On the 4th of January my mother, Susan, Kiran and I flew into San Francisco airport. The US had just started fingerprinting most visitors and although my mother did not require a visa for this trip I got her one anyway which with hindsight might have been a bad idea. She had to stagger out of her wheelchair so she could steady herself with her walking stick to be photographed and then fingerprinted. It’s hard to imagine my mother being a granny-bomber. The immigration official wanted to know why our daughter had a last name different from either my name or Susan’s. I started a long-winded explanation of how my actual family name “Mahn” got dropped and as I rambled on I could see the people in the line (queue) behind me thinking “why did we choose a line with this nutter in it?” as the immigration official was tapping his fingers trying to decide if we had to be sent to secondary immigration (which would be a Very Bad Thing and possibly lead to deportation). After getting quite agitated under the assumption that my name had been Mahn in the past but is not any longer he eventually relented and let us pass.
I have instigated a new house rule. All US citizens to my house will now be photographed and fingerprinted. They will have to tell me how many days it has been since their last visit to my house, whether they are visiting for business or pleasure and I shall confiscate any fruit or meat products.
Kiran now crawls at some amazing speed and goes directly for 110V and 240V wires which she likes to chew. She is quite an ambitious girl that knows no limits. She has recently tried to eat a voltage transformer, the dishwasher and the fridge freezer. I have been playing her songs about primal scream therapy and she seems quite receptive. She also watches what I consider to be far too much Zee TV (Indian TV channel) with her grandmother especially considering the ambient level of melodrama in our lives.
Susan has returned to work three days a week and my mother looks after Kiran. The problem is that Kiran can crawl faster than my poor mother can hobble. My mother is waiting for an NHS (UK state health service) appointment to have her arthritic knees looked at and downright refuses to let me book a private appointment for her. Why pay $150 when you can suffer in agonizing pain for two years and have it done for free? You can imagine the Goodness Gracious Me sketch.
We are swapping the sun for the rain and clear blue skies for clouds.
There are many things about California that we will miss immensely. First and foremost we will miss our very good friends here who we presume will not follow us into the drizzle. We hope they will forgive us for our betrayal and lunacy. We will also miss the perfect weather and jaw-droppingly beautiful countryside which help to significantly raise the escape velocity from the Bay Area. We will miss the politeness and civility of random strangers even towards someone who looks like he needs an extra level of security screening at airports. I will miss the elementary school where I do volunteer work and help to create a new wave of students with hybrid accents (namely Mexican-Scottish and Punjabi-Scottish). I will miss going into our garden and picking grapefruits, lemons and our fresh herbs.
We will not miss US-101 (the “road to hell” as I call it) or El Camino Real with its endless depressing strip malls (shopping centers). I will not miss living in suburbia far from a proper city center and decent pub. I will not miss the California DMV (DVLC). I will not miss Jacuzzi maintenance. I seem to be one of the few people here who holds the heretical belief that the average price/performance of high end Bay Area restaurants is very low. I hope to never see a badly grilled piece of meat covered with an Asian confusion cuisine sauce and served with the standard issue garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus which is guaranteed to clash with any wine known to mankind.
In February we move to our next raintown Seattle (not Redmond) where I shall start to work at Microsoft (not research: but please don’t ask me about the project). I am currently going through the very painful process of extricating myself from Xilinx. It is like going through a very bad breakup with a long term girlfriend. Susan will continue to work for HP Labs remotely from Seattle. Our plan is to stay another two years in the US to get citizenship and then move back to the UK. By then I shall have forgotten what shadows look like.
People keep mentioning the “evil empire” to me. I can only presume they are talking about Sun Microsystems