London easily and to be able to really experience the city of Canterbury first hand.

The first few days went really well. They got to see my hometown, where I grew up, a castle, London and even my Dad’s side of the family.

They were really enjoying the trip and I was glad for that. But my wife and I weren’t getting much sleep, as our son was waking us up during the night. I was doing all the driving and I was starting to get worn out.

During the second week we took the Eurostar to Paris. I had my reservations due to the terror related incidents in the Capital, but my in-laws really wanted to see it. We left my son with his other grandmother at her fathers house in a village close to the Eurostar Terminal. He was in safe hands.

We ventured into Paris, snapping away pictures and taking it all in. It was great fun and I really enjoyed it. But the fast pace of the day really wore me out.

Between the lack of sleep and the end of the trip looming, my mood was taking a downward turn. I had enjoyed showing my in-laws around, but I still hadn’t seen half my family members and I really didn’t want to fly back the next week. I could have stayed a lot longer.

I kept my composure as best as possible, but I was having a hard time keeping my raw emotions at bay. I really didn’t want to leave. I love my home country and all my family. I could envision raising my son there. I didn’t want to go back.

My cousins wedding came and went. I got to see the rest of my family and I even managed to drive my in-laws all the way out to Stone Henge. I was extremely glad to have been able to show them so much of the UK in such a short period of time, but I was extremely drained.

In the weeks that followed, I looked up local house prices and jobs in the area. I seriously contemplated moving back. Having grown up there myself, it was easier to envision raising my son there compared to the US.

But, just as I suspected, the house prices were too high and there weren’t enough decent paying jobs. The same reasons I left the UK ten years ago were still true today.

Over the next few months several terrorist attacks happened in the UK and in places we had just visited. The attack on Westminster bridge happened exactly where my in-laws had stood for a selfie just weeks before.

I felt profoundly sad for my home nation as I read the news. I contrasted this with ever tightening security here in the US. I felt extremely glad that we had elected President Trump to office.

As spring gave way to summer and we paid my Jeep off, things became easier as my wife’s business took off and bills became easier to keep up with. I thought about the opportunities we had here and our ability to gain all the things that we have.

Many of my cousins, who are around the same age as me, still live with their parents. This is not because they are lazy bums, but simply because the house prices are so outrageously expensive. Many of them travel over an hour each way each day to work in London to make decent money.

By contrast I travel 20 minutes to work each day. I don’t make a lot of money, but it is decent. On decent money I am able to afford a house, a car and a really good quality of life. I realized fully that I wouldn’t be able to do that anywhere else in the world.

In America, if you work hard, if you take opportunities as they came, you can live well. That cannot be said anywhere else in the world. It is a real privilege.

“You realize what you have in the US would cost nearly a million pounds here right?” My friend had said to me while we were over to visit. What a contrast.

As summer moved on, my uncle called me and explained that he was going out west again on his motorcycle. The year previous he had flown all the way out there, bought a couple of bikes and been on a road trip of a lifetime with his brother out to the coast and back.

This time uncle Colin was heading out to Bonneville. After getting off the phone with him my wife told me I should go out and join him. She knew how much I had been wanting to ride a motorcycle out west.

To cut a long story short I booked off a couple of weeks of work and readied my motorcycle. After he arrived in the States, my uncle headed out ahead of me to see more of the northern states. A few says later I rode my bike from my driveway in Cincinnati, through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas, into Colorado and met him a couple of days later in Colorado Springs. From there we rode through the mountains into Utah and towards the Bonneville Salt Flats.

After a couple of days at the flats I left him, as he intended to head south to Vegas and then back east to visit his friend in Atlanta.

I then rode my motorcycle through the mountains and dessert of Nevada, past Lake Tahoe, through Sacramento and a through San Francisco before heading over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Over the next several days I rode my motorcycle up the California coast before beading back inland and through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Along the way I met many different people and saw many different places. Even in the most remote places I was able to find motels with comfy beds and warm showers and restaurants with plenty of hot food.

Again I thought to myself how lucky I was to be in this country. I could ride a motorcycle for thousands of miles across multiple states, through wildly varying terrain and still find a place to sleep for the night and a hot meal.

I wondered how many other places in the world where you could show up out of the blue and get all that at any time in the evening.

Riding across the US gave me a new appreciation for this country and gave me time to think about all that I had.

I have a big house, a loving wife and a happy and healthy son. We have everything we could ever need and some. We didn’t need to go to college, straddle ourselves in debt and become CEO’s in order to afford all this. We just had to work hard and be smart and take the best opportunities we could find. Again, where else in the world can you say that?

This country isn’t perfect and I do get home sick, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunities it has already afforded myself and my family.

I think a lot of those people who are upset with this country would do well to venture out into it and see more of it for themselves. I think they would be surprised by just how much is out there to work hard for and enjoy.

