We just returned to our home in Thailand after a three-week trip to England. It was Katae’s first visit and my second in seven years, probably my last… 555.
Just before we boarded our flight from Bangkok to London’s Heathrow we heard of the radicalized Muslim bombing of the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester. We prepared for longer ques and tighter security at the airports, cause that’s all been working out just fine hasn’t it. We wasn’t disappointed, finger printing and full body scans was standard and that doesn’t include the mountain of paperwork Katae had to prepare just to get a visa.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only terrorist bombing while we were visiting the old country. Less than two weeks in, after a lot of social signaling and hugging the bastards had an eight-minute rampage in the name of their God around London Bridge and Borough Market. Keep calm and carry on… it’s a joke right! What the heck is happening to the UK?
So we arrived with a bang with glorious sunshine and temperatures hitting 25 degrees Celsius, which was an unexpected warm welcome for us.
For the first week I played the part of the tourist guide showing Katae around my old neighborhood of Shoreditch in East London, all the usual tourist destinations and everything in between. Highlights were The London Eye, Sky Garden, Pret-a-Portea at The Berkley, The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, Borough Market, Brick Lane, Old Spitafields Market, The British Museum, Tobacco Dock (thanks Marcus & Tracy), and of course Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
We also caught a train down to Brockley to see our friends at World of Zing, Katae got her hair done near Bond Street by my old friend Gianni and we rambled around Convent Garden, Carnaby Street and Oxford Street.
After a week we hired a car and drove out of The City of London to Cambridge where it’s now nearly impossible to drive a car. We spent an hour or two walking around the town and punting down the River Cam taking in the sights of the various historical colleges and avoiding the geese and long neck albino ducks A.K.A. swans.
Later in the evening we drove out to The Rectory Farm B&B, which is set in a delightful estate. Their English country garden was a joy to walk around and we even spotted a visiting dear early in the morning before breakfast.
Next stop on our tour was a little further north to my hometown of Lincoln. We spent time with my family and their peacocks in the countryside, visited Lincoln Cathedral, the Castle and caught up with some old friends.
We also attended my niece’s wedding at the weekend, rested in an 17th century Inn and flew gliders after a big English breakfast!
After the weekend the weather took a turn for the worst with temperatures plunging to single digits. We spend a couple of days standing close to the family Aga and drinking copious amounts of tea we purchased from Imperial Teas of Lincoln. This