The Union Jack hangs from a pool table as former British subjects gather for a pot-luck supper Wednesday at the 801 housing Community Center in Clovis. CNJ photos: Eric Kluth
Despite spending nearly three decades in Clovis, Judith Matthews hasn’t lost her British accent or her love for her home country. On Wednesday evening, Matthews hosted about a dozen other former residents of Britain and its former colonies to share food and have some fellowship in what she hopes will become a regular get-together.
Matthews said she got the idea for the event after meeting another woman from her hometown of Norwich and realizing there must be many more expatriate Brits in Clovis.
“The idea was to provide an opportunity to reach people in the area and come together,” Matthews said. “It seemed like a good thing to do.”
Participants in the event — most from England, but a few from Wales and Australia — said they enjoyed meeting others who shared a similar background.
“We talk about the places we grew up and even if it’s not the same part of the country, we still talk,” said Caroline McCullough, who came to Clovis in 1996.
Most of those present came to Clovis as spouses of American military personnel, and nearly all cited climate and scenery as the biggest changes they saw upon moving to the American southwest. While some said they didn’t like the dryness, others said they loved having sun nearly every day and clear dark nights.
“I came back from Tucumcari last night; it was black as pitch and I saw the stars and the Milky Way. You can’t see that in England — it’s so densely populated with the light pollution,” Matthews said. “I just love the sun here, but I know Englishwomen who don’t like getting up every day and seeing the sun. My brother used to say only an Englishman would put up with English weather.”
Jane Clark said she felt lonely when her husband first moved to Cannon Air Force Base, and even seven years later, still appreciates the opportunity to fellowship with people who understand British dialect, and who don’t give her strange stares when she says things that make perfect sense in England.
“When I first got here, I felt very isolated, but now there are a lot more of us,” Clark said. “(I enjoy) the opportunity of meeting other British people, and meeting newcomers who have a chance to come to something like this.”
Though many of those present said they knew they’d be moving again with their spouses’ military careers, Matthews said that for her, Clovis has become a second home.
“I came here as a military wife with the idea of moving on when the opportunity presented itself, but when I was widowed, the support I received from friends was equal to that of family,” Matthews said. “I’ve put down roots and it’s home now.”