• Elliot Harper

MicroBlog 9: Goodbye USA

How do you sum up five years’ worth of experiences in one blog? The simple answer is that you can’t. And you certainly can’t in 250 words, so this may run over a bit.

Five years…

Can you believe it’s been that long!?

That’s 1825 days, or 43,800 hours, or even 2,628,000 minutes…

I could go on, but I won’t because that would be odd (and I haven’t been keeping count, I just Googled it.) Let’s just say it’s been a long time, which is why it’s impossible to sum it all up easily. I will say this before I try and do just that. Those first three years were incredible! About mid-way through that time, I would have absolutely stayed in Houston for many years, but the pandemic came and changed the world forever, including myself and Naomi. Suddenly, we couldn’t go home, suddenly we were stuck, and that was agony. I’d never really missed home before, and then I abruptly did, and homesickness, I can tell you from experience, especially when there is such an existential threat hanging over your head, is really fucking awful.

But I don’t want this whole blog to be a downer, so I’m going to utilise two lists, which, with any luck, will show what I loved and hated about the States and Texas. Let’s do the latter first and get it out of the way.

Ten things I hated about the USA

1. Donald Trump… that idiot is ridiculous, and I won’t waste any further time on the twat… And American politics in general… just what in the blue hell is that all about!? I know it’s bad in England, but that shit is crazy! Literally batshit insane. Wow.

2. The state of the roads. I still can’t believe how many potholes there are.

3. For Texas in particular - the heat. The summers are brutal and seemingly last forever. 40+ Celsius and 90% humidity every day had me begging for the frozen wastes of Yorkshire by the end of September each year.

4. And what does heat bring? Insects! First, Mosquitoes. If you dared to step outside for more than two minutes with bare arms or feet, you were bombarded by these little blighters, which would then lead to days of nasty welts and incessant scratching. Second, cockroaches. During Spring, there’s always an explosion of these awful creatures, and they will appear everywhere. And to cap it off, they are huge.

5. Again, specific to Texas. Only hot water coming out of either tap. Disgusting! Give me the ice-cold water of the north any day.

6. This is an obvious one. Healthcare – the NHS is a treasure that we should guard at all costs. That’s not to say that US healthcare is bad, it’s just that it’s no better than the NHS, but obviously far more expensive.

7. The way people drive. That extra minute you gain by driving like a prick is not worth your life.

8. The general cost of things. America is ridiculously expensive (which, again, doesn’t mean what you buy is any good. It still falls apart just as quickly.)

9. Stray dogs – there are so many on the streets. It’s unreal and heart-breaking.

10. Extreme weather. Hurricanes and tropical storms – Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was terrifying.

Ten Things I loved about the USA

1. The national parks – they are incredible! We were lucky to go to quite a few, and I was blown away each time. Yosemite, Big Bend, Zion, the list goes on. They really are beautiful.

2. The convenience of things. Drive throughs, and everything you need, and don’t need, is always a short trip away.

3. The size of the houses/apartments and the land you get with it. I’ll never have a garden that big ever again! It was practically a football pitch and great for the dogs.

4. Specific to Texas – the weather during the winter. 20-25 Celsius during the day and 10 at night from November to February. Pure bliss! (Let’s ignore the Big Freeze that happened in February and knocked out the power grid of the whole of Texas for two weeks.)

5. Events in general – there’s always something on, and it's always organised well, be it sports, music or comedy.

6. This is Houston specific – the Houston Symphony. Before we lived in the US, I never went to anything with an orchestra, but now I plan to go frequently. Also, witnessing Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars accompanied by an entire symphony is incredible (geek!)

7. Coffee shops. I love these places, and there are millions of them, and they are great spots to hang out, especially if you don’t drink alcohol. (Although I did eventually quit proper coffee and switched to decaf or chai lattes, but I still liked to frequent those establishments.)

8. Swimming pools in the back gardens – need I say more?

9. The cinema. Specifically, the Alamo Drafthouse, where you can go and see retro movies. I got to see some classics that I’ve always wanted to view on the big screen. (They Live, Bladerunner, Commando, Donnie Darko, The Shining, Videodrome, Godfather 1&2…)

10. Last, and by no means least, the friends we made.

I’d like to briefly focus on point 10. Without the friends we made while we lived in Houston, our time there wouldn’t have been even a quarter as good as it was. We frequently did things together, and I shall look back on those times fondly. I have no doubt that the friendships we forged in Texas are lifelong, and I look forward to visiting them and having them visit us in the very near future.

And finally, I found two things that have changed my life forever: writing and sobriety. I’ve written about those two subjects extensively before, so I won’t bore you with them now, but I’ll be forever thankful that I had the time and space (afforded to me by my loving and exceedingly clever wife) to quit alcohol and begin to write. Hopefully, one day (knock on wood), I’ll get signed by a literary agent who will sell one of my books to a big publisher, and I can repay Naomi for allowing me to sit at home and regurgitate the madness that dwells within my brain.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. Thank you, America, for giving me five incredible and memorable years.


Back in the North.

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