Monday, January 28, 2008
Homesick for the UK
It's my second week back to the grind after a two week vacation visiting good friends in London. The funny homesickish stomach pangs (no, not pains - pangs, pain with fangs) I feel every time I think about my trip aren't as strong as they were that first week or so.
When I was a kid, we vacationed with the cousins in Maine. Landlocked for the rest of the year, and obsessed with the ocean, I literally had to be torn away when we left. During the long car ride back, and the awful process of unpacking, I reveled in every shell, freckle and piece of sand I managed to bring home with me. I often hid a piece of clothing from the laundry pile (and my mother, supervisor and processor of said pile). Usually a t-shirt or sweatshirt that smelled like my time there... pine trees and sun-bleached salt. I'd pull it out every once in a while, breathe in, wallow in my sense of loss. Eventually, my mother found the stray item, or I faced facts and surrendered it to the hamper. I learned early on that you could belong to more than one place, and that the sense of being homesick for someplace that wasn't technically "Home" was probably a permanent state of affairs.
Leaving London was very much like this. And I certainly did not expect that. For so many reasons. I am public transportation phobic, probably because I've never really experienced real public transportation. Oh yes, I've taken buses, but this is a small rural state, it's just not the same. I'm an outdoorsy person, not necessarily in a rugged, athletic way- but I do need to be out of doors or my sanity begins to ebb. I believe in sidewalk etiquette - I move for you, you move for me. I have rather a hard time with big crowds, when being short becomes a frustrating disadvantage. I'm fairly social... but that doesn't always mean I like... people. So while I was looking forward to the visit, I was also anticipating some disenchantment with the daily experiences of city living.
Didn't happen. No disenchantment. Enjoyed the tube, and became reasonably comfortable with the maps. And once a city feels accessible to you, it changes everything. Chimney pots... Twilight in London is gorgeous because there is so much dramatic architecture outlined by the purpling sky. Chimney pots may not be your idea of drama, but to a gal who gobbled up British literature like it was candy, they were iconic! Bland food? My mother will attest to my life long love affair with potatoes. Especially mashed. Perfected by a pint of good beer (it seemed impossible to find bad beer actually), and some kind of meat served hot... in a pie. So happy to see so much pie, buttery pie crust being another great food love. Sticky toffee pudding? When I die, I may just stipulate that family and friends be served sticky toffee pudding. I truly believe it would snap them right out of mourning. I thought the food "plain" rather than bland, and admit that i relished plain for two weeks straight and missed it when I got home. My need for green was satisfied with a long walk through a park between tube stations. We walked every day, so much so that with all the delicious food I was inhaling, I lost a few pounds! There was plenty of outdoors to be out in. To be quite Mary Poppins about it, it was all in all a very satisfactory visit in every way. I would love to go back. I would love to win the lottery so I could afford to go back.
I don't want to be one of those people who is so enamored of their trip (and themselves) that they go on ad nauseum. Perhaps it's too late for me already in that respect. I won't promise not to talk more about our vacation, but I'll try to be reasonable. Consider this fair warning of more posts and pictures about the food and sights!