People said, before I left, that the thing that made me homesick would be something completely unexpected; something I wouldnt even have considered.
Rubbish, I said. I have considered everything. That is one of the great things about anxiety-based depression: no one can ever accuse you of not having thought something through because youve not only thought it through, youve wasted a hell of a lot of time and energy thinking through every possible alternative scenario, the ramifications and consequences of each and the correct way of dealing with every single one, no matter how unlikely.
Its brilliant that way. If somewhat time-consuming.
So I thought I had covered absolutely everything. Mainly, I thought, almost everything would be covered by the fact that food-wise, if you cant get it in at least one American supermarket, it probably doesnt exist. In this society, choice is paramount and the customer is king. I like this. I was well aware that I wasnt exactly going to go wanting for my favourite yoghurt, because not only would they have that, but 12 other ones like it, available in fat-free, low-fat, extra-added-vitamin and fibre-enhanced varieties.
Within the first four days I had found in shops within blocks of my house all my favourite staple things (apart from Marmite and Vegemite, which I am working on) and a billion other things that will either replace staple foods from the UK, or just be new ones. Thats great. I am loving it all. Really.
But there is one thing.
Just one thing. Please, dearest US readers, please understand I think your country and your shops marvellous, and your people welcoming and your choices more than adequate. But seriously. Youve managed all these wonders and come so far and done it all without squash? HOW?
Not squash the vegetable, no.
Squash the drink.
No, not a drink made from or tasting of the vegetable squash. Just squash.
It was a huge iceberg of homesickness that hit me at the end of last week, and it was carried on a giant wave of squash.
Every time I walked through the aisles I would be counting things off. Juice, yes, lovely. Fizzy drinks, super, brilliant; every possible kind of fizzy drinks in sugarless form? Super-awesome. Now. If I could just get some squash, then
. what do you mean, no squash? Its fruit or peppermint flavoured concentrate or cordial, available in sugary and no-sugar form, and occasionally with barley. It comes in bottles of a litre or two litres and occasionally bigger (lets not talk about the litre thing for the moment, we will leave that to another time) and once you have a bottle you can dilute it to taste, but youll get pints and pints of lovely refreshing squash out of one bottle and well, lets face it, I – no, we – drank a lot of squash. It is easy to carry back from the shops without a car, and its just Its just. I cant believe Im trying to explain why squash should be a reasonable proposition. It just IS.
Its SQUASH. How can you NOT have squash? This is the state of mind I found myself in after the Nth fruitless (ha!) journey to yet another supermarket where we found things that were vaguely similar (no, Kool Aid is not the same, sadly) that I finally got swept under the wave of squash that had been chasing me all week.
I just want some lemon squash. Thats all I want I said to myself, quietly, on my armchair, and started crying.
By the time the pilgrims reached Plymouth Harbour they must have finished all the Vimto. In 400 years they havent managed to replicate the technology needed to create squash.
I twittered, or something like.
Is that like juice? We have many good drinks. And all kinds of soda!
Came the eminently sensible voice of someone on in my twittering community.
Your juices are unbeatable in variety and quality, and your fizzy drinks are more than a girl could ever wish for. Right now, however, I really, REALLY want some squash.
She supplied me with the quote that tipped me over the edge when she directed me to Wikipedia and its assertion that:
It is worth noting that the concept of squash is generally met with confusion when put to North Americans (often to the surprise of UK citizens to whom squash made up a large part of their liquid intake, especially as children). There seems to be no suitable equivalent beverage by which an understanding can be reached.
NOTHING? I thought. NOTHING? I asked around and no, not in regular shops; not really no. I could import it, I could buy it at four times the price in special British shops but I didnt want to. I dont want to waste money on stupid squash, and I dont want to waste stupid food miles on squash. I just want – and this is where the argument gets a bit more fuzzy – I just want there to BE squash, because it is a good thing and nice and I know British people are a bit over-squashy in their squashing, but seriously, why not? Why NOT have squash?
And I sat and I wept. I wept for supermarket own-brand sugar-free lemon squash. I wept for home and for the things I knew and felt comfortable with. I wept for my friends and my family, and the life I had built and a community I didnt have to be shy around. I wept and wept and wept; I wept for the amazingness of everything new and the sadness at having the broken things (but broken and within my comfort zone) left behind. I wept for not knowing how things worked, and not understanding a different culture and its different priorities – not worse, just different. I wept at the overwhelmingness of new sounds and smells and not knowing what brand of coffee bean I liked anymore, but having 500 to choose from. I wept because there is a deluge of wonderful new experiences and I am scared that I am too cautious and shy to enjoy or appreciate them. I wept because I didnt know when the bin goes out and I dont know where the bus stops or where it goes. I wept because I am not that great with change, really. Though I am trying quite hard because I want this a LOT, for myself and especially for my beloved.
But I didnt know I wept for those things.
As far as I was concerned, I wept for squash.
My Beloved woke up from a nap and found me in a little puddle in the corner of my chair, still weeping. He wrapped me up in his arms and rocked me and asked me what was wrong.
It took a few minutes until he figured out I was mumbling Squash. Squash. I just want some lemon squash. Why cant they have squash?.
And then, bless him, he managed to stop laughing for long enough to hug it out of me.
Coming soon, chapter two in the moving continent handbook: the seven stages of homesickness as particularly related to squash.