87-year-old American comedy performer Lynn Ruth Miller is not just an international treasure but a national treasure. And she eventually got the UK government to agree…
Here she explains…
YOU CAN’T GET IT ALL
But I always try.
I have a little voice inside me that says, “Yes you can!!! If you want it, it is yours.”
And I listen to it.
So it was that I decided to move to Brighton, England, at the nubile age of 81.
A man named Bill Smith promised me a fascinating job, a living wage, a beautiful home and a visa to guarantee that the British Government would welcome me.
I believed him.
I should have known that anyone with such a boring name would be up to no good, but I did not. I just listened to that stubborn little voice whispering, “Go on! Do it! Do it!”
So I did.
I sold my California home, packed up my feathers, tassels and thongs and crossed the ocean, filled with optimism and hope.
I would begin a new life! I would speak like Queen Elizabeth and learn to drink tea. I would say, “Are you well?” to strangers I didn’t care about and bitch about the weather. I would be British.
It didn’t turn out that way.
I was housed in a flat above a fish and chips place and fired from my job in three months with no living wage and no visa. I still had an unmistakable American accent and I drank coffee.
But that little voice whispered in my ear, “You can get that visa… You can get that living wage… You don’t have to smell like fried fish… Move on!”
So I did.
I managed to get a ‘tier five’ visa that involved me leaving the country every three months and I moved to London where the action is.
Then the little voice said: ”You have to find a way to stop running hither and thither. You are not as young as you used to be. Besides, travel is expensive. You have to get a permanent visa. Then you will be safe.”
“What about a living wage?” I asked.
“We will get to that later,” said the little voice.
So it was that I found a lovely sponsor who kept reassuring me that the three month routine was enough and I kept saying, “But it doesn’t give me medical care,” and he said, “Take your vitamins.”
So I did.
But then the worst happened.
The Home Office disqualified my lovely sponsor and I tried to find another person to give me proper papers. Each one I found either wanted to charge me three times the price of a new home in Chelsea to do the work or else decided I was too big a risk.
Meanwhile, the little voice kept saying, “Do not give up. You really CAN have it all.”
So I didn’t.
I talked to lawyer after lawyer and each one said, “The only options open to you are to marry a Brit, study at a University or to be so talented that the British people cannot bear to let you go.”
By this time, I was 86 years old and had lived alone for so long I did not close the bathroom door. My memory was like a sieve and felt I had never had any talent. But I DID have that little voice.
“If you marry, you will have to cook him three meals every single day and do other uncomfortable things,” it said. “If you study, you will have to use intelligence and that went when you lost your waistline. Try that talent thing. What do you have to lose?”
That was when I stumbled on an angel named Peter.
He and I consulted more lawyers who told me to give up and go back to America.
But Peter said, “There must be a way. Do you know anyone who can convince the Arts Council that you are indispensable?”
And I said, “My dogs are dead.”
But the little voice said, ”Just try!”
So I did.
I managed to convince a lot of people who were sympathetic to the elderly to write letters swearing I was a national treasure and, to my amazement, The Arts Council bought it.
“See? What did I tell you?” said the little voice. “The British love eccentric old ladies.”
But, sadly, the Home Office does not.
They wrote me and said, “Well, the Arts Council says you are a ‘Global Talent’ from America. But why are you still here?”
And I said, “Because there is a pandemic going on and I had to stay here or die.”
I said this once.
I said this twice.
And, finally, another angel named Kate wrote them a letter and so did cherubic Peter and the Home Office buckled.
“OK,” they said, “we will let her stay. After all she is 87. How long will it be?”
AND I DID IT!!
I GOT IT!
I AM HERE FOR FIVE YEARS!
THE BRITISH SAY I AM TALENTED.
I GET MEDICAL CARE.
But I didn’t get it all.
To my dismay, the visa says I cannot work as a sportsperson.
No rugby, no cricket, no soccer for me.
I will have to return my helmet and chest protector to Bat And Ball.
“Stop bitching,” said the little voice. “You win some; you lose some.”
Don’t I know it?