Touring England

18 12 2008

Brighton PierI’m spending most of my first fortnight home visiting friends, with apologies to my abandoned family. Whilst this has included a short trip to Brighton (with a visit to the pier at night, in winter) and will mean a trip to nearby Lewes the bulk of my travels have been to London, with a side serving of Bristol. Actually, travelling in England seems a pleasure now, although it ought to be at the prices charged. The trains leave and arrive close to the scheduled times and there’s loads of space – I’m even able to type a blog post while thundering through south London (using my Christmas present to myself, a new “ultra-portable” ASUS laptop). I did manage to mostly avoid rush hour tube – the only thing England has to compete with the horror of a trotro.

It’s been wonderful to see people again, although the sheer number of my friends who’ve taken the opportunity of my absence to produce babies is staggering. One of my friends has even had twins, bringing the count of babies born this year to 5 plus at least one more on the way (yes, I realise a lot more than 5 babies have been born this year, but I meant to people I know). Quite why my friends thought it safest to wait for me to leave the country I’ve no idea. However I’ve so far been fortunate enough to meet Toby and Martha Lampard and Briony’s new daughter. Hopefully I’ll meet the newest Hart and Eraut additions in the next few weeks. I’m very fond of babies and I must say that those I’ve seen so far seem happy and healthy.

In addition to cooing at babies I’ve had the opportunity to strip the willow at a ceilidh, visit the British museum, explore the SS Great Britain and see a musical. The musical was a little odd, good but odd. Someone decided to set a musical in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941. Not exactly promising material for a song and dance show, but it worked reasonably well and (I think) it was done with dignity. And to be honest it’s always good to see a live show. Oddly the last show I saw was “Fiddler on the Roof”, so I’m sticking with the Jewish theme. The cultural overload is probably reaching its end, sadly, but it was a wonderful oasis in the wilderness, and thank you to everyone (especially Rhona) for organising things.

Another thing I’ve been enjoying is the food, both in restaurants and people’s homes. I’ve had two wonderful roasts cooked for me (duck and beef) with all the trimmings, a fried breakfast and lots of other great home cooked meals as well as being able to eat out. I’ve had the Thai meal with friends, various burgers and a proper greasy spoon cafe heart attack on a plate breakfast. The pigs of England may be a little safer once I’ve gone again. And, of course, I’ve drunk a proper pint in a proper pub. Possibly more than the one proper pint.

After ten days back a few things are striking me. Most obviously is the sun, or lack of it. It seems to struggle to get barely over the horizon and can only manage that for a few hours. I had wondered whether I’d keep to my Ghana sleep patterns, but at 6am in Ghana the sun is already brighter than it will ever get in England and the street noise has started. The combination of darkness, quiet and double glazing (as well as chilly houses with warm beds) means I sleep on through till unimaginably late hours (almost 9am some mornings). Actually it feels like Europe should have been called the dark continent; not only is it never properly light but the petulant sky conspires with the the lazy sun and everyone is wearing the same drab clothes in the same drab colours. Despite that the English countryside is wonderful, with rolling green hills overlooking a grey sea.
Seven Sisters with Moon

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