Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Good Evening...

I realise we're hardly suffering from a shortage of travel writing. Stick a pin in just about any page of an Atlas and chance is that somebody from somewhere else will have been there and written about it. You can even expand the map to include bits of the moon should you so wish, although admittedly once you leave Earth, the breadth and standard of the narrative falls off somewhat, and tourist accounts of Venus and Alpha Centauri tend towards a certain cranky tone. So I'm aware that I'm not the first English person to come to Texas, and nor am I likely to be the first to write about the Lone Star State from the perspective of someone who wears a bowler hat, has terrible teeth, and probably knows the Queen. I may not even be the first English guy called Lawrence to show up in San Antonio with the intention of marrying, settling, and sharing my hilariously ill-informed observations, but here I am regardless, and no-one's forcing you to read. So, having established that a brick thrown from the window of a speeding vehicle will almost certainly hit the expatriate author of some blog about life in a different country, state, town, village, house, or dimension, and having also established that this isn't my fault, I suppose I should get down to business and address the most obvious question of just what I think I'm doing here.

About fifteen years ago I developed an obsession with Mexican history, specifically the parts of it that famously involved pyramids, sacrifice, and featherwork headdresses. It began with a few books, then gradually escalated into the sort of engrossing devotion that allows for heated internet debate about Zacatenco and Tlatilco pottery phases, interpretations of the Tonalpohualli calendar, and why generally respected Mesoamericanist Ross Hassig is wrong wrong wrong; in other words, some way beyond the level of being able to watch a History Channel documentary without wincing. Inevitably, although never having previously travelled beyond English shores (unless you count Wales), I visited Mexico on five separate occasions, travelling alone despite better judgement, clambering around ruins whilst rubbing my chin in vigorously thoughtful manner, and discovering Mexican cuisine. We don't really have Mexican food in England. Indeed, we hadn't even heard of nachos before Beavis and Butthead started flying that particular flag on one of our three television channels.

These Mexican excursions were all something of an adventure, and one that well disposed me towards both this side of the globe and any place with Mexican food. Additionally, these interests introduced me to the woman I intend to marry, albeit by a slightly long-winded and indirect route. The details of this particular soap opera are really nobody else's business - at least not until someone turns it into a film - but trust me, there was enough there to justify the lengthy process of applying for a Visa and moving here.

I've visited San Antonio before, so this hasn't entirely been a leap into the dark, but visiting and settling are very different things. Cute cultural or geographical quirks noted during a holiday prove far stranger when encountered as part of daily life. So - and I'm afraid there's no way to phrase this without it sounding at least faintly insulting - An Englishman in Texas is not necessarily the account of a tourist amused by your Hostess Twinkies and bewildered by the worrying scarcity of steak and kidney pie; it may in places read more like Cyrano de Bergerac's musings regarding life on other spheres, people who walk on all fours or have faces set in the middle of their chests, and the like. Please try not to take it personally.

It's a love letter of sorts, albeit a love letter that involves a lot of pointing, staring, and incredulous double takes in the manner of James Finlayson in an old Laurel & Hardy film. Hopefully we can all learn from the experience, and someone can hook me up with a good dentist.