Monday, August 06, 2007

Heathcliff, it's me, your Cathy, I've come home.

I had the song "Wuthering Heights" in my head for the majority of the UK trip, before I even knew we were going to stop off at Haworth to see the parsonage where Emily, Charlotte, and Anne wrote their books (and Branwell led a dissolute life). It's probably a natural progression from "Oh England, My Lionheart," another Kate Bush song that invariably queues up on my mental jukebox when I start thinking about England.

The other song I had in my head the most while we were traveling was "English Country Garden," at first because we saw a lot of flowers and then because the Brit shared some juvenile alternate lyrics with me: "What do you do when you've got to take a poo / in an English Country Garden?" Then there's something about pull down your pants and scare away the ants, I don't remember it exactly, but it obviously captured my imagination. Practically every time we saw any dell that was even remotely dingly, I started to whistle the song (which, by the way, I knew from elementary piano books I whipped through when I was little).

The Brits aren't messing around when it comes to their gardens. They say "garden" where we would say "yard," and this is not just a cute cultural word difference. Even the most asphalt-crusty yard has a garden in it with roses as big as your head and watercolored hydrangeas and cascading, burgeoning greenery.

The price exacted for all of this efflorescence is, obviously, relentless rain. It's been a crap few months in the British Isles. Magically enough, though, we had mostly stellar weather, at least one perfect day everywhere we went. My spirits were so ludicrously lifted every time the sun was out: yet more evidence of how poorly I would function in a gray climate. My emotions are way too tied to the weather, apparently.

I would've ordered at least one more day of good weather, though. Trying to climb mountains in heavy mist (that may or may not turn into, like, shards of rain) is a totally losing proposition that forces you to turn back while also driving home to you the inadequacy of your gear. Here's a tip: don't try to camp in England with inadequate gear.

A few more tips:

1. It's true what they say about the roads and traffic in England: they suck. I mean people tell you to take provisions because you might be sitting there on the motorway for hours, long enough to be hungry and dehydrated. Taking a road trip is not quite the relaxing and invigorating experience it is in the States. We were actually lucky to hit only about a half hour's worth of traffic jams, but then there was the harrowing experience of driving on two-way roads that are about 6 feet wide, and meanwhile because of some cock-up in the Chunnel there were people sitting on southern roads for 5 hours or more. So I guess my tip is: if you're trying to get somewhere in England by car, be ready for anything.

2. Also: with the current exchange rate, which is shite, gassing up your toy rental car will cost about $80, you won't be able to pay at the pump because it hasn't been discovered yet in England, and you won't be able to find a gas station when you need one. This will renew the mock hate-on for England that is your major comic trope while you're there.

3. It is also true what they say about the airports: they are migraine-inducing monuments to inefficiency. I was very zen about the huge lines for our return flight, but unfortunately we were posted next to this spazzy dork who wouldn't stop fidgeting and standing on his tippy toes and checking his watch and asking everyone about how long things were going to take and would he make his flight and like that. It would've been more hilarious if it didn't threaten to harsh my mellow so bad. We made our flight, but I didn't have any time to buy delicious airport chocolate and so I still have pound coins jingling around in my wallet. Boo.

4. Almost all pain au chocolat I encountered on this trip was well worth eating, and that includes convenience store pain au chocolat, which I bought in Haworth and munched as we whipped across the moors on our way to the mountains. Not bad. Even in the rain.

Next time: the good, the very good, the transcendent.

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