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British Expat Newsletter: July 2012

Hello, and welcome to those of you who have recently signed up.

In this issue

This month

The Editors’ Blog has been busy this month! First of all, Dave looked at the shenanigans surrounding Rangers’ attempts to gain admission to the Scottish Football League, having been barred from the Premier League following the winding-up of their limited company. Then, a few days later, it was sport again, and some of the ridiculous (but true) stories about sponsorship at the Olympics.

Most recently, we’ve had a major hassle with international courier company DHL Express, who managed to lose some valuable and time-critical documents we’d sent – and then showed absolutely no sense of urgency in trying to put the problem right. In fact, they even managed to lose them a second time.

Guess what? We’ve been to Bangkok again and stayed in yet another hotel in Sukhumvit Soi 11, the happeningest street in town. Find out how we got on in our review of the President Palace Hotel.

The latest Pic of the Week is a simple but stark image – uniforms worn by the Khmer Rouge during their four-year reign of terror in Cambodia in the late 1970s.

And our latest Quick Quiz is about Antarctica – how much do you know about the world’s chilliest continent?

Editorial: Up, up, up… and away

In keeping with our habit of not focusing on the events that are already being done to death elsewhere, this month’s newsletter’s going to ignore the Olympics. For a change, we’re actually going to address something that touches on the expat experience.

Earlier this month we were lucky enough to get the chance to watch a documentary series that both of us have grown up with, yet somehow never had the chance to watch. As some of you may already have guessed, I’m talking about the …Up series, the programme that took 14 children at the age of seven back in 1964 and has been observing their progress through life every seven years ever since. (The latest, 56 Up, was shown in May this year.)

Originally there was no conception of making a series at all – the initial programme, Seven Up, was a one-off for Granada TV’s World In Action. It was based on the premise (borrowed from the Jesuits), “Give me a child until he is seven years old, and I will give you the man”. The expectation was that these seven-year-old children would grow up according to the paths already laid out for them by society. (One idea, which fortunately didn’t make it onto the documentary, was that three of the initial selection of 20 children would step forward from a line-up, and a voiceover would state: “Of these 20 children, only three will be successful.”)

As it is, there were quite a few surprises along the way. One child who didn’t show any particular inclination towards academia and never went to university ended up becoming a university administrator. Another went severely off the rails, led an apparently rootless existence for many years and yet managed to forge a career in local politics. It seems to have been the children from the more privileged backgrounds that have come closest to fulfilling the early expectations. (Ironically, they were the first to express doubt about the validity of the programme and its apparent attempt to type-cast.)

Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is that of the 14 children, as many as four of them became expats at some point.

The first, Paul, spent a short time in a children’s home (also described as a boarding school) before emigrating to Australia with his father shortly after Seven Up. To all intents and purposes he became Australian – even as soon as the follow-up programme in 1970, Seven Plus Seven, he said he couldn’t remember much about life in the UK. An emigrant rather than an expat, then.

The next, Nicholas, lived on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales and attended a one-classroom village school in 1964. Having expressed an interest in “find[ing] out about the moon and all that” when he was seven, he ended up at Merton College, Oxford studying physics. However, after graduation he found that there wasn’t a job for him in his line of study in the UK, so by 28 Up (1984) he’d moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he’s been researching and teaching ever since – though it’s clear that he’d rather be closer to his roots.

Bruce was the third. The son of a missionary to Africa, he said in Seven Up that he would like to go to Africa to teach “people who are not civilised to be more or less good”. He did teach, but in the East End of London initially – then he spent a sabbatical in Sylhet in north-eastern Bangladesh, where he was at the time of 35 Up in 1991. (We must have just missed him, then – we didn’t arrive in Dhaka until 1994.) But he didn’t move permanently; he was back in London when the series caught up with him seven years later.

The latest so far has been Tony, the chirpy Cockney who wanted to be a jockey when interviewed at seven and who actually rode in three races, before pursuing his fallback option of becoming a taxi driver. By 49 Up in 2005 he’d bought a house in Spain, where he had plans to set up a sports bar in a new development – although he showed uncanny prescience by predicting that the economy was going to turn bad because there were too few people generating real wealth, and too many living off the proceeds of moving money from A to B. The bar never materialised (a supermarket took the whole plot), but he still had his house as of 56 Up earlier this year.

Considering the small sample – just 14 children out of hundreds of thousands of their age – it’s quite remarkable that four of them should have had such archetypal expat experiences. We’ve seen the permanent emigrant, the career expat, the temporary expat and the retiree. And while all of them will have had their own unique experiences, there’s something there that many expats can relate to.

All 14 of the participants have expressed misgivings about the programme and its impact on their lives. We’d like to thank them for allowing these seven-yearly intrusions – in itself, that marks these people out as being rather special – and for giving us some fascinating snapshots into Britain’s development over the last 48 years.

What were you doing aged seven? Has your path to becoming an expat followed the same track as one of these four, or something different altogether? Why not let us know on our discussion forum?

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Amazon don’t just do books, you know. We’ve teamed up with them to bring you the ultimate in online shopping – from a micro SD card to a garden shed! A great way to do your shopping online, especially if the shops aren’t up to much in your part of the world.
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And now for something completely different…

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So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
Visit the BE website and join in with our lively community!

Till next time…

Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat – the definitive home for British expats

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