London: "Jolly Green England"

August 12, 2002

My Cousin Dorothy and her husband Roger live in Brookman’s Park, a charming village outside of London. The first day we strolled into the village centre and stopped by the chemist, the greengrocer and the fishmonger.  The one story brick homes, they call them bungalows, are surrounded by cheerful flower gardens. There are few traffic lights and not a McD in sight. I would say that very little has changed here in fifty years. I love it.

We visited Verulamium – The museum of everyday life in Roman Britain. I must admit I needed the help of a young schoolgirl to translate the wall inscriptions.  It’s been ages since my Latin class at City College.

At the weekend we motored two hours north to The Midlands to visit Dorothy and Roger’s daughter Lisa and her husband Bill. They live in Derby with their young children, James and Charlotte.

Over the course of the weekend we managed two excursions. First to an area called Dovedale, in the Derbyshire Dales - a beautiful river valley with steep hills and lots of rainfall. Everything is green. My souvenir refrigerator magnet says, “Dovedale – Where the Sheep Smile.”

On Sunday we visited an immense estate called Chatsworth. It was wonderful wandering around the parks, waterfalls, and sculpture garden, playing hide and seek with the kids. We explored the English hedge giant maze. For a moment I thought I was Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

Even the food was good. We had a lovely English dinner on Sunday. I opted for the steak and kidney pie!

And of course Dorothy fed me quite well, indeed, on sharp English cheeses, assorted salads, coffee and tea. At the local delicatessen, run by an Armenian couple, we found some very British delicacies - lox, chopped chicken liver and Sarah Lee coffee cake.

From Brookman’s Park, I rode the train to London. Even though it was only 10:00 in the morning, I was exhausted. Well, why not?  So I decided to take it easy and visit just one or two spots.

The Tate Modern Gallery was showing the traveling exhibit of Matisse and Picasso – the rivals, side by side. The route to The Tate is the Tube to St Paul’s Cathedral, a walk down a lane to the new pedestrian Millennium Bridge and across the Thames.

I wandered around St. Paul’s. Beside the Cathedral I discovered a small sculpture. The sculpture was erected fifty years ago and depicts three firemen in action. At the base of the sculpture are the names of firemen who have lost their lives. Sitting on the base was a bouquet of roses left by New York City Firefighters who had visited London, post 9/11.

Now it was noon, so for an early lunch I bought a lovely vanilla soft ice cream and headed across the bridge to the Tate.

“Sorry luv.” The queue for the exhibit was quite long indeed and tickets were on offer for six that evening. I reckoned I could not make a go of it.

I hailed a black taxi for Covent Garden and a proper lunch at Porter’s Restaurant. The tomato and basil soup - zesty. The grilled salmon - brilliant. The gingerbread pudding with cream sauce - outrageous.

Back to Brookman’s Park for a quiet evening of TV. Like Dorothy and Roger and millions of other Brits, I became addicted to the evening soap operas.

I fell in love with Maria, on “Coronation Street.”

Maria, very pretty in an exotic sort of way, quit her job as a hairdresser and is planning to emigrate to Canada to live with her boyfriend Nick who had preceded her there who as it turns out is already living with another girl and Maria finds out from Nick’s grandmother just in the nick of time so to speak so she decides to stay in London and gets her old job back and I hope she will still be there when I get back to London so I can persuade her to emigrate with me to Miami where she can work as a hairdresser and I can stay home and watch soap operas all day.

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