Homesick

Since my birthday on the 21st November, I have become quite homesick. I had a great day; I went out to eat with my wife, and then we went and watched the new James Bond movie. While watching Skyfall I got to see areas of London which I recognized, and I started to feel the pangs of feeling homesick and missing sites that I was familiar with. England might not be the freest country in the world, but it is certainly not a dictatorship. England has given the world many modern conveniences and freedoms. The Magna Carta was used heavily in the formation of the US constitution, and British scientists continue to push the world forward in human discoveries.

I was born and raised in a small city called Canterbury; a city made famous by its ancient cathedral and by Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘the Canterbury Tales’. It is very much a tourist city, with education at its heart; it has three universities.

Canterbury (Listeni/ˈkæntərˌbɜri/ or /ˈkæntərˌbɛri/)[1] is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour.

Originally a Brythonic settlement called *Durou̯ernon (composed of the ancient British roots *duro- “stronghold”, *u̯erno- “alder tree”), it was renamed Durovernum Cantiacorum by the Roman conquerors in the 1st century AD. After it became the chief Jutish settlement, it gained its English name Canterbury, itself derived from the Old English Cantwareburh (“Kent people’s stronghold”). After the Kingdom of Kent’s conversion to Christianity in 597, St Augustine founded an episcopal see in the city and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that now heads the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion (though the modern-day Province of Canterbury covers the entire south of England). Thomas Becket’s murder at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 led to the cathedral becoming a place of pilgrimage for Christians worldwide. This pilgrimage provided the theme for Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century literary classic The Canterbury Tales. The literary heritage continued with the birth of the playwright Christopher Marlowe in the city in the 16th century.

Parts of the city have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many historical structures remain, including a city wall founded in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and a Norman castle, and perhaps the oldest school in England, The King’s School. Modern additions include the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University College for the Creative Arts, the Marlowe Theatre, and the St Lawrence Ground, home to Kent County Cricket Club. The city lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a local government district.

Canterbury is a popular tourist destination: consistently one of the most-visited cities in the United Kingdom,[2] the city’s economy is heavily reliant upon tourism. There is also a substantial student population, brought about by the presence of three universities. Canterbury is, however, a relatively small city, when compared with other British cities.

I was born in Canterbury, and went to schools in the city growing up. I attended St Stevens Infant and Junior schools (protestant Christian schools) as a young boy, and attended Canterbury High school through my teenage years. My parent’s philosophy is to live and let live, and to be considerate of others. I was quite shy growing up, but I loved my home town and was very proud of my British heritage. My family goes back hundreds of years, and I am from English heritage as far back as records go. I recently found out through my uncle on my last visit that one of my great great great grand mother’s was Irish, and that her husband brought her back to England. As far as I am aware, my family has always lived in the south east of England.

My home country is very much steeped in tradition, and the ideals of being ‘proper’ are very prominent. English people for the most part live very structured lives, and when I met my wife, I very rebelliously found out that things didn’t have to be that way. In America you can be anything that you want to be. But now as I mature into adult life, I realize that structure is important. I see so many Americans working all hours of the day chasing their tails and not fully experiencing life itself. Sure they might have a big house and a fancy car, but they never have time to fully enjoy it. I look at the Universities and realize I could never go to them through the shear costs. Now that I am fast approaching my later twenties, and the talk of children continues to come up between my wife and I (both our younger sisters now have children) I wonder what kind of life they will be able to have in this country. The land of opportunity seems to be consuming itself, and has become more divided than ever. England has been through its share of ups and downs, and appears to be resilient to the tides of change. America I fear, will not be able to cope with the changes that it now faces.

I want to live in a free world, where anyone can be what they want to be. I do not want some over authoritarian government watching my every move and telling me what I can and cannot do.

I lived within Canterbury’s city limits until age 9 when my parents moved us to a small village called ‘Sturry’ which was right on the outskirts of the city. It was a short 4 mile hike to the center of Canterbury, but we had a house that overlooked a field, and it felt very rural. Sturry is where my mum’s family have lived for over a hundred years, and the village itself is steeped in history.

Human habitation in Sturry is thought to have started around 430,000 years ago, as dated flint implements – namely knives and arrow-tips – show. Other signs of early human activities include a collection of axes and pottery shards from the Bronze Age and more pottery from the Sturry Hill gravel-pits, and a burial-ground near Stonerocks Farm showed that there was an Iron Age settlement of Belgic Celts (who gave Canterbury its pre-Roman name of Durovemum) from the end of the 2nd Century BC. All this evidence indicates that human habitation of some kind existed on the north bank of the River Stour, on Sturry’s site, for hundreds and thousands of years. When the Romans arrived, they built Island Road (the A28) to connect Canterbury, the local tribal capital, with the ferry to the Isle of Thanet, with a branch to their fort at Reculver.

