When Auden and Isherwood left Britain for America in 1939 they attracted much opprobrium and many brickbats. Evelyn Waugh portrayed them as Parsnip and Pimpernel, lily-livered pansy traitors who left their country in its hour of greatest need (though how exactly Great Britain needed two literary types like Wystan and Christopher he didn’t quite explain) and many red-blooded patriots to this day still shake their heads at the mere mention of their names.

So now I have a monstrous confession to make. I am quite as much a cowardly wuss as any who has ever abandoned his homeland in times of trial and tension. As I write this I am 38,000 feet above sea level, hurtling towards New York City at 533 statute miles per calendar hour. Happily Alan, the captain of the plane, has personally popped down to tell me the current cricket score – my chosen career and its attendant baggage of fame have their advantages (carry-on baggage of fame, I suppose one should term it). The flight deck had tuned in to the BBC’s 198 longwave transmissions of TMS to receive the news that England were 100 for 3. No loss of wickets yet. But at this moment we’re too far over the Atlantic for broadcast radio reception and are now relying on Shannon’s ATC tower for updates, which are achingly slow in coming. For all I know we’re ten wickets down at lunch and Australia have launched a devastating counterattack.

But what can have motivated a so-called cricket lover to abandon his country at so momentous a time? You’d better have a damned good excuse, Fry. The answer, in fine, is the DHS. The time has come for me to renew my Green Card. Now that the US Department of Homeland Security has taken over the Immigration and Naturalisation Service this involves biometrics. The date for an appointment for me to register my fingerprints and unique retinal striations was announced and, maddeningly inconvenient as it is, coinciding with the final test and with my birthday, who am I to question it? If you can picture the response of a US immigration official asked to reschedule a biometric session because it clashes with a game of cricket then you can picture a stolid stare of stony disbelief.

I wish I were at the Oval, I wish I were sitting in front of the television, I wish I were anywhere in England with the radio on. But there is something marvellous about the nervous excitation we all feel aboard this aeroplane. When is one ever more a proud patriot than when away from one’s country and cut off from vital news? The anxiety gnawing at my vitals is in fact a kind of Homeland Insecurity, the proudest and most painful sensation a citizen can endure.

Stop Press: A message has been passed down to me. England declare on 373 for 9. A lead of 545. Ten minutes to landing. I shall skip to the custom’s hall like a spring lamb. And yet, and yet, that insecurity is still gnawing. What if Australia … ? I mean they couldn’t. Could they? Could they? Could they?

This blog was posted in Miniblog Related topics: and

44 comments on “Confession”

  1. josordoni says:

    no, relax. Of course they couldn’t … :)

  2. TobiasMonk says:

    LOL a skipping Stephen Fry…go you.

  3. David Poulton says:

    Highly unfortunate timing! Perhaps you should have feigned swine flu… it’s all the rage at the moment!

    Aussies have made a good start in the fourth innings… we need a breakthrough tonight to stifle any hope of a comeback.

  4. monochromeprincess says:

    Stephen, as new as I am to cricket, I am confident in our wonderful side, no dear, no they won’t get that many. Skip merrily into America! :D.

    Your mini blogs have been absolutely wonderful! It is so refreshing and awe-inspiring to have someone wrap a glittering and soft blanket of words around you and catching these moments where you mini-blog (which would be a full sized blog for anyone else ;) ) is a insight into your not only articulate and poetic mind, but also a very sensitive and human mind too. Sorry for the sort of sycophantic gush there, but you’ve sort of epitomised recently why I like you and why I’m here so often and why I can’t stay away. (It’s strange to say it but I find it so completely remarkable that someone is willing to say how they actually feel, you know?).

    I hope you have a good trip and that for everyone’s sakes England keep up their good form!

    Debs xxx

  5. zara_azari says:

    Brilliant! And, so true (about the whole green card business…) I don’t know much about cricket, but I hope your team wins. Please keep us posted on your DHS adventures.

  6. Gila says:

    Well, hopefully England has done enough this time :-)
    Had to smile at how you compared leaving the Country to renew your green card with people leaving their country at the hour of its greatest need. You are such a drama queen Mr Fry ;)
    You being here would have had no effect on the score. Or would it….? Hmm…

    Safe travels!

  7. inckognito says:

    Have a good time in USA, Stephen! Don’t forget to visit Washington D.C. ;D

    And – great ‘confession’ blog!!! x

  8. Alice Klar says:

    Isn’t technology wonderful, here I am sitting in my home browsing the Interweb, when your latest post makes me feel as if I’m in the next seat on my way to NYC.

  9. SJW007 says:

    Fear not. Austalia will be 425-8 at close of play tomorrow and the Ashes will be delivered as your best-ever(?)birthday present on Monday morning.

