It was twenty years ago today.

I mean, this is the kind of moment that calls for a stop & reminisce, right?

20 years ago today – May 2nd, 2004 – I stepped off a British Airways flight from Adelaide via Singapore which had freshly landed at Heathrow Airport.

The Jason that had just left Australia was 28 years old, spent a LOT of his time on Scouting activities, hadn’t travelled extensively – although had visited the USA to work in a summer camp, and made a point of visiting at least 3 other Australian states every year. He could cook a bit, and had immaculate dress sense. And, crucially, had decided to try to make a go of living in the UK – despite only knowing about 4 people who lived there.

The “Day 1 Mission” (always important to have a goal of some sort to achieve when you first arrive in a place) was to find my way to Abbey Road… and somewhat anticlimactically learned that it was about 600m up the road from the flat I was dossing in.

Without recounting the entire time in detail it’s fair to say that things have changed fairly dramatically in that time. For one thing, I’ve done a bit more on the travelling front – one of the main reasons for basing myself in the UK was the ease with which once can get to other places and see other cultures… Australia’s a bit limiting in that sense. So now I’ve also been lucky enough to spend time in Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and Switzerland. And that’s just holidays – I also lived/studied in India for 3 months, and lived/worked in the US for 3 months!

Hooking up with Scouting-related activities was a bit of a non-starter – with my initial jobs involving so much travel back & forth (2 hour commute each way at one point, and that was just NW London to SE London!), as well as NW London being a bit of a black hole for Scout groups. Instead I kept myself busy dabbling in morris dancing, kickboxing, tai chi, indoor cricket, choir, improv, and eventually when my work situation levelled out a bit, going to music & comedy gigs. I can’t even begin to describe or list the gigs I’ve been to.

Being on the same land mass as Scotch Whisky was produced was tremendously beneficial in terms of supply & access to the stuff, and it wasn’t long before a small collection had been amassed. And then, as a result of a conversation with a random stranger in a pub, we started a whisky tasting club. 13ish years on that’s still going. And prompted by that, for 6 years we ran a highly successful and nationally anticipated weekend-long whisky festival (Dramboree). AND I’ve gotten to work at whisky festivals for & on behalf of various whisky brands, been a barman & presented tastings at a private members’ club in Soho, and find my way onto the judging panel for the World Whiskies Awards!

But most importantly, found myself dating an old flatmate’s kid sister – which continued for a few years, during which time we bought a flat in Bristol. And then I moved to Bristol so I could live in the flat I was paying for (well, it was mainly about living with the housemate’s sister, to be honest). Then we bought a house, then bought a bigger house, and in 2017 we got married (and got a labrador)! And in 2022 our family increased with the arrival of Minnie B Standing.

Before 2004 I used to be out most nights of the week doing Scouty stuff, watch a little TV, do some reasonably competent cooking, and spend a lot of time with lots and lots of different friends (many of whom I’ve known for years).

From 2004-2010 I was out most nights going to gigs or working late, watch virtually no TV, do some fairly basic cooking-for-one, and spend time with a smallish bunch of new friends.

From 2010-2013 I was out most nights doing whisky stuff or going to gigs, watch absolutely no TV (other than downloaded video content on my phone on the Tube), do no cooking at all, and spending time with a reasonable number of people many of whom were new.

From 2014-2020 I was at home most nights, watching a fair bit of TV, doing a reasonable bit of cooking, and not meeting a hell of a lot of people outside of work.

From 2020-2021 there was a global pandemic, so I was home every bloody night, and day, and watching a shitload of TV, cooking like a maniac from the collected works of Marcus Wareing, and not meeting or really speaking to anyone other than Liz.

From 2022 until now I’m still at home most nights, watching a bit of TV, cooking most nights, and getting out reasonably often with our little gaggle of Bristol pals.

While I definitely miss my old friends from back home, I get to see them (not nearly as often as I’d like) – and I’ve managed to assemble a much smaller but incredibly high-quality roster of fine fine folk to socialise with at various points on this side of the planet, some of whom I’d count among my dearest friends ever. If you’re reading this, I’ll bet you probably know who you are.

Moving to the UK was one of the best decisions I think I ever made. Things look a lot different now. I miss lots of things from life pre-2004, and it’s been a hell of a ride getting to 2024 – but I’m pretty darn happy.

It was twenty years ago today.
🌳 Buy me a Tree