Things I do like about…

Things I do like about England:

  • delectable cream scone with jam and cream and tea, one pound fifty pence at a little church tea shop (for charity) in Avebury

  • waking up in the morning in Kirsten's rented home in Sutton Courtenay (sadly, she won't be here past next month), originally built in the 13th c., with walls built originally of wattle-and-daub (which we are glad they've plastered over, since wattle-and-daub means hay and horseshit); photos coming

  • having slow days when I make tea, check e-mail, and read lots of books Kirsten owns; I had a mad Jennifer Cruisie rush when I first arrived, reading five in a row in about a twelve-hour stretch -- the first one, Faking It, kicked ass, and the others were decent, though not nearly as good

  • playing with Pepper, the beautiful dog; Kevin and I are thinking about maybe getting a dog, or a cat, or a dog and a cat (okay, that last one's mostly me)

  • the insane charm of the countryside -- beautiful old houses everywhere, little gorgeous churches in every village, lovely branching trees interlaced over winding country roads

  • the accents :-)

  • pub lunch on Sunday, a delectable lamb roast with mint sauce, Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes -- and on the side, in case that wasn't enough food for you, boiled cabbage, carrots, broccoli, and even more potatoes, seven pounds at the Black Swan in Devizes

  • taking the Underground and reading off the station names: Elephant and Castle, Tower Hill, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Wembley... (though to insert a small complaint, the tube has been almost unbearably hot; I don't understand why it's so much hotter than the Chicago subway)

  • lunch with Kirsten in Picaddilly Circus, at an Italian trattoria between Waterstone's Books and Fortnum and Mason, where Nino, a lovely old Italian gentleman in his 60's at least, tried to pick me up -- not only did he kiss my cheek as I left, but he slipped me a card with his name on the front and an invitation to drinks the following Friday scribbled on the back -- the food was delicious and reasonably priced, but watch out for those Italians!

  • walking in the evening down the road in Sutton-Courtenay, deciding which of several pubs to eat at, and then having pint after pint of draft cider over a steak and kidney pie (yum), in an open-air garden at the back, talking about love and men and choices

  • misty landscapes out of Tolkien's paintings

  • finding chai at Starbucks, and spending a day working there (yes, I do this in Chicago too, and the Bay Area, and Zurich -- that's the point, that's why I like it -- it's somehow easier, settling down to work, with something so familiar)

  • cooking curry for Kirsten and Adrian with spices I brought with me, coping with strange English stoves (they have one halogen burner -- who knows why?), and tiny English fridges (about my waist height is standard), and overly packaged English vegetables and meats (everything comes pre-packaged in particular amounts, which makes for adjusting of recipes)

  • taking the bus to Oxford, walking around Balliol and imagining Peter Wimsey there, watching the punters on the river and imagining Harriet Vane, being grateful for Dorothy Sayers for Gaudy Night, and let us not forget visiting the Eagle and Child pub, where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to hang

  • Stonehenge, magical despite the masses of tourists -- when I was a little girl, I had a poster above my bed of Stonehenge at night, with, yes, a white unicorn in the foreground

  • white chalk horses, thousands of years old, cut into the hillsides

  • walking up and down a flight of canal locks, watching the water raise up a boat (the locks are used to get the canal up a hillside), pushing one lock closed to help out, listening to Adrian and Kirsten talk about the pleasure of weeks on a canal boat, slowly exploring England

13 thoughts on “Things I do like about…”

  1. Wow. Makes me hope I can visit there some day. I have been to Poland several times, and once to Prague, but nowhere else on that side of the Atlantic.

    The food packaging does sound a bit frustrating.

  2. Connie Willis’s time-travel stories and novels (starting with “Fire Watch“) also feature Balliol, btw.

    Which reminds me: have you been to St. Paul’s?

    Or the British Museum? Or the Tate?

    Or the Globe?

  3. I love Jennifer Cruisie. I think Faking It is fabulous, but I love all of them. I like Welcome to Temptation because it’s the same family, though it took me a while to figure that out (I’m horrible with names.)

    No winds at Marble Arch for you? I just finished reading “To Say Nothing of the Dog” so I am super jealous of everyone in England.

    And so far as canal boats go, find some Katie Fforde. Life Skills or The Rose Revisited. They’re not her best books, but they’ve got canal boats, and I love all her stuff (except for the latest, Highland Fling, which still is good, just not fabulous. A little too predictable.) I’m a helpless chicklit addict, and imported a pretty nice amount from Amazon.uk when I had a job.

  4. Please, please, don’t get a dog. A dog needs
    much attention, excercise, and owners who are
    home to attend to it’s needs. They are much
    more demanding than a plant.

  5. I wish I’d read Gaudy Night before going to Oxford — though if I had, I might have been even more put out when Balliol didn’t accept me. As it was, I was quite put out enough when I found out that Lincoln didn’t have a time machine. I went there to study history, for God’s sake! Still, both Dr. Seuss and John le Carré were at Lincoln, so I shouldn’t complain.

    I spent a fair bit of time at Starbuck’s too, both in England (never got the hang of writing in pubs) and Tokyo. Clean, non-smoking, and properly heated, but yes, also familiar. Wm. Gibson’s Cayce Pollard expresses something very similar in Pattern Recognition.

  6. Don’t forget to eat some bread pudding while you’re there! Because in the USA, bread pudding — in my experience, at least — is as nasty as it sounds. But in London, somehow it is magically delicious.

  7. Hey, I like bread pudding, even in the US! I’m not sure whether I’ve had it in the UK, though, so I don’t think I can compare.

    (Is everything else magically delicious in London too, just ’cause it’s London?)

  8. Dear lord no. London is the place where they still think boiled cabbage is a good idea. But I do find travel makes everything tastier.

    As for “magically delicious”… do Frosted Lucky Charms count as Irish cuisine?

  9. I’ve read all the Connie Willis too, of course. And I hit most of the tourist stuff ten years ago, when I was last here — the British Museum, the British Library, the National Portrait Gallery, St. Paul’s, the Tower. I may try to make it to Westminster Abbey this week; probably not the Globe, and I have little interest in the Tate.

    Thanks for the book recommendations; probably won’t get to them anytime soon, but someday.

    A little bewildered by the advice not to get a dog, since Kevin and I both work from home, and so one or the other of us is at home pretty much all the time usually. Lots of time for doggie! The main question is who has to walk the dog in the winter. That’s still under debate. We had a cat together in Philly, which we would still have if my roommate (moving out of Oakland house) hadn’t propped door open and then subsequently locked poor kitty outside during a thunderstorm. 🙁 Kevin grew up with a dog, so he’s pretty up on what they need.

    And there’s excellent bread pudding at the Southern restaurant in Hyde Park (Chicago), which I’m forgetting the name of.

  10. The best food I had in the UK was Indian food. Oh, except for a place in Stratford called The Opposition, which was yummy.

  11. I imagine it must be real hot in England
    right now, period.

    But AC does seem to be an afterthought
    (way after, like never) in a lot of the UK.

    Check out the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum,
    if yo uget the chance. But do not put
    the tea in first if you go there..they’ll
    lecture on the proper way to make tea.

  12. I hate you in that way where I wish I was you… enjoying england and all the tea…

    get a dog. no, get a puppy, because if you’re both at home you have time to “break it” and make it truely trained in the way you want it to be. for example, a sharp yip at the front door when it needs to potty has opposed to a door scratch.

    get one. you can do it now. visit your local spca.

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