"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Wes & Erica - Featured Family

“We queue up films on DVD or Netflix to watch at the same time.  It makes us feel we are together even though we are thousands of miles apart”

Wes is a British citizen living in Glastonbury, where his family has lived and farmed for several generations.  West first met his wife, Erica, online through a friend’s band.  Erica is from USA.

Despite his Masters degree and job as a Library Assistant, Wes does not earn enough to sponsor his wife.  The library does not open for nearly enough hours for Wes to earn £18,600 and even at the top of his pay-grade, the full-time salary is £15,500 – well short of the threshold.  Wes is adamant that the government’s careers guidance website indicating salaries for library assistants as between £16,000 to £19,000 a year does not reflect pay levels in his region.

Wes and Erica became close friends very quickly, exchanging letters and emails and talking daily.  They first met face to face in 2002 when Erica came over to the UK to see the Manic Street Preachers on tour.  Erica loves British music.  

The couple continued to stay in touch, but the seeming impossibility of a transatlantic relationship meant it was 10 years before they ‘got together’.

In 2012, both opened up to the other about their feelings, for the first time.  Erica subsequently visited Wes again that year, and after a very romantic trip to France, and ten years after they first met, Wes proposed to Erica underground in Wookey Hole Caves.  Wes confesses it was a cheesy proposal – literally, as cheese is made in these caves, and swears by the sacred atmosphere in the third chamber of the caves, where he proposed.

The couple got engaged on 2nd July, exactly one week before the government’s new rules came into effect.  At that time, the couple thought that although there would be challenges to meet, surely the UK would respect the right of a married couple, involving a British citizen, to live together.  This appears to be the general public opinion, even from ones wanting UK to be tough on migration.

The couple got married in a vineyard called Soaring Wings in Springfield, Nebraska, in May 2013.  It was a beautiful day attended by many of Erica’s friends and family.  Wes and Erica, being writers, wrote their own vows in poem form.  

May 2014 saw their first anniversary, celebrated on Wes’s parent’s farm and a small informal ceremony, so that the British friends and family could share in the celebrations. For most of them it was the first time they had met Erica.

The couple is forced to spend most of their time apart, which is spent talking on Google Hangouts.  In order to maintain some togetherness, the couple even queue up films to watch on DVD or Netflix at the same time.  It makes them feel like they’re spending time together even though they’re thousands of miles apart. Getting physical letters from each other is exciting, with hearts beating faster – like it was when they first fell in love. But there is no one to cuddle, and talking and texting as much as possible does not make for being able to hold hands.

Wes is looking for another job that will meet the threshold but has not found one yet.  Erica recently completed her Bachelor’s degree with a good grade average and would look for work here – and pay taxes - as soon as she was allowed to.

Supporting themselves is therefore not the problem.  However, they also have a solid support network who would be able to evidence third party support, but that of course is no longer allowed. 

Wes has never claimed any form of benefits.  He just wants to be able to live in the UK in the region his family has lived in for hundreds of years.

The couple is confident they will satisfy this hurdle, but the time apart is forever lost.  Wes sometimes feel guilty for not being able to earn enough to sponsor his wife, even though he knows it’s the rules which are failing them. 

Wes, a prize-winning poet (he won Wells Festival of Literature’s first prize in 2013 for a poem titled ‘Catwoman’) has written a set of poems about their situation.

The Heart Secretary  for the Home Secretary, Theresa May http://bit.ly/heartsecretary

On the wall of the Heart Office there is an embroidery
in patriotic colours, faded since 1905
to pink, cream and baby blue. It reads,
It’s a famous phrase, but broken up;
letters apart that should be together,
together that should be apart.
A few metres in front of the work, at a simple desk, sits the Heart Secretary.
She is sorting the beating organs that are her concern, hands stained red with their juices.
Here are two that cling to one another as if seeking to merge into one,
their valves and ventricles becoming inextricable.
They are symbiotic. But the Secretary
coolly assesses their monetary worth;
finds one of them, in this case, lacking -
its mass just shy of the scales -
so sets to with her scalpel, slices through their sinew,
severs them. The first is sent home.
Then she wraps the other heart, still beating, in an application form,
places it with show of care
in a small wooden crate packed with sawdust,
nails it shut, and marks for shipping to a single-occupant apartment
in a foreign city
four thousand miles hence over oceans.

Santa Teresa is stuck through the heart,
in a moment eternally captured in art:
the angel is thrusting his hot golden spear,
right here, and right here, and again again here.

Bernini has rendered the mystic nun’s marvel
in a chapel in Rome in dramatic white marble
and has captured the rapture in each downcast lid of
our saint, and the sting she’d “not wish to be rid of” -

for Teresa revels in the exquisite pain
as her cherub inflicts it again and again
and she moans and she groans and she gasps and she sings:
“It is love alone that gives worth to all things”.

We married on the 18th, in a vineyard in Nebraska.
Matched cummings to Breton in our vows:
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart)” stood next to “My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts” -
In yellow sun and yellow dress
you looked like Disney’s Belle made flesh.
And you do. You carry and hold that card from my deck, my darling.
But this game was written by a joker,
and the hearts are trumped
by diamonds
every trick.

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