surinenglish

Back home

Playing mini golf in the rain was as near as I could get to a UK seaside day out experience this time around. Actually, we played in a park in London but it still counts, I think. The raindrops creeping slowly down the back of my neck during the game and then the all-day breakfast in a cafe with steamed up windows and an inevitably out of order bathroom resulted in a wave of nostalgia worthy of any coastal town from Blackpool to Bognor.

It was a seven-day stint in England split equally between the North - where I ate so many pies and drank so much tasty beer that I think that I might qualify for some kind of Northern Bloke Knighthood - and the South where I ate many more pies (not as good as up North) and drank more pints but in gastro bars instead of pubs and at twice the price. Still, London was very pleasant in spite of the constant drizzle. Contrary to the popular image, people in the capital are always happy to help with directions and the like with some even seeming to enjoy the human interaction and giving answers so detailed that I think I could have passed the taxi drivers' Knowledge exam by the time I left. Too many people wore tiny earphones, though, which meant that, occasionally, I was left looking foolish, yelling at someone totally ignoring me.

“Excuse me, do you know where.. ah, earphones... er , sorry you can't hear me, obviously and, well, you couldn't hear that either..oh dear, this could go in for quite some time...”

The only place that felt a bit weird was Clapham Junction railway station. Wikipedia says it's the busiest in Europe and I can well believe it. I passed through at rush hour and there were dozens of people running to make connections in such a knowing and determined manner that I suspect that that is what they do every morning. When I say 'running', I mean really pegging it up stairs and across platforms - blokes in suits, women in tight skirts, hipsters, old people; it was all a bit of a blur. Actually, it could easily have been some kind of commuter game show; I fully expected an enormous foam penguin with a big sponge hammer to appear at any moment from behind Costa Coffee and start picking off the speeding contestants until there was only Dave from Smith and Berkwell Accountants left to claim victory.

Running full pelt to work every morning isn't something to be recommended; it's not good for your stress levels and, frankly, friendly visitors are really put off from asking you for directions. Oh yes, I see, maybe that was their cunning plan.