All hail Exonia, land of the free!

30-Jan-09

I am very disappointed with my adoptive country. Which is not, I scramble backwards through barbed wire and under heavy machine gun fire to point out to you, this one. That fact may come as a surprise to you. It possibly may not. It all depends on how easily surprised you are and how excruciatingly little you care. By way of justifying this revelation I feel bound to mention that I have been mistaken for an Englishman in the past. In this last twelvemonth my accent, affectations and appearance have so confused the general public that I have been taken for German, Australian, South African and, during one particularly memorable evening in the company of a gentleman who was scraping the literal barrel as assiduously as the figurative one, for Welsh. On a whim I decided to humour the poor soul by injecting a sparkling lilt into my otherwise staccato tones and passed myself off as Huw. My imitation of a Mumbai taxi-driver was, I discovered later, the talk of the party.

But, despite the stuffiness and self-deprecation of my character, my partiality for triangular sandwiches and the graphic and obscene acts of depravity I allow myself to inflict upon our common language, I am not a native of this sceptred isle. This fortress, built by Nature for herself against infection, has no place within her walls for the likes of me. With my distaste for tea, my unhealthy attitude towards cricket and my preponderance for cheap stereotypes picked up from continental travel guides of the prewar period, I am kept safely at arms length by the officials at HM Border Agency.

No; I am not a part of what Napoleon would doubtless have called this nation of jobseekers. I am Exonian. I was born a Wylander, but the many happy years spent in Exonia have won me a small, brightly coloured passport complete with the decorations and official imprints characteristic of that glorious country. It is a treasured possession, whose place in my heart is second only to the complementary ID card distributed to me at the same time. It is testament to my pride in my nationality that my fingers invariably close around this card whenever I mean to present my college ID. Though my heart swells with pride at the sight of it, the door to the computing suite never ceases to be unimpressed. The arrangement of my wallet, however, is perhaps a question for a happier hour.

As an Exonian national, whether living at home or abroad, there are certain obligations I am legally required to fulfill. It was therefore strongly recommended to me that I register with the nearest consulate or embassy as quickly as possible upon a change of address. I have been reachable in NW1 as of September – across the road, as it happens, from the Exonian embassy – and yet, what with one thing and another, it was only this morning that I brushed off the top hat and spats to pay His Excellency a visit.

I must explain that fear has played a significant part in my procrastination over this vital social function. Having neglected to register within the first two months after moving in, the thought crossed my mind that it would be impolite of me to disturb them after so great a delay. Their reaction, more to the point, might also not be entirely favourable. After two more months had passed, I decided that it would be unfair to burden them with the additional paperwork, and nobly hid myself from their view.

Having experienced unpleasantness at the cold, merciless and hairy hands of Exonian officials in the past, the phrase ‘once berned, twice shy’ springs to the keyboard in an attempt to justify such hesitation. But, having fortified myself with a shot of Humphrey Bogart walking purposefully away from the camera, and steadied my nerves with an hour spent watching laundry both shaken and stirred in a large tumbler, I crossed the threshold of my designated home away from home at half past ten this a.m.

And this is where the tagline kicks in. The experience was, all in all, terribly anticlimactic. I walked through the double doors today in the desperate hope that hysterical bureaucracy and diplomatic kerfuffliage would provide me with some incident worth relating. It didn’t need to be much – a trenchcoated agent lurking in the corner, armed men escorting me off  to some abandoned mountain retreat for further questioning: something, anything. Anything humorous, exciting or interesting would have gone down a treat.

In my desperation, dear readers, I had clearly forgotten what my country stands for. While I would be loath to propagate the insulting generalizations that have plagued my countrymen for generations, I think it only fair to inform you that when one considers the Exonians, originality, humour and excitement do not race to the fore of the mind. These are not a people welded together by the spark of creativity. 

The tiny hall of the embassy was in consequence a nanocosm of Exonia – the same people, the same depressing decorations, the same varnished wood panelling and crystallized glass surfacing, the same orderly piles of recycled grey paper and floppy off-white hardback books found in any government office back home. My chances of finding something amusing to relate from its interior are about as good as my chances of finishing a sentence without needing to replace the comma key on my keyboard due to overuse.

The result of my dreary yet mercifully short session with the uniformed and uninformed official is that I might still be here next week; the necessary forms are still on my desk. We’ll see

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