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Sunday, March 29, 2009

English



So, I'm back in the colonies. England was just swell, but I started to miss the smell of jackpines and moose.

A few reflections: London is wildly entertaining. It's insanely busy. At times, everyone seemed to be coming at us at once as if someone turned on a people hose. We just held on to the kids like our hands were super-glued together and somehow we became a part of it all. On the plus side, there's so much stimulation. Lights and speed and history and modernity. We rode the London Eye and looked down on Big Ben. You could start the day with a full English breakfast (sausages, beans, eggs, etc) and have a grain-fed free-range chicken and organic avocado sandwich for lunch. And when you actually did talk to someone, they were surprisingly friendly. It'd be sad but not unfathomable that living that fast-paced lifestyle would make one distant or cold, but fortunately that wasn't the case. On the down side, there's so much stimulation. It's very commercial and trendy. Did you know I should be wearing a cardigan now? I think I'd look like Harry Weston from Empty Nest. And ladies, you need tight leggings. Floral patterns are also in. I looked at all the billboards and I thought of how lucky my kids are not to be bombarded with that here in Yellowknife. Then, who do you think were the ones that suddenly needed Cadbury chocolates because of a giant cartoon bunny? Perhaps those living amongst it became desensitized somewhat. The locals certainly weren't pointing at all the adverts and signs.

It was a lot of fun to see The Lion King, take a tour on the Thames, ride the Eye, go to the Hard Rock Cafe, visit Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and the Sherlock Holmes museum, travel on a double decker bus and the tube, and so on. And it was also nice to leave London and see some of the countryside.

Our first non-London stop was Lowestoft, a town on the east coast. We enjoyed walking along the beach (believe it or not we didn't have a single day of rain on our entire trip) and touching the North Sea but the real reason we went there was its proximity to a tiny village called Mutford. We saw pretty much the entire village of Mutford in about an hour and a half, but took loads of pictures. Mutford was quaint and quiet and small-- the complete opposite of London.

After a couple days in the Lowestoft/Mutford area we were off again to Birmingham, which was pretty much a pitstop on our way to Stratford-Upon-Avon. In Stratford-Upon-Avon we visited a huge castle in nearby Warwick that had some parts dating back to 1068. The recorded history of England on the whole was fascinating. I know, with our Native peoples, Canada's history goes back quite far as well; it's just too bad more of it wasn't as well preserved. I will say one thing about England's history, they seem to enjoy the dark stuff. Hey kids, this was where they hanged a guy, this was an axe used in decapitating people who may or may not have been innocent, etc-- all with a huge smile. I found it interesting that in their newspapers people seemed so appauled by "ghoul tourists" who wanted to go see Fritzl's house in Austria. I guess in a hundred years from now visiting his house would be acceptable?

Anyway, in Stratford-Upon-Avon we got to see Shakespeare's birthplace, grave, and a few more Shakespearean sites. Interesting stuff. It was capped off perfectly when we went back to London a few days later and toured the reproduction of the Globe Theatre. In London again, we also made a quick jaunt to Salisbury to visit Stonehenge (and saw one of Sting's houses) and then it was back to Canada.

But how can I forget the crisps (i.e., potato chips)? While we were in England, Walkers (their version of Frito-Lay) was having a contest to pick a new flavour. In the running were Fish and Chips, Builder's Breakfast (a.k.a full English breakfast, see above), Onion Bhaji, Crispy Duck Hoisin, Chilli and Chocolate and... Cajun Squirrel. Of course I tried them all. It's amazing how close some of the flavours are to the real thing. Fish and Chips (my favourite) actually tasted like battered cod and chips, complete with malt vinegar. Even the Builder's Breakfast somehow managed to capture an entire meal in a single crisp. I can only assume the squirrel is accurate, too. Oh you crazy Brits.

Anyway, there was more to the trip than cheap junkfood. I won't share all the photos, but since this is a litblog, I'll leave you with some of the more literary-themed pics.

Me and the bard spent a lot of time together on this trip. As you can tell, we became good friends:

Here's the Globe:

This was where he was born:

This was where he died. The inscription reads:
"Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones."



But of course, there was more than Shakespeare. Turns out Oscar wasn't so wilde after all. He had pretty shoes though:


Dickens:


And another fine literary character:


Guess who I ran into on Baker Street:


Shortly after, my fair lady knocked this down. We took the key and locked her up:



Oh, and this guy runs a litblog. He also owns a post office:


Starting to get tired, I turn to the Yellowknifer for news from home. (Geez, I hope they have the tainted meat taken care of by the time I get back...)

14 comments:

Teddy Rose said...

Sounds like an awesome trip! I loved the photos! Especially Dickens and you!

Dale said...

What a wonderful travelogue and great photos John! I loved your start about how it seemed like someone turned on a people hose. Brilliant.

You seem awfully familiar with Mr. Wilde there :-) I wonder what he'd have thought of all those crazy crisps?

Reading this really makes me want to re-visit London and surrounding areas.

raidergirl3 said...

What a great trip! I want to go to England!
I want to eat crisps and wear leggings and do all the things you did. What a wonderful experience for your kids.
thanks for the write up, I felt like I was there, eating the cajun squirrel crisps.

claire said...

What a lovely trip. Great post and great photos! And as usual you crack me up (..someone turned on the people hose, lol)! Glad to have you back! :D

John Mutford said...

Teddy: I honestly enjoyed every minute of it.

Dale: I think he'd be into the Chilli and Chocolate. Not me though. When I want crisps, I want crisps. When I want chocolate, I want chocolate. I don't think they mixed all that well.

Raidergirl: Now I can officially say that I'd recommend it.

Claire: And despite enjoying England, it is nice to be home again. Thanks!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Great photo tour! I'm glad to see that you and Oscar hit it off so well. I assume you will maintain some form of correspondence over the pond.

And somehow I always knew you had a Mutford sign growing out of your head.

Book Psmith said...

What fun! Thanks for sharing the travelogue and pics.

Kelly Fineman said...

Ooh - such great photos! And who knew you were so cute? (Um . . . that wasn't intended to sound pervy. Really and truly.)

MASSIVE envy of your time in England, and major laughs about London bridge.

Melanie said...

Love this write up of a trip that sounds wonderful! Great pics too, what a laugh to travel vicariously with you.

Mark Leslie said...

Looks like an incredible trip - hilarious photo-journal recounting of highlights, too. Thanks for sharing.

Wanda said...

Harry Weston!? I don't think so, John. Though you and the soapy man may have taken a few more whacks to the funny bone than the average Joe, you've got a good 30 years before a cardigan would be cause for resemblance.

Floral patterns sound lovely but I did the tight leggings in the '80's — the London fashionistas can keep 'em this go around.

You want to hope you're fair lady doesn't knock you down; I seem to recall a post where you mention she's good with a hammer...

Other than the plane ride home, it looks and sounds as though you and your family enjoyed a wonderful English vacation. Thanks for sharing!

Did you acquire any books while in England?

Remi said...

Looks like an amazing trip. England is near the top of my list of places I want to travel to (which is nearly as long as my TBR list, oddly enough).

Allison said...

Did you visit The Tower of London? That was one of the most fascinating, yet weirdest experiences I found whilst visiting London. Look kids, its prisoner graffiti!

Indee, the Brits have some questionable chip flavours. But I do miss there size control. Our bags are just too big.

Great pictures! I absolutely love the picture of you at Stonehenge! :)

Chris said...

Your trip sounds like it was fun! I love your people hose description. I don't know how I'd deal with that.

Love those pics!