england, chapter 3 (aftermath)

3 05 2009

breakfast—the other b—was provided down yet one more flight of narrow town-house stairs, in a snug little basement decorated with sketches of flowers and old black and white photos of the town’s maritime history; the food was perfect (perhaps barring the ubiquitous white toast), the tea was plentiful, and our host on hand to offer suggestions for what to see during our day and how to get there. he also, being a traveler himself, had thought of all of the important things, and showed us around the outside to a combination locker where we left my huge backpack and saint213‘s suit for retrieval on our way back to the train so that we didn’t have to drag them all around town with us. equipped with combination, suggestions, and of course the google map, with instructions for where to meet for brunch at 1:30, we checked out at half-ten and struck out in the direction of the farmer’s market, the shore, and wherever else the sun would take us. what we found was that portsmouth of a sunny sunday april morning is charming and gorgeous; we walked its streets, sampled pepper-jellies in the market (and the “we” that was not me added a bison burger to the things-to-sample), took pictures of statues and churches and buildings and old forts and sea weed and flowers and trees and gravestones and leisure sports and midway-signs and sailboats and old town houses, read up on our history on various plaques, learned a bit about art (apparently it’s impossible to sculpt a true-to-scale statue of a man that depicts that he is both short and slender, because sculpting him slender makes him look tall, so to show that he’s a small man, which is apparently important to his one-armed, one-eyed legend, he has to be presented as if of a normal girth).

From england09

we wound up walked-out (the hungoverness might have contributed to our lack of stamina) just early enough to the brunch-café to have time for a lingering espresso drink at the bar and to chill for a while in its quiet shade listening to coffeeshop radio and speculating about wine notation until the new bride and groom and all their local friends and in-town family arrived. i made a fuss at katie as soon as she came in, declaring that since i’d flown across an ocean for a weekend, i hadn’t seen her in some 6 or 8 years, and i’d hardly gotten to stand still near her at her wedding party (weddings are notoriously like that), she was sitting by me and i would fight anyone who tried to horn in on my privilege. she laughed, and said i’d get at least some katie time but she had obligatory flitting to do, and then sat down across from me and stayed, and let the others flit to her. ::wins:: also the food was terrific, even for hungover people, and nothing like white bread, and there was much mingling and merriment and getting to chat at least a bit with pete, & to find out for certain that katie’s staying, having already signed paperwork to make her married-english, and that their honeymoon would be (by now has been) a sneaky little trip to somewhere not too far away that they weren’t telling anyone about, so that nobody would be able to find them. saint213 colluded w/dana about her next couple of days in england and meeting up in london, which by all reports they did, and i swapped gossip with katie about various folks-back-home and their houses and babies and all of those growing-up things they keep acquiring, and then somehow it was going-on 4 instead of the 3 we’d expected, and it was time to head back towards the storage-locker and the train station and, eventually, by way of a scenic slow train with lots of naps and pleasure-reading, the chaotic undergrounds of london, where and i parted our ways with a hug and a shared grin and a “thanks for being so truly excellent to travel with,” and he went off to catch up with the gf and his real life, and i took tubes and trains across the night up into the suburbs of wherever, where ssartain put me up for a last night after a tour of his gardens, tossing my travel-clothes in the wash, letting his mad little mops-of-dogs wag all over me, and feeding me (white bread) cheese-toast (for which he’s forgiven, because he has small children) and chamomile.

From england09

morning, then—-more trains, more tubes, more planes, more idling in airports than anyone would ever really need—and home again in time to crash for <6 hours before dashing off to work in the morning, exhausted but rich with miles and towns and accents and voices and seasons and transport modes and architectures and treats and smiles and purchases (candy for the roommates, the bear for the bebe, postcards for family & almost-family written at heathrow & sent off with english airmail stamps, magnets for a birthday down the road somewhere, tea to take home and espresso-and-an english-pickle-sandwich lunch for me), and of course pictures, lots and lots of pictures. reflective conclusion: parts of london are quite nice, and parts i could do without, but it's a city; even parts getting the thumbs-up is impressive. as for the rest, if i were employable in the country at all for doing what i do, i'd be all set to move. i love the shapes of the insides and outsides of houses, i love everything in bloom, i love how the woods look like faerie-stories in ways i can't articulate, i love trains that lead to everywhere, i love all the shapes of vowels and voices, i love tea and fascinating candies, i love the way the guy at the newsstand who sells you the candy calls you “sweet'eart,” i love the smell of curry-shop intruding between other cigarette- and bus-exhaust and from-somewhere-unseen-flower-smells (even when i'm not in town long enough to actually taste any), & even at King's X, which was way too much crowded, chaotic train-and-tube station for my liking, i loved the community spirit and orderliness of the soccer hooligan trying to rouse the rabble after some game of some sort, the bobbies arriving to drag him away, and the whole gathered crowd of train-awaiters singing him some sort of in-unison goodbye song as he bounced manically, waving back at his friends from within his captors' grasp as he was removed from the scene. third trip over, there really was a sense of home about the place, especially in the air outside the city, how it always smells like something sugary has been steeping in flower-cups of dew all night. england (with a lot of help from the ex-pat friends and their english cohorts who’ve shared their hospitality and expertise over the years of those trips), she’s been good to me.

From england09



2 responses

6 05 2009

love the post, and the photos! You would make an interesting travel writer 🙂

6 05 2009

love the post, and the photos! You would make an interesting travel writer 🙂

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