Two mornings ago, Pat came to knock on our back door. Caring as ever, she was wondering if I’ve received my passport and visa.
‘Nope,’ I shook my head, smilingly, ‘I know, what a shame.’ I gave her a mischievous wink.
She chuckled, ‘Oh no…’
When I first happily responded, ‘Yes way!’ to their surprised ‘No way!’, Pat and Stephen, who’ve got used to my quirkiness by now, found it amusing, ‘You’re terrible! You should say, “What a shame!”‘
So now, ‘What a shame!’ has sort of become a ‘code’ in our conversations. However complex the issues there are, I use it so as to show I am, after all, a very good, hardworking spouse still.
As usual, Pat and I ended up chatting for at least half an hour. From time to time, if I have work to do, I try avoiding going to our mini jungle, because, like John and Jenny on the other side, Pat and Stephen work a lot in their garden and I might just bump into them and get into another long chat (The fence in between our gardens is low, which I’m fond of actually as it allows much more light for my garden and also feels more spacious). I’m just very clumsy when it comes to socialising — Never know where to begin and when to end.
I told her about how I feel at home here in England as this is where I began the journey of self-discovery after having been lost for years. I’m not that keen on visiting Taiwan anymore because there are memories with Dad almost everywhere and it’s still very painful for me. So, I’d rather my family and friends visit me here instead of me going back there. Then in Singapore, like Taiwan, I do have lovely friends whom I regard as family, but the brutal truth is, I was not happy and felt so repressed in that house throughout the years. I mean, of course, from time to time, I miss my family and friends, but this, Leiston, is where I belong.
Pat nodded empathetically, ‘We’re on the same boat. If I want to be completely honest, this is where I feel the most at ease, where I truly feel at home.’
All their children and grandchildren are in the US. Pat would love to be there with them, but Stephen wouldn’t. His theory is that they – the children – are the one who chose to leave, not the two of them.
‘But then, it must be much harder for you as you’ve been away from your side of family for long even before you came here.’
I heaved a sigh, ‘Well, it wasn’t as bad as the fact that my other half was not there for me when I needed him.’
Pat understood. She’s been married for half a century.
She went on telling me how, in England, we can enjoy the ‘ancient right’ to walk freely on the Footpaths even if the path runs across a piece of private land, because it has been established simply through long use over the years, while it’s impossible to do so in the US – You might get shot at because that’s considered trespass against the landowner. Not that they don’t have footpaths; they do, but only in the National Parks.
Here, closure and diversion – that is, a change to a path’s route – can only be carried out by local authorities or central government, even if the land is private property. How cool is that?! To tell the truth, I love this idea. People really respect legacies from their forefathers, and they don’t mind sharing for public interest.
‘So yes! We have so much to enjoy here and this is where I feel completely at home. ‘ Pat beamed warmly, which I could tell was infused with slightly mixed feelings.
Looking at her lovely caring eyes, I returned a knowing smile.
兩 天前的早晨，剛梳洗完畢，鄰居奶奶派蒂來敲門了。我們這兩戶是雙拼的房子，要拖垃圾箱、資源回收箱和廚餘箱到前門的時候，必須經過派蒂家；也就是說，他們 家花園和我們家迷你叢林是相通的，所以，派蒂如果來找我們，從來不走前門，都是直接從後門來，反正我大多數時間也都是待在面對迷你叢林的廚房。
原 本派蒂和老公史蒂芬七月初帶著孫女瑪莉連回美國的時候，我跟祥就先去道別了，因為他們預計待上將近一個月，兒孫要幫他們慶祝五十年金婚紀念，等回英國的時 候，我們應該已經回新加坡過暑假了。想不到至今半點音訊全無，申請費用倒是一早就已經從信用卡扣款成功，五百多英鎊，還讓熊貓以為我去哪裡血拼，明明老娘 就不是那種人！滿堵爛的～
我 們已經為此延了三回離境日期了。第一次，史蒂芬說太糟啦！我說不糟不糟，英格蘭的夏天最棒了呀。派蒂呵呵大笑，這個老婆太可怕了！史蒂芬接棒，對阿，你要 說真是可惜呀！。。。所以，現在，我一定會加上這一句，非常扼腕的語氣：「真是可惜呀！」以此證明老娘還是個很盡責、有感情的賢內助。
我 告訴派蒂，雖然我出生成長於臺灣，移居新加坡十年，這之中又在香港短暫居留過，但其實，還是這裡最讓我感到自在。臺灣，有著太多與爸爸相關的回憶了，對於 還沒有完全走出傷痛的我，是一種煎熬，所以，坦白說，我寧可娘家親友來英國玩，而不是我回去省親。新加坡，雖然我很幸運結交到好些如同家人的好朋友，但是 在那個房子裡，我並不快樂，而且，自我價值被狠狠壓抑著。當然，我不是完全的沒心沒肺，我還是會想念可愛的親友們，只是，Leiston 才是我的家。
她接著把話鋒轉回來：「在這裡，我們有很多的自由，包括走在穿越私人土地的 footpath 上；在美國，你不可能這麼做，搞不好有生命危險。他們還是有 footpaths，但都在國家公園裡。」
在這裡的確常常看到 footpath 的標示，但我從來不知道原來還有這麼大學問。
派 蒂解釋，那是因為我們有「ancient right」，意思是說，這條路徑已經是多年以來路人行走必經的，所以即使是穿越了你家的土地，你還是得讓人走；如果你想作任何改變，例如截直取彎，保存 你家土地的完整私密性，你必須提出申請，決策層級有時候是到中央政府那麼高。真是太酷了！人民尊重先祖們傳下來的資產，同時也不介意為了公眾利益而分享。