The fog I had seen through the bedroom window for miles finally cleared to reveal the hillsides that gave Buckinghamshire its air of beauty. I wandered down the path for a while and then skirted a sinuous route behind several bungalows before breaking in stride to cross the small road that led into the cul-de-sac. The grass, so green in the gardens, was groomed like the beard of an old man and it left me wandering what it would be like to thread barefooted on it. In the mid afternoon I could hear the children playing but could see none of them. I walked blindly through the small village mesmerized by the peace and tranquility that stemmed from the rural countryside. It felt like the moors but with houses, equidistant from each other as a finishing touch to an already polished landscape.
I felt the urge to scream, even at the expense of running and breaking the silence but I kept my peace deciding that just the mere thought of this action gave meaning to the moment. I had read about it in books and even had the opportunity of witnessing it in films but living in it was different.
My Mum had departed three months earlier having made the journey with me to ensure that I settled in university and I was now left to discover for myself the true identity of my aunt and cousins. Things had been different with my mum around. We shared the beauty of the countryside and compared it to the home we had left. At eighteen I was poised to make my own decisions in life. I had settled for electronics at Manchester having failed to make it into aeronautics because of the lack of places on the course in Loughborough. Oh! How I had wanted to learn about planes, to fly planes and to wear the uniform. Yet even the serene hills of the midlands could not assuage this desire. We had driven for endless hours over hills in search of the university to no avail. In the end the next best thing to aeronautics was electronics.
BRIGHTLY SHUN THE MOON AT NIGHT…
The trumpets blared at us from the television set as the carolers sung their hearts out to celebrate Christmas. It was my first Christmas away from my parents and I wondered what the festivities would have been, back home. I was not complaining about moving to England and the dazzling scenery of the countryside but the difference in the values of the people was certainly something to ponder about.
As I sat at the table listening to my cousin’s banter I reached for a chocolate sweet in the basket.
“You should not eat chocolates they are bad for your teeth. I taught my children from young not to eat chocolates because it is bad for them.” I heard my aunt say.
“I don’t think having one chocolate once in a while would kill me.” I responded shocked at what I was hearing.
“Well that is how it usually starts and then before you know it you have bad teeth like most of the young people around these days.” She continued, her eyes looking at me directly across the table.
“Mum, leave him you know how these people are, we call them bush people over here.” I heard one of my cousin’s say. “What he does after he eats is usually go straight up to his room and start reading. I have complained that he has no social skills but he says nothing. Rarely have I seen a boy so quiet.” She said teasing me to say something.
“Well over here if he cannot talk then he cannot have anything in life. This is not back home, you know.” My aunt said.
I took the comments in my stride feeling like a jackaroo on his first day out wondering how it was possible that one could be talked at in this fashion. Was it possible that I had to defend my reasons for eating a chocolate? There had been a time that my aunt had even complained that I refused to watch advertisements on television. She told me that they enabled me know what to buy in the shops and so they were compulsory to watch. I found this bizarre having known all my life what I wanted before going to the shops given the amount of money I was going to spend. I had explained to her that it was not the fact that I did not want to watch adverts but that I used the opportunities to switch through the channels and check for other programs. Well this did not get me far because I was reminded again of how little time I had spent in the country and how little I knew of what was required of me. In the end I was shunted into a world of silence to listen and understand what it took to survive in England.
I walked through the small tunnel that led into High Wycombe town passing a fellow traveler and his Pomeranian dog reflecting upon the challenges that had managed to manifest themselves in my newly found life. I never heard my aunt or cousins talk about the beauty of their surroundings. They never seemed to see the life that lay beyond the intellect that man had granted himself. I was no fanatic of agriculture but no one could discount the absence of pedology in a place that changed so rapidly mile after mile. Even the narrow roads where a feature that could not be overlooked, hedges grew in close proximity to the road that climbed into a small forest in which one could lose one’s self in just seeking for adventure. I pondered at what would have been had I grown up in the area. My hunch was that hopefully I would not have turned out as my aunt, stuck in an artificial world suffocated by rules in society that were as misguided and hopelessly insular to what the human mind was capable of. I had no doubt that no one could miss the beauty of the scenery but what was the response to a society tied up in rules, class segregation and whims born from ignorance. Where they truly happy with themselves? No doubt their world would come crumbling down if one threw them into a dimension that they had never experienced before. Or maybe I was the loser, an outcast in a place that I did not belong to, seeking to be part of a society that did not welcome me. I listened to my thoughts meander through the meadows that climbed into the hills and I felt alone in my new world. I had dreamed of England, back in Cameroon wishing to seek my birth roots and a place that my parents had told me was were I would garner the best of educations and yet deep within my heart I questioned the people and their motives. Surely not everyone could be like this? I did not know many people in the country yet but having started making friends at college, I begun to wonder whether they had drawn the same conclusions about me. Was I too quiet? How could one talk about what one did not understand? Here I was eating heavier food, getting used to the pound and at the same time understanding how to manage my own bank account. I was filling the gaps as I went along getting to know town after town and appreciate the mannerisms of people. It was a challenge to deduce when someone was being sarcastic or serious, and even with this load bearing down upon me I was still getting the tenth degree about my life on Christmas holidays. I had talked to my teachers in the faculties, talked to the people in the banks and even began socializing with some friends yet I never felt as though I needed to change myself or put on this collar of class. Surely my aunt and cousins were wrong about England? If one struggled so much to be something that they weren’t how could they be truly accepted in society?
The doldrums of my world kept my mind busy as I circled the small town courtyard and I decided to make the long trek home. I simpered at my own ridicule deciding that time would tell and life would grant me the answers that I desperately needed.
Today I like to think that High Wycombe was a place in my life that sent me to the eighteenth century and a time of carriages and the beauty of the countryside. My values in life remain intact having learned from the many years I spent in England that all was not what it seemed. Maybe as a child I had received the teachings of Christ differently. Perhaps as God said in the bible he had known all along before we were conceived in our mother’s womb of the type of people we would become. I had taken the right measures to ensure that I did not fall a victim of this misguided pride. In the spiritual world I had learned to seek the seat of humility to gain recognition through my actions rather than words. It had churned my existence making many friends in life and understanding the cultures of many different people.