The most important era for Sturry, determining its future shape, size, function and name, was that part of the early 5th century when the beleaguered Romano-Britons brought in Frisians and Jutes as mercenaries to help them fight against invading Picts and Scots, and rewarded them with land. Some of them settled near Sturry: their cemetery was found at Hersden. Then in the mid 5 Century, Kent was re-organised into lathes, or districts. Sturry was the first; Stour-gau, meaning district or lathe on the Stour. The lathe was bounded by the Stour as far as Canterbury in the North by the sea, and farther south as distant as Wye.

The remains of a large village water mill lie near the parish church, and the High Street retains some charming historic buildings. The village virtually adjoins one of the smallest towns in England, Fordwich, where there are further interesting buildings, including the historic Town Hall. Fordwich itself is smaller in size than Sturry. A rare survival, a small granary, constructed with wooden weather-boards is located at Blaxland Farm and has nine staddle stones supporting it. A barn from Vale Farm, Calcott has been re-erected at the Museum of Kent Life, Sandling. A 16th Century manor house and oasthouse, built in 1583 and which belonged to St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury still stand in Sturry village beside the medieval tithe barn – although they have all been incorporated into the King School after they were sold by the widow of Lord Milner in 1925.

Since the 1960s a large number of satellite housing estates have been built on the north side of the village, mostly in former woodland, which have turned Sturry into one of the major dormitary villages for Canterbury. Nonetheless, the village is still overwhelmingly rural, with fields for arable farming and livestock grazing, and large amounts of coppice woodland. A number of market gardens can also be found in the countryside around the village. Large and deep quarries are still worked on the edge of the village, with the old workings flooded to provide recreational lakes used primarily for fishing.

During the Second World War, Sturry was one of the most badly bombed villages in England, the greater part of the High Street being destroyed by a parachute mine in 1941 during the Baedeker Blitz, killing 15 people of which 7 were children aged 12 and under.[1] One of these was a little girl who had been to the bakers’ and whose body was recovered still clutching the bag of buns she had bought.[2] The same aircraft dropped another bomb, but this landed amongst the allotments. In the book, Letters to Sturry, it is recorded that on Wednesday, 28 August 1940, there were eight separate air raid warnings and on ‘Battle of Britain Day’, 15 September 1940, a German Dornier bomber plane, (Aircraft 2651, 3rd Staffel, Kampfgeschwader 76), crash-landed in a field below Kemberland Wood near the Sarre Penne stream. Three of the five crew were killed and were firstly buried in Sturry Cemetery but then re-interred in the late 1960s into the German war cemetery at Cannock Chase.

Nonetheless a number of interesting buildings remain intact in Sturry, including St Nicholas parish church, which is predominantly Norman in style, with the oldest parts dating to about 1200. The Manor House, built in 1583, is now the junior school of The King’s School, Canterbury.

My grandmother survived the bombing of Sturry and her oldest brother has many stories to tell of German planes flying over head during the war. While England may be more progressive and socialist than in previous decades, it is still very much a capitalist society, and thrives off innovation and technologies. It should be no surprise then that I get very unnerved when I hear people supporting wars in the middle east, and check points at highways in the US. I find this to be fascism 101 and it is something which makes older generations shudder, especially my grandparents. My grandfather still remembers a V2 rocket flying alongside his fathers car while they were driving home one day, and pulling off onto the side of the road, waiting for the bomb to drop in the distance and explode.

I am feeling very homesick right now because I know that Britain will shake off the stupidity of socialism in good time, and will continue to educate its populace in the traditions of old, while teaching the importance of the sciences, math and good English. I fear that America in reaction to socialism from the left, will careen hard to the right and pick up the same failed philosophies of Adolf Hitler during the 1930’s in response to communism.

I don’t particularly consider myself a patriot of either nation, at least not in the traditional statist sense. I don’t blindly support the flag of either nation, but I am very proud of each nation’s history. I love my British heritage, and I love the constitution and values of my adopted nation.

I simply want to live in a free world, and self determine what is best for me. I want to make my own living, and not have others tell me what I can and cannot do. So long as we don’t go out of our way to hurt others, why should we be stopped from acting off our own accord?

I am beginning to care less and less about politics, it is simply a means to an end. The US is rife with corrupt politicians, and the only way to fix that is to learn about it, flush out the bad ones by replacing them, and find all the goodness that you can within yourself. Actions speak louder than words. It is not so much what you believe in that counts, it is the way that you treat others.

It is far more important to live well, educate yourself, and provide a good example than to simply point out others and call them stupid. We teach our kids by setting a good example, so why shouldn’t we live and talk to others in such a manner?

A home is created on values, and by gritting our teeth through the hard times. We must never forget our history, and we must always learn from the mistakes of the past. The world will be a much better place if we can learn to be happy and advance ourselves and enjoy life to the best degree possible, even if the rest of the world is falling apart. The world is built and rebuilt by those who look toward the future. It is up to each of us as individuals to make it a good one.