  10. meta says:

    On the subject of confessions… I’ve just listened to your iTunes Live Festival speech about illegal file sharing.

    Way back in the mists of 1988, I sat and listened to your series “Saturday Night Fry” on Radio 4… and taped it. I treasured the tapes for years, until eventually I had the technology to digitize them, process them gently to remove the hiss, and convert them to MP3s. I then shared the MP3s with the world. So I’m probably singlehandedly responsible for thousands of copies. Anyway, since the BBC has now finally made the show available on CD, I’ll add a copy to my Christmas wish list so my family can cleanse my soul a little.

    I abandoned my homeland too, rather more permanently. I live in the USA, so I currently have little choice but to illegally copy many current UK radio and TV shows I want to enjoy, as they’re not available here–the iTunes store selection is pretty meagre. I tried using the UK iTunes store, but I’m carefully locked out of buying from there, so I’m taking that as my permission to copy, and racking up more to confess about in future years.

  11. d00by says:

    Australia will have to break a world record to chase this one.

    England should win this.

  12. IdeaCollector says:

    Terribly sorry you’ve needed to leave the cricket now but still always thrilled when you are in my time zone so welcome back to the U.S.!

  13. squiffter says:

    And don’t even start to think about the weather. I could not bear it if it started raining. No no no stop this negative stuff, after all it’s August in England “sunshine, lolly pops and……..”.

  14. Coolcmsc says:

    On the subject of brickbats, does one concur that Auden might have been better advised to play more cricket? There will certainly be a few for master Ponting the way things are going…

  15. James Patrick Joyce says:

    “I shall skip to the custom’s hall like a spring lamb.”

    For some reason, I suspect that to be the most hyperbolic statement you’ve ever made.

    You must really love that cricket thing. It makes me think of golf, with more action.

  16. Des says:

    As a South African who has had to watch her team falter in every semi-final/final in every major cricket tournament since re-admision, I humbly offer this piece of advice: don’t break out the Cristal just yet…

  17. roboz_8 says:

    A fine example of USA’s commitment to reduce fuel emissions. global warming whilst exerting control. As always you prove gracious in the face of such beauracracy.

  18. frampo says:

    As you flew west a squadron of RAAF Hercules behemoths laden with state of the art cloud seeding potions were headed for the skies of London. They should be there some time soon.

  19. suzhoney says:

    Dear Stephen

    It appears we (our nation) are poised to give you your finest birthday present ever … but … we are forever mindful and grateful for the fact our blokes are in England where the rain could save our arses at the last minute!

    Happy Birthday anyway!

  20. Barbara D says:

    Mr Fry skipping through customs? My most enjoyable and surreal recent travel experience was going up the Orinoco River in a little boat, listening to his podcasts.

  21. Barbara D says:

    Mind you, I know nothing about cricket. I find the most entertaining aspect is the sledging.

  22. piotrus says:

    Dear Stephen

    I apologise for budging in like that with my problem , but it seems that I can’t get hands on a copy of the movie made in 1996 titled “WILD” anywhere in Australia .

    I remember seeing some of it few years ago and I think it was one , if not the best of your performance as an actor .

    Could you , or anyone in here point me in the right direction, so I could purchase the copy ?

    Thank you

    Peter from Melbourne

  23. sphinxvictorian says:

    This American is really needing to understand the rules of cricket better. Can anyone refer me to a site that might give me a clear-ish explanation of the game? I love watching it, but would really like to understand the scoring particularly. I used to watch my father playing many years ago, but I was too little to really grasp any of the essentials of the game.

  24. Webley says:

    Imagine the confliction – a ticket for Monday, never seen an Ashes game, never seen Ricky Ponting bat – very tense watching, of course wanting England to win, just not too quickly!

    Dream ticket: Australia bat all day today (Sunday) and finish around 300 for 5, with Ponting still at the crease. Up early in the morning to the Oval to see two fine sessions of cricket, Ponting hitting his double century but running out of partners due a Lord’s like performance from Freddie who mops up with splendid five-for.

    Dreaming whist still awake seems like tempting fate. Aus 139 for 2


  25. convict13 says:

    As much as I would love for England to win just so that you skip some more, I cannot. I do hope that Australia bats the two full days and we get a draw so as to continue to hold the Ashes.

  26. Barbara D says:

    piotrus, if you had searched for “Wilde” and 1999 you may have had more luck. If you have a multiregion player you could bid on this one,
    on eBay UK. If you don’t have an eBay account, or if they won’t post outside the UK I’ll buy it and send it to you.

  27. Gmonster says:

    Well done England. Listened to your audioboo – your emotions translated very well :)

  28. atrevers says:

    Could they? They couldn’t! Congratulations England, and to the poster above – commiserations!

  29. Samthetasmanian says:

    Dear Stephen
    Well we now now that we couldn’t and while bitterly dissapointed I congratulate you on a great Ashes.
    It was fantastic to have met you on the first day at Lords over lunch. Loving your new series which I was glad to find starting in Australia on my return home.
    Hope to see you in Tasmania in the future.

  30. sallybramald says:

    You are such an English boy!
    I have no pretensions to the understanding of this very English and Australian obsession though I grew up in both countries. On the Tebbit principal I am both and neither. I will support whichever country is being put down. So well done England but the Ashes will return to Oz as sure as the sound of leather on willow shall continue.

  31. puckersthepig says:

    Mr Fry, I just wanted to wish a very Happy Birthday. I hope you have a brilliant day :)

  32. jackluci says:

    Ha Ha….

    You know what this means?

    5-0 to The Aussies next time you poms visit our shores.

    Hell hath no fury like an Australian 11 spurned!

    (I knew that last remaining wicket in Cardiff would come back to haunt us!!!)

  33. jimbellofbelmont says:

    I don’t know Stephen, when it comes to cricket we Australians have some nasty habits …. I mean look at our origin would you trust us ;-) Jim Bell Australia

  34. Falconwriter says:

    Skippidy do dah through customs and Penblwydd Hapus i Chi! Joyeux anniversaire! Have an excellent celebration!

    Perhaps someone should buy you a phone with an in built radio for all the glorius updates in cricket, but then again we would never get to hear delightful stories in how you were frequently informed, I mean how many captains walk gracefully down the aisle and present scores to you! You are deliriously my favourite turkish delight! Bon Voyage until your home again!

  35. craig.brown says:

    Ok, so this reply is late and we are all exited about the wonderful news that England have finally won something! I must say that underneath this mask of victory, Stephen had to touch on the subject of patriotism……. where was it? The last ashes seemed to be more in the light of the media and many more praises where awarded for yet another lack of ability to succeed. This time, however, quite the opposite! We achieve the ultimate in cricket and yet there appears to be, wait for it, absolutley nothing!! Back to patriotism; it seems as though, unless forced, we can not be followers of historical events or anything else that makes us stand out as a country today!! What has happened to all that we stand for? Politics…. Thats what has happened!!

  36. meibatsuren says:

    Lovely article indeed!

    Many happy returns of the day, Mr. Stephen Fry, you unconscionably delectable man!

    May your words continue to ring in our ears. . . to help get the water out, of course.

    With much love and envy,

    Montreal, Canada

  37. Timwit says:

    Happy Birthday, Stephen. You’re a gift to humanity and the English language.

  38. Stephen says:

    Happy Birthday, Stephen!
    You are one talented & interesting man.
    Best Wishes,

  39. BaudinS says:

    Happy birthday, Mr Fry! I’ve spent the entire day watching QI in your honor :)

    Lots of love,
    Sandra from Sweden

  40. 13Jayne13 says:

    True to form our Captain Ponting dropped his bundle.
    Captain Ponting – sounds like he should have been in charge of the Titanic. Would have had as excellent results!

  41. justin says:

    I for one am pleased you made the trip across, because it gave me the pleasure of meeting you on the PATH train on the way to Hoboken today (Monday the 24th, my 43rd birthday in fact). I should have thought to congratulate you on the Ashes win and also told you of the time I played against a Norwich City side featuring Steve Bruce et al in 1987 or thereabouts.

  42. pwnorris says:

    My first time to your site Stephen – I’ve logged on to (grudgingly) wish you and England congratulations on the Ashes win. A fitting Birthday present.

    It is something of a comfort to read such passion and eloquence as we lose the urn again; I’ll look forward to reading your blogs when England tour here in 2010.

    Best regards, and enjoy this wonderful Cricketing moment.

    Pete – from Perth(Australia)

  43. Flash1962 says:

    Oh joy of all joys. My dad will be so pleased to hear the results and, from China, I am hugely relieved that he will not, this year at least, be sinking into the deep depression that usually follows a cricket match involving the England team.

    And here I am listening to back issues of Stephen Fry’s podgrams on Radio 4 – a positive delight, given my expatriate status in the land of people generally smaller than myself. And now I’ve discovered the webpage, I shall never again feel homesick for the English language! I shall check it out regularly in defiance of my English-speaking German, French and Chinese colleagues whose command of English is naturally much better than mine of their native languages!

  44. StanOgden says:

    Trefusis! That name brings back a memory or two, I think I read The Liar about sixteen years ago. Marvellous story. I enjoyed Hippopotamus too.. there’s a scene with a horse that has stuck in my mind for some reason.

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