Thursday, 9 May 2013
Thursday, 29 July 2010
In June I took the “Life in the UK” test, which is a prerequisite for applying for citizenship or indefinite leave to remain. The Home Office offers a book that contains all of the information used to formulate the test, so I had been studying for a few weeks before driving up to Llandrillo College in Conwy to take the test. There were six of us in the room, and we learned afterwards that four of us had passed. I treated myself to a cream cake in one of the many tea rooms in Rhos-on-Sea afterwards to celebrate, and began to think (in other words “worry”) about the next challenge: my application for “Indefinite Leave to Remain.”
Having lived and held a work permit in the UK for five years, I was eligible to apply for this long-term residence permit, which would remove conditions from my stay. It would allow me to work in any job, instead of only as part of the music duo “Ember,” as specified on my work permit. It would also free me from the need to apply for more visas or work permits, as long as I was never absent from the country for more than two years.
So I compiled my application, with evidence of my work, finances and continuous time spent in the country. I also asked for letters of support from my employer, and from some of the theatre and festival organisers who have booked Ember in the past. For good measure I rounded up a selection of reviews and publicity about our music from over the years, to show how very busy we have been. . . and finally I made sure I had the £1095 in my account to pay for the application!
The people in the Cardiff public enquiry office were very friendly, and after I handed in the application and paid the fee they advised that I go look around the town centre for a couple of hours, as it would be more pleasant than hanging around the small, crowded waiting room. So I took their advice and found the high street, with plenty of shoe shops to keep me occupied. And, in fact, I did find a couple of contenders for summer sandals, but decided it would be bad luck to buy myself shoes before I knew the outcome of the application.
After two hours, they still hadn’t rung my phone to ask me to return, but I couldn’t face any more shopping so I returned to the dreaded waiting room, and asked the security man to tell someone I’d returned. After a while a man came out and asked me a question about my application. It was a scary question, as it seemed to imply that my time in the UK may not have added up to five years. I answered the best I could. He went back behind the door. This happened three or four more times over the course of an hour or so. My heart was wildly fluctuating, and I could see the other applicants in the room looking by turns exhausted and fearful, but then remarkably poised when they were approached by an officer holding their papers.
Eventually there was only one other person sitting in the waiting room with me. She and I took turns standing up and walking over to look out the window at the typically grey and uninspiring street scene below. I happened to be sitting when my officer, whose name I never learned, walked out and handed me my folder. “You’re all done. You’ll get your passport in the post with the sticker in it within five days.” He was very matter of fact. I was so relieved and grateful, I shook his hand vigorously and thanked him, which seemed to amuse him somewhat. Then I caught the bus back to the station, in time for the 5:43 train back to Machynlleth. As I walked to my platform, I recognized a woman I’d seen in the waiting room. She was just settling into a seat in the cafe, and pouring herself a glass of white wine. I had already bought myself a celebratory can of Guinness, which I opened as soon as the train began to move.
When I arrived home several hours later, there were big yellow letters in the window spelling out “HOORAY,” and the unmistakable sound of the gramophone playing some lovely smaltzy 1940’s jazz. Paul appeared from the conservatory with a bottle of wine in his hand, poured me a glass and then grabbed me for a waltz until the music stopped. The cat was there too. We were all very happy.
Since then I have felt much more grounded. It’s made a difference to my state of mind, knowing that I can stay here as long as I want. Once or twice I have felt worried for a moment, about nothing in particular, and then had to remind myself: I don’t have to worry about that any more! It had been weighing on my mind for a long time, as I feared they might find some reason to turn me down. I’m very grateful to have been accepted as a permanent resident, and might even consider applying for citizenship, when I’m eligible in another year.
Paul and me after our traditional "river walk" on Solstice
the river (alright, so it's more of a stream)
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Tomorrow is day one of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Like others around the world I am crossing my fingers that the conference will result in a treaty appropriate to the danger level we are facing.
Of course we all know that crossing our fingers won’t do much, and that’s why we can be grateful for organisations like Centre for Alternative Technology, located here in mid-Wales. The Centre was founded in the the mid-seventies as a reaction to the fuel shortages of the time, and these days the staff continue to track climate change science, while working to spread the word about how policy and individual behaviour may need to shift in the coming years.
To this end, the creative minds at C.A.T. are always finding new ways to engage the local community, a recent success being the “Arts in Transition” conference, held December 2nd in a wing of the new education building. In my capacity as a songwriter, I was pleased to be among the local artists invited to hear a series of short presentations by C.A.T. staff, with plenty of time in the schedule to discuss the issues with the specialists, and with the artists in attendance.
BBC-commissioned radio playwright Sarah Woods facilitated the meetings, beginning with an acknowledgment of the difficulty artists face in forging a path between “finger-wagging and the hippie viewpoint,” when trying to portray relevant modern issues.
Long-term staff member Tanya Hawkes pointed out that in Wales sustainability is an integral part of politics, more than in the rest of the UK. There is also the encouraging fact that other countries such as Norway, Iceland and Costa Rica have been making ambitious pacts amongst themselves, thereby getting a head start on the global treaty process. So all is not doom and gloom!
Although I was only able to attend the morning session, I was stimulated the event, and by the presence of so many motivated local artists. As far as I could tell it was quite theatrical bunch, but there were also a number of visual artists, many of whose work I had previously enjoyed.
Some of my favorites:
Pippa Taylor, wood sculptor
Meri Wells, ceramic sculptor
Caitlin Shepherd, illustrator and textile designer
Local film-maker Pete Telford covered the conference, and has posted an article on his Culture Colony website with photos and details of the presentations.
Thanks to C.A.T. for an inspiring few hours; I have great hopes for the ability of artists to draw climate change into our collective conscience. Now lets cross our fingers for Copenhagen. . .
Friday, 25 September 2009
Autumn is with us, and like all good children, I’m back in class. Have just begun my second of year of intensive Welsh language, taught by the inspiring Sue Evans, of Penegoes. I must admit I was originally skeptical about learning from a non-native speaker, but within an hour of class, it was clear she could explain the ins and outs of Cymraeg as well as any native speaker -- perhaps even better, with the experience of having learned it herself. Sue is a natural comedienne, and laughter is a big part of the class; I find this eases the frustration when those stubborn, aging synapses refuse to fire.
Faint o bobl sy‘na yn y dosbarth? How many people are in the class?
Mae ‘na bymtheg person yn y dosbarth. There are 15 people in the class.
Yes, it’s rather large, for a language class. But how can you exclude someone who comes along with a sincere wish to learn? I can see it’s not easy. Oh well, wish as luck as we delve into this beautiful and mysterious ancient Celtic language. And as we summon up courage to use it in the shops and cafes of Machynlleth!