Well, it had to happen sometime. All good things come to an end and all that.
Well no, not really. Since starting loquitohermoso in June 2015 a lot of things had happened. I’d been right round the world, for a start. One of the greatest Sliding Doors romances of my life had started unexpectedly in Russia and then gradually faded out, the flame of an amazing connection slowly but surely snuffed out by the impossible boundaries of geography and circumstance. I’d taken a course in Buenos Aires and had become a qualified EFL teacher, spending 6 months contracted by a top South American university building my confidence and skills.
And it’s true, I could quite easily have stayed there. The University wanted me to stay on, and I had built an entirely sustainable life on that little island in the Galapagos. Many, I’m sure, think it una locura that I upped sticks and relocated myself back to this rainy, cold little corner of the North Atlantic.
But, the truth of the matter is that if it’s not right, it’s not right. Various things had coincided to make my decisions for me, a series of tributaries flowing into the course of my life for the immediate future. The most significant of these was that my previous place of work, against all odds, approved my request to come back not as a city Detective, but rather as a rural response cop in the area where I grew up.
This isn’t something I ever expected to happen. Part of me wanted them to call my bluff, to say no, to dare me to quit. And I unequivocally, 100% would have done if they’d insisted on my return to that life. That crazy city life of stress, of high prestige but impossible working conditions, of high wages but ridiculous hours. I couldn’t have done it. The words of Daniel Craig whilst watching Skyfall in Bangkok resonated with me: “If I do what I do for too long, there won’t be any soul left to save”.
Life on the islands wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It seemed that to fit in truly with the local ‘scene’ you had to either be a family, or alternatively a crazy, larger than life party person, living from Friday to Friday and the next Pilsner/sniff of coke. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit either of those moulds, so at times life on Santa Cruz became lonely and isolated. Who knows what the next batch of teachers would be like, or whether we’d click. Expat life can be great, but when your circle is tiny and means of escape limited, it becomes hard work.
I felt the pressure to stay overseas. My friends and acquaintances in the UK avidly reading this blog, and willing me to go on, to go further, to see more things. To keep the dream alive. But sometimes you need to step back and realise that it’s not an endurance race, it’s life.
I reasoned that it didn’t have to be forever, but the time was right to come back to the UK for a while. If I’d have quit the Police that avenue probably wouldn’t ever be open to me again, and the chance to completely change my working life deserved a chance.
The thing is, I’m not sure about the lifespan of EFL teaching abroad. There are any number of jobs available anywhere you fancy, but I wasn’t sure if it would be something I’d come to hate after a couple of years. I don’t have to do it right now- If I want to escape in the future then I’ve got a viable income, and now I know without doubt that I can carve out a good living anywhere I choose.
Back to ma’s
Probably the ‘worst’ thing about being back in England was feeling like I’d started from scratch. Having last done it around the age of 19, I was back into my mum’s spare room, tip-toeing around at night. Aargh! After nearly 18 months of unlimited liberty, and nearly 19 years of having my own place, this was hard work.
My flat was occupied, and I’d sold my beloved car for a song to an idiot who hadn’t registered or taxed it, leaving me a long-running bureaucratic nightmare with the DVLA. Half of my stuff was up in Bristol, and apart from a few suitcases of clothes I didn’t have much to my name down here in the country. Funny how you can go from living out of a 55l rucksac with not a care in the world to needing to be surrounded by familiar things.
My mum, naturally, was brilliant, insuring me on her car and generally easing me back into normal life. And for her own part, putting up with having someone around the house all of the time.
Winter in the UK is absolutely the worst time to return having enjoyed nearly 18 months of perpetual summer and sunshine. Whilst the equatorial days were slightly numbing in their regular-as-clockwork 6am-6pm daylight, coming back to Northern Hemisphere winter, right in the jaws of the shortest ‘dark at 4pm’ days was, quite simply, brutal.
Slowly things started to come together. Despite having been informed 6 months in advance of my likely return date it was still a matter of immensely slow cogs reluctantly turning to get a definite return date, a kind of organisational surprise that I actually was coming back and they needed to get on with it. Staggering.
I’d managed to move into my new rented place by the time I started work, although it was more like ‘camping’ for the first few weeks, nay months as I railed against all the stuff that I really didn’t fancy buying and stuff that I knew I already had in Bristol. Having spent probably the best part of £15,000 on my time away the concept of having to pay money for boring stuff like curtains was deeply painful.
Back to work
By the time I started work I’d been at home for a month, and I was crawling the walls. It was definitely time to crack on and, if nothing else, I was by this point desperately skint.
Naturally with the levels of organisation in the Organisation, quite literally nothing had been sorted out, and I was ready to cry when I received a call 2 days before I was due to start telling me that I was due to be working in Bridgwater for the next 3 months. But I live in Minehead, I wailed! The prospect of nearly 2hrs of commuting every day was unattractive to say the least, but at least this boiled down to using a work car, in work time, to make the journey. A minor win.
Coming back to work was a major change. I’d neither forgotten how to speak to people, nor the intricacies of British criminal law, in my time away, however being back in uniform, out on the streets, was wildly different to my previous 8 years as a plain-clothes detective. For a start, I’d not appreciated how everyone LOOKS AT YOU. Everywhere. It’s bizarre. Everyone looks guilty when there’s a cop around. Even I do!
Hot fuzz, cold nights
Everyone teases me with Hot Fuzz references, failing to realise that it’s actually one of the most authentic rural policing documentaries going. I came to realise this pretty quickly, on my first shifts around Exmoor having to rescue wayward hounds from the road, and on subsequent stints in Bridgwater when I realised I hadn’t actually got a bloody clue what I was doing. “Er, do we deal with loose horses? Where’s the nearest farm?” and other similar treats.
I also quickly learnt the inadequacy of issued uniform when it comes to keeping out the cold, whilst standing over a dying pony in the middle of the main trunk road across the moors in a howling gale. Then dragging the now-dead pony up a bank. There’s no glamour in rural Police work, it’s maybe the odd day of mooching around beauty spots waving at people, certainly the occasional BRILLIANT half-hour emergency response drive, but more often than not it’s shovelling dead badgers off arterial roads and associated animal shenanigans, or actually plenty of the horrible gritty stuff that. goes on in the city and still needs dealing with, generally with far fewer resources and the unique challenges that come from being at least half an hour from the nearest major station.
So, that’s me back here for a while. Stay tuned for ‘loquitohermoso does normal life’ rambling bilge as well as a few fun weekend escapes…