I left the US with the firm intention of staying in the UK for good. I came here to fulfill a promise to Ms Keogh, my cherished companion, to return her to her native land and family following my retirement. That I have done so is one of my proudest achievements. So I was intent on staying even before I had discovered the intense joy of living in Cardiff, Wales. (Or “Whales” as the current President would have it.) Ms Keogh died one year ago yesterday. I had no desire to return to the USA, not even to visit, being very happy here. Not as happy as I would have been if Ms Keogh were still alive, but happier than I could be anywhere else.
This morning, I was startled from sleep by a special delivery. It was from the Home Office. It was my new Residence Permit. I have been granted “indefinite leave to remain” and the privilege of “settlement”. I had applied six months ago.
It was a shock when I discovered the Home Office would not automatically allow me to stay because Ms Keogh was no longer alive. We had been together thirty-five years. However, because we had been living in the UK for less than ten years, they were expecting me to return to the USA. I had to apply once again to UK Visa and Immigration, this time requesting a visa based on my bereavement. The application fee was £2,389.
Having made an awful mess of my immigration application in the past and needing a solicitor to unravel the Gordian Knot of British bureaucracy, this time I had gone directly to my solicitor. He was kind. He explained that I would not find the application as difficult this time and asserted I could do it myself without having to pay him his expensive fee. He reassured me it was unthinkable that the Home Office would reject my application. He relieved my worries by saying I could call him if I had any questions about the form and that if by some perversity I was rejected, I could then come back to him. At first he declined to take any money for my visit, but I insisted he accept a consultation fee, £50. And he was right, it was not as hard as I feared and they did not reject me. He is a good man.
There were other issues I had to contend with. My landlord needed to sell the apartment I occupy, this apartment in the heart of Cardiff where Ms Keogh and I thought we might live the rest of our lives together. Then I thought I would remain surrounded by ghostly memories. It was not to be. There was no one to blame. The landlord believes he will have an easier time selling this apartment if it is vacant and I must vacate by 7th August. I never dealt with the landlord, but Ms Keogh had contacted him several times and came away with the impression that he was kind and understanding. He was agreeable to everything she wanted to do with the apartment. I harbor no ill will towards the fellow.
I was panicked as to finding another place to live half as nice and here in the heart of the city I love.
A new place has been secured. The new apartment is upstairs in the same building. It has basically the same design. The bedroom is bigger and has better furniture. The living room is narrower and has awful furniture. The only furniture I own is a bureau desk and an antique bookcase. The antique bookcase was Ms Keogh’s. She sought long and hard for just the right one. It was to contain all she wanted it to contain and I was not to be allotted a portion. She died before it was half filled. Will I convert it into a shrine?
Since I have to vacate this apartment by 7th August and the next apartment becomes available 22nd July, I have two weeks to effect a very easy move. While I will not have windows overlooking The Hayes, I will not have to listen to some awful buskers and at night rowdy drunks leaving the clubs. The new apartment doesn’t have windows, but glass doors leading out onto two balconies, one for the bedroom and the other for the living room. They face south, so I will see the sun and the moon. I have had only a glimpse, but from the fourth floor, the top floor, it will peer over rooftops, the skylight of the Royal Arcade, and the back of the Tabernacle Chapel. I think I could even like the next apartment more than this, so maybe this forced move is serendipitous. It will serve well as my scriptorium and it will cost me £50 less a month.
Selected Suburban Soliloquies, the best of Mr Bentzman's earlier series of Snakeskin essays, is available as a book or as an ebook, from Amazon and elsewhere.