I recently returned from a trip to England – a month-long, self-indulgent visit with my brother and sister-in-law for no other reason than to “top up” on the little things that you miss and to visit with family.
The flight with Delta/Virgin Atlantic through Detroit, of all places, was flawless and as convenient as possible, connecting through the same terminal.
I never throw compliments around very easily where airlines are concerned. It’s just nice to say that everything went according to Hoyle.
Arriving at the beginning of May, the air was bracing and briny – you’re never far from the sea over there – and we had a mixed bag of weather for the duration, ranging from the fifties and blowing a gale to soporific, humid high eighties. Standard operating procedure for Blighty’s one-day summer!
I really have no idea how one can afford to live even a relatively humble life over there any more. You probably know that gas costs an arm and a leg, but a simple trip to the grocery store would strip Croesus clean. You even have to pay for parking to visit the grocery store. Can you imagine that at Kroger or Publix?
Driving into London is an even more expensive undertaking. Apart from punitive parking charges (if you’re lucky enough to find a space) you have to pay an “access fee” of about $33 to get into the city.
Even local towns seem committed to keeping customers out by making parking awkward and expensive. My brother Robin’s nearest market town is akin to a ghost town for most of the week. No one goes for a walk around the shops any more for socializing or gossip swapping with neighbors or shopkeepers.
There’s no such thing as a local English soccer team anymore. I think there was one native Englishman on Chelsea’s squad for the FA Cup – I kid you not.
I’m incapable of pronouncing the names of the players. Even the manager’s an Italian!
Almost every club in the country is made up of foreigners. It’s now so embarrassingly bad that trying to put together an English team, consisting of Englishmen who can actually play soccer on the international circuit and win, is next to impossible. Even the nature of the game has changed. It’s all about possession and defense where the players spend more time in their own half kicking the ball to one another. It’s a real yawn.
Just to keep things in balance, England’s still as charming as ever; fish and chips by the seaside, quiz night at the pub accompanied by proper beer, served at the proper temperature, English chocolate and candy, gardens tended with loving care, the countryside in full bloom amid the patchwork quilt of fields, the dawn chorus of birdsong with Blackbirds leading the choir, tea in the garden serenaded by cooing turtle doves, leading to a pre-prandial gin and tonic and dinner with the doors and windows open wide with a zephyr scented by fresh-mown grass.
Robin and his wife, Shannon, live near the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens at Wisley in Surrey. You don’t have to be a gardener to be blown away by the stunningly colorful and artful plantings that change throughout the year.
We visited art galleries and country houses, the ride through the countryside being its own reward.
Politics there, like here, are in a state of turmoil, what with Brexit and an election upset as well as public safety from terrorist attacks, but jolly old England stands as steady as the castles that solidly remind folks of the value and attractiveness of its history.