Miller’s Tale (apologies to Chaucer)

millerMiller’s lived in New Zealand for around 25 years now which is probably nearly as long as he lived in Dorset. I was surprised when I discovered he’d left. When I first met Miller, I was a seasonal worker and he was a local. I was transient; Miller was grounded. There were people on that part of the Dorset coast who had never left the Purbecks. Those who did rarely went far and always returned after a short interlude.

I’d imagined Miller to be one of those. It was a woman, of course. Tried to get her to stay on in Dorset but there were problems: visas and suchlike; so Miller went home with her to New Zealand. He didn’t come back. In some respects though, he never left.

I see him quite often on social media. I suppose writing letters used to be a form of social media before we’d ever heard of it. Not such a big audience though. Unless someone else was reading your mail. Funny: now you want the world to read your post. And it’s much easier to check in every now and then to see what’s happening in the lives of those who’ve become ‘others’.

Miller isn’t really living the life of ‘other’. Miller’s still in Dorset. He doesn’t really fit elsewhere. Mind you, there’s no such thing as a Dorset diaspora. Well, not since that business over at Tolpuddle and even that crowd eventually became homeward bound. Miller, meanwhile, posts photographs of snow and sun to illustrate the extremes of available temperatures, compared to those on offer in Dorset.

It’s important to have a sense of difference. What would otherwise be the point in moving so far away? Miller also comments on all the news and sport and politics. That would be the news and sport and politics of England. Of Dorset. Come on you Cherries! Many people in Dorset respond. You Cherries!

Miller posts photographs of himself and his friends as children; as adolescents; as young adults. Miller’s friends in Dorset reply: that was a great day; that was a great life. Hey, Miller – have you moved? There’s nothing referring to Miller’s current life. From Miller’s frequent appearances on social media, I have learned nothing about what it means to live in New Zealand today. I don’t know what sport he follows, how he votes, his interest in public affairs or who his friends are. There are no images of the woman he left home for. There are no children in evidence. Occasionally, there’s a photo of a long dead dog. Nothing to tempt those left in Dorset to move along the line of Hardy-like territorialism. It’s as if he never left.

Against foreign inclines, Miller has wrapped himself in a diaspora of one.



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