In the past I have concluded that it is possible to love two, very different countries. The one you live in and know best is rather like the love one can have for a wife or husband; it is a deep down love that has been formed over years of getting to know them, understanding how they think, seeing the wonderful stuff as well as the less wonderful bits. The other country is a bit like a mistress; you visit rarely, have fun and get to ignore all the bad stuff.
The history we have had in the UK has helped to ensure that I have mostly seen it as the wife but this may be changing.
We loved the couple of weeks we spent there. The most fantastic bit is catching up with friends and family; seeing Nic in Birmingham, Jacquie and Nik in Netheravon, Mel and David in London, the whole gang at dinner in the Tower of London, the Booth/Tod clan at Andrew’s 90th at Mike’s house in Lincoln and our friends and neighbours around our lovely cottage in Devizes.
We also had a really strong feeling of what a lovely country England is; the countryside is stunning (and there is a lot of it….. those who say ‘We’re full’ clearly haven’t seen anything full), the history that is everywhere is incredible (Lincoln, and particularly the cathedral, was a real highlight). We also noticed how many pleasant people there are; working in bars and shops, chance encounters, staff on trains. Pretty much everywhere…. Even EE mobile phone shops. I guess they have always been there but when you live somewhere you don’t notice them, only the miserable bastards who appear to hate their jobs.
Out and about in England
It was great to see the cottage; it is a really, really beautiful house, in a lovely village in a very nice area. Our feelings were helped by the beautiful spring day we saw it on, a day which the estate agent remarked ‘is the best day in weeks; it’s been shit’.
Devizes and the Cottage
In Birmingham we ate a shit load of curry, all of which was lovely and pretty much everywhere, I drank a shit load of Guinness, all of which was lovely too.
Our time in London was a real highlight. We were lucky enough to be able to stay with Mel and David, south of the river near the Tate Modern. Since we lived in London 10 years ago, this area has gone from being somewhere that was ok but not a must visit, to a really vibrant area, helped by The Shard being on it’s door step. There are amazing new bits (near Tower Bridge), lots of revamped old bits, food trucks, interesting bars, shops etc and a really, really nice vibe.
On the other side of the river, the new buildings in the city were a real surprise and now, rather than The Vibrator being the biggest building in the area, it is dwarfed by many others, most of which are impressive feats of architecture. It is a very changed place and still one of the most interesting cities in the world (I hope the loss of £1tn and 6000 jobs due to Brexit does not effect the place too much).
We got the chance to see two plays whilst there. The first was in the Bridge Theatre and was called Always Alice which was completely unknown to us and turned out to be completely captivating. The second was Follies at the National Theatre (we would go and see just about any NT production in the NT). Neither of realised it was a full on musical…….we really should pay more attention to these things. It was a good musical, cleverly done and enjoyable, but not really as much of my cup of tea as Always Alice was.
Dinner in the Tower of London was fantastic. To have such a place to be able to get together with friends is very, very special. This one was a really international affair, with Carolyn and David coming from Oz, Fiona from Tunis, Mo and Bridge from Jerusalem, Kevin and Suzanne from France/Oz and the rest of the gang being spread out in the UK.
The Yeomen of the Guard, who come in to explain then guide us through the Ceremony of the Keys are always good and on this occasion he has fantastic, really bringing the ceremony alive.
From there we headed to a public loo………….. The Bermondsey Arts Club is rather hip converted ladies loo. Cool people with big beards go there, drink complicated cocktails and listen to cool music. They were delighted to have 20 old people in black tie turn up and pretty much dominate the 50 person bar. Some left. Those that stayed had a real treat. Mel took control of ‘the sounds’, blasting out cheesy hits from the 80s, 90s and naughties and soon everybody forgot they were cool and we all danced like lunatics until it was time to go.
Tower of London Dinner
London is a place that it is very easy to party in, which probably explains why, on our last night, I found myself ‘making shapes’, standing on Mel and David’s dining table, dressed in shirt, shoes, swimming shorts and goggles, recapturing a memorable night in Sydney in 2009 after celebrating me accepting my first job in Australia. This kind of behaviour is only ever acceptable with the mistress…