Never thought I’d end up in New York, I still have to pinch myself when I cross over the East River and see that skyline from my bike. I came here indirectly from North Yorkshire, having spent several years before living by the sea on Cape Cod, that was very lovely and just like life on the moors did nothing to prepare me for my life now.

I was about to return to England in 2003 when I met Kath, she who was to become my wife. She’d escaped from New York for a break and we met up in a bar called the ’Squealing Pig, in Provincetown at the Eastern end of the Cape, a couple of days before she was to return to her reality.

We hit it off straight away; both astonished and happily surprised to meet someone in our mid-fifties.
She had her life and her businesses, two cafes in New York. So after a year of doing the six hour drives out to the Cape,she got fed up and we decided to move in together in the Big Apple. Bye bye beach, bye bye lobsters, hello New York rats.

It was one thing to meet someone in late middle age, another altogether to start an entirely new lifestyle.
Now after almost six years of living in NYC, I think of myself as “An Old Yorkshireman in New York’. At 59 I’m not that old I suppose and certainly don’t feel it, but what I do feel is that I am living on another planet. New York is so very different to Yorkshire and Kirbymoorside and the life I had on the North York Moors! For two tractors an hour (if that) read, eleventeen honking butt heads driving taxis.

Well, for some time I’ve thought about sharing some of my experiences and stories of living in this extraordinary City. I have so many to tell and so many unfolding all around me every day, not all spectacular or dramatic, more on a human, and “bloody hell did you see that?” kind of level. I find it’s in the small things and interesting facts through which a place is revealed.

For example, did you know that there are 178 different languages spoken in New York every day. That’s basically the languages of all the people from all over the world. Amazing, and with those languages come all the different cultures; it’s one of the things that makes the place so vibrant.
You have only to go on the subway, like the one I use, the ‘L’ train, to realize that here you’re just another face and that you’re floating, or rather swimming in a human soup, made up of homo sapiens ingredients from all over the globe.

Everyone in your subway car originated from a different place, the whole huge extraordinary wonderful world we’re on- just like down our street, which in itself is an amazing multi-ethnic mix. There’s every kind of Latino, Korean, and Chinese, we live in one half of a house the people below are Guyanese, further down the street there’s Polish, Germans, Italians, the list goes on and on.

Though generally in our ‘hood’ the majority are from Mexico and very nice people they are too. They have the loveliest children with the brightest smiles. It takes a while to build up trust, but then it’s smiles all the way. We love living on a street with so many kids.

Somehow, we all manage to find a way around not speaking each others’ languages. The Chinese couple who never ever take a day off and run the Chinese laundry at the end of our street, insist on calling me “Mr Kathy”. I’ve given up trying to put them right, and respond with a smile when I go in they call out “Hello Mr. Kathy”.
Actually, I was thinking the other day, how Mr. and Mrs. Wong must know everyone’s lives through their laundry; I mean do they get to recognize my shirts, and our underwear, as opposed to other peoples’. For example they must know when you’ve been on holiday, how your relationship is going; through a passionate phase or not. You know,
clothes say a lot about people and so does their dirty laundry. I mean they must know just about everything about me and us, except my name. I bet they knew when we had that dodgy curry last week.

I think being English with my strange broad accent, I am a bit of an oddity. There aren’t many Brits. about. I always keep my head down around July 4th, and I have given up any attempt to explain to the average New Yorker that there is more to Britain than London. And I have no chance of explaining where Yorkshire is, or explaining that we are not all directly related to the Queen or the Royal Family.

Most Americans, the ones that don’t get out much (of the country – the majority) seem to view the rest of the world as stereotypical cartoons. And so when I speak in my ‘funny accent’ it just seems to fit with that picture, we Brits are basically cartoons.

Next time, I’ll tell you what it was like to come here for the first time, not as a tourist but to start a new life .

For now Cheers from New York.


John Sunderland

New York, United States

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Artist's Description

stories about life in New York after a previous life in the villages of North Yorkshire.

Artwork Comments

  • Martin  Hazelgrave
  • autumnwind
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