Practically the first thing we did in England was go see the Blur concert in Hyde Park.
We were debating the merits of this outing practically until the last minute: we'd only been in the country a little over 24 hours and there were many ways in which getting to and from the concert could have been a clusterfucktastrophe. But as with everything else on our vacation, forces of benevolence smiled down upon our transportation issues. The trains were empty, we weren't crushed by raging fans, we easily found the toilets with the shortest lines, and the beer was fairly cheap.
Also, the concert was super fun.
I've written about this before, but one of my favorite things about live music is the overwhelming surge of goodwill you get standing in the middle of a crowd composed entirely of people who are fixated on the same excellent project. It is crowd mentality at its best. So add this to perfect summer weather (in London, of all places) and an iconic band reuniting to play, essentially, a greatest hits show, and you get joy joy joy. You can't help it: everyone's singing along and pogo-dancing; no one's pushing you or fighting. Plus, if you're like me, you discover that you know 75% percent of the songs even if you pretty much missed the band in its heyday because you were very busy learning about the canon of Western art music. This is a bonus.
This video may make you motion sick, but it pretty much shows what I'm talking about:
We scooted out as they were playing encores, bought some sandwiches, and got the train home. Now would be a good time to point out a way in which England is way ahead of the US: there are delicious, inexpensive, ready-made sandwiches everywhere you go. They are cut in half diagonally, which is very important, and packaged in cute triangular boxes (like the crappy gas-station sandwiches in the US). I can't remember whether there are vegan offerings, but there are veggie offerings a-plenty. It is totally time for the US to catch up.
A day later, we went to Norfolk for the weekend.
The Brit's dad and his (dad's) wife have a weekend cottage in a little town up there, 45 minutes or so from the North Sea. It is tiny, slow, relaxing, picturesque--all the things you want from a weekend retreat. The pub is about 12 steps from the front door. There are ruins of a priory and a castle. There are ivy-covered battle ditches and community garden plots that cost 6 pounds a year. There are cats prowling around at twilight who cannot help coming over to say hello. There are horses in the field, obviously.
It's a very flat part of the country, where all of the buildings are made of brick framing mortared flint. I pocketed a lot of flint when we were out walking around.
Part of the castle.
The front of the priory.
Inside the prior's private rooms.
Despite the whole relaxing vibe and in keeping with the rest of our vacation, we actually did a lot of stuff while we were there. We walked through little seaside towns.
We went on a boat tour to ogle some seals, congregated on the beach like fat bananas.
We looked at the sea.
Then we went to Holkham Beach and looked at a different part of the sea. I also walked in it. The Brit's shoes were too complicated to take off.
The weather continued to be excellent, as you can see. Our second trip to London and our quick trip to Cambridge were both a little rain-soaked, unfortunately. But we did see an excellent Darwin-related art exhibit at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, and a less exciting Henry VIII thing at the National Portrait Gallery. Personally, I was more excited by this portrait of Harold Pinter by Justin Mortimer and this portrait of Germaine Greer by Paula Rego. Seeing the Julian Opie Blur portraits was pretty cool, too, and also germane (germaine!) to our trip. Same with the portrait of the Harry Potter kids, but that image isn't on the web.
Really, the only bummer thing about the England legs of the trip (i.e., before and after Italy) was not hanging out at home enough. The Brit's mum and stepdad were always making us breakfast and then driving us to some station or other so we could pop off to our next thing. But there will be other visits!
And now, back to my regularly scheduled programming. To kick it off: this morning, I was trimming my hair (as I do pretty much constantly). I grabbed what I thought were the thinning shears and applied them to a huge hank of hair on the side of my head. The huge hank of hair fell into the sink, and I immediately realized I was slicing with regular scissors, and I felt like a 5 year old who has just cut her own bangs. Fortunately, the shorn hank blends in okay. As you were.