Posts Tagged ‘Runcorn’

Coming home, I made a list of things I should do while I was back in the UK. It included things like learning to drive and getting a job. I’m not sure that I’ve done any of them – I haven’t even looked at the list since I returned. Blogging about my trip is at least complete – and getting up to date shouldn’t take too long because I haven’t really done that much. Selecting and uploading photos is another slow work in progress – at least it’s in progress. Driving lessons would have taken out my remaining savings in one fell swoop, so I knocked that idea on the head and I’ve been too comfortable to look for work.

My sister has been very kind to me, allowing me to stay here. It’s been good to be able to relax and have no responsibilities for a time. Hanging out with her kids has been great (I make them play Magic: The Gathering and other card games with me – they prefer Korean flower cards) and her youngest is at the cutest stage of life, so that’s a bonus, too.

I sent off for my police subject access request within a week or two of getting back; as soon as it came – a little earlier than I was expecting, given past experience – I made a copy of my degree certificate, got it certified as a true copy, sent the pair to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and received them back quite swiftly. Then I started looking for work. That hasn’t gone so well so far – I’ve spoken to a couple of recruiters; I’ve even been pretty much offered my previous job back, but they’re not going to spring for either a flight out or a proper E-2 visa. I may need to start broadening my search.

I had a dark moment a couple of nights ago when I started thinking that I would never get a job in Korea, that I would never get any worthwhile job again, that I wouldn’t get another girlfriend again, that I wouldn’t do anything with the rest of my life. I’m feeling better now, and today I sent off ten e-mails to recruiters asking after specific jobs or jobs in general. The jobs market is tighter now than in previous years, so getting a job could take a while, but if I don’t try then I certainly won’t get anything.

I’ve been focussing on kindergarten work, because that’s been my favourite work so far, but I have scope to broaden my search to the typical after-school type of hagwon, or even to public schools; and I could also look at other cities than Seoul and its satellites and Daegu, where my friend Peter lives. And then there’s China, if I’m really stuck, or other parts of Asia. I could even look for random where around Europe. But I find it difficult to imagine myself living and working in the UK.

At the same time as getting all the Korea visa documents, I applied for a new passport. I asked my retired friends from Runcorn, Liz and Roger – two of the most respectable people I know – to countersign my application. This was only necessary because my appearance has changed a lot in the past eight years – well, I no longer have long hair. Although I thought I may have screwed it up by not using black biro as specified, but a different kind of black pen, it turned out to be fine and I got a brand new, jumbo-sized passport back within two or three weeks. It feels a bit flimsier than the old one, and (apparently controversially) the identity page is at the front rather than the back; but the BBC-style weather symbols and British landscape on each page are a nice touch.

I’ve been staying in a lot. Went through a phase of playing video games – Halo Something-or-other, Fable 2 and Fable 3; within the last few days I completed Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. Also been helping my sister with housework and stuff – I put loft panels in the central part of her attic; recently we put shelves up in her dining room.

I went to Runcorn to retrieve stuff from my parents’ attic, go through it and stack it all neatly in my sister’s loft. Opening the boxes was kind of like getting a load of birthday presents – from my past self. There were clothes that I’ve happily taken to wearing again (and some I’ve given away to charity); my previous collection of coins and bank notes – that I’ve combined with the new; a few unread books – mostly editions of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I like having collections of things.

Runcorn really is a hive of scum and villainy. Not including when I visited with Habiba, it’s been a few years since I was there. The kids who live there can be little scumbags who hate anyone who doesn’t look like them. I assumed, with my no-longer-long hair (actually, I’d recently given myself a very short haircut with my sister’s clippers), that I wouldn’t attract any untoward attention. Walking along a street near my parents’ place, one of a group of three or four boys said to me, ‘Are you Polish?’ I said, ‘No. Are you?’ He asked his friend, ‘Am I Polish?’ I’ve repressed whatever he said to me next, but I ignored him. It wasn’t explicitly insulting or malicious, but it wasn’t exactly respectful.

Back at my sister’s, she dug out my collection of Magic: The Gathering cards. I’ve been making and remaking decks – I’ve even bought a handful of specific cards for this purpose – with a view to playing with them in Korea (not that I played with them much last time; I could never get Habiba to have a game with me).

I remember, last time I stayed with my sister, buying lots of CDs on the internet, I’ve tried to restrain myself this time, but I did get a handful of novelty dice – a nice pair of d7s, a somewhat disappointing set of 12 polydice including the unusual d3, d5, d14, d16 and d24, and a d100. The latter – a so-called Zocchihedron, after its inventor – was broken when it arrived (simply receiving the package cost me £12 in customs duty and Post Offices charges), but the company in the States is sending a free replacement (that arrived today). I also got a pack of 200 blank cards with a view to making a card game of my own.

Having sold my old massive suitcase back in Korea, I’ve bought a smaller one to use as a carry on bag, while my large backpack will serve as my check-in bag. For their first time in their lives, I washed both of my backpacks. Exciting times.

I spent a very pleasurable week in the south-west, staying alternately with my friends Lawrence (and one night at his girlfriends’) and Alex. Last time I saw them (with Habiba), while great, was only for a fleeting visit. We hung out a lot more this time. Lawrence, Yi-vei and I ate out at a couple of good restaurants; we played table tennis on a public table tennis table at St James Barton Roundabout.

Alex and I played Magic. A lot. We went to Forbidden Planet in Bristol and each bought a box of 285 card; Alex later bought specific cards on-line and updated his decks – finally removing his printed off, poxy proxies. We dipped into a couple of Xbox games (including the MtG one). We saw Dredd 3D, which I thought was pretty bloody brilliant (the Slo-Mo sequences were also pretty bloody and bloody pretty); Alex wasn’t so impressed, for some reason. Watched a DVD of a strange, French sf film called Eden Log.

After getting half-way through Salman Rushdie’s Grimus before returning home, I stopped reading it for a few weeks. More recently, I’ve been trying to crack on with my reading; I’m reading my biggest books first so I don’t have to take them with me to Korea. Which hopefully won’t be too far into the future. Better get a move on with The Art of War and The Hydrogen Sonata, then.

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My dad, as he often did when I was at university there, drove down to Bath with my mum – and arrived on time, surprisingly enough. Then we drove further south to Highcliffe near Bournemouth, where my dad’s mother – ‘Nana’ – and her husband – ‘Uncle Reg’ – live. My dad had reserved a room for us at a nearby hotel.

My parents, on the other hand, stayed with Nana and Reg. As they’re quite elderly, they no longer live in the two-storey bungalow (ie, the master bedroom was on the same level as the attic) that I remember from my childhood, with its big garden with a stream running along it, and, on the far side of the stream, a path leading to a nice big park where I climbed trees. Instead, they have a nicely appointed, but rather plain flat not far from the beach.

They’ve aged a lot since I last saw them – which was a long time ago. Nana was as nice and enthusiastically grandmotherly as she ever was and was a great hit with Habiba; Reg was quieter – his speaking voice was the same, but he didn’t say so much. He’s blind now, so maybe his blindness leaves him in a bit of a world of his own.

In the evening, we drove through the New Forest to an isolated pub for dinner with my dad’s half sister, Lalani, and her mother. Lalani, despite being my aunt, is younger than me or any of my siblings. I’d never met her before – and my dad hadn’t met her until recently. Which facts are explained by my dad’s late father’s estrangement from his first family. Lalani turned out to be a very sweet, friendly person and the meal was a pleasant experience.

The following morning, we went to have a look at the beach at Highcliffe, then set off up north – visiting Stonehenge on the way.

Our specific destination in T’ Nawrth was my sister’s place in the Derbyshire countryside – except not my sister’s place, but her ex-partner’s place because my sister’s place had been devastated by a child- and bathroom-related flood. The family spent a lot of time there and, on the first night, they threw a birthday party for me; later in the evening, we played Star Wars Monopoly.

It was the first time I’d seen Caroline’s kids in a couple of years and they’d grown, as children do. Nelly seemed to be turning into quite a mature teenager, Tom had grown from the clownish cherub I remember into an even-tempered and irreverent boy and the baby, Maisy, had now taken on the mantle of angelic toddler.

Visiting my family is usually a little awkward, as I’m not that close to them – about which I have mixed feelings. But my sister is a friendly, down-to-earth woman and her children are great – which makes them the effective heart of our family. Everyone seemed to take to Habiba very well. I’m sure Habiba felt more than a little apprehensive at meeting them, but she charmed them with her charming charm.

In a slightly bizarre yet completely planned-for turn of events, Lauren, Habiba’s colleague and friend from Korea – whom we’d already met and stayed with in Bratislava – came over to visit one day and we all went to Chatsworth House, a beautiful and very expensive place; the gardens were especially nice. Afterwards, the three of us went shopping at the Farm Shop associated with the house and ate cold pasties in the shop’s car park. Later, we got Bakewell tarts in Bakewell.

On our final full day in the UK, my dad drove us to Runcorn, where we had a nice lunch with my friends from my Liberal Democrat days, Liz and Roger. After chatting to them for a couple of hours about life, we walked over to and around Runcorn Hill. I’d described Runcorn to Habiba as being rather grim with more than its fair share of scumbags, but the parts we saw (with the exception of our brief visit to Halton Lea (which I still think of as Shopping City)) were quite respectable, and the town does have a couple of very nice parks.

After exploring the sandstone crags and views of the Mersey of Runcorn Hill, we walked down to my parents house, where we met my youngest brother, Alex, and their dogs. It was only a flying visit before heading back to Whaley Bridge, where I only just had time to fulfil my promise to give my niece (the elder) and nephew a crash course in Magic: The Gathering.

The following day and before we knew it, it seemed, we had to leave to catch our flight to Iceland and further adventures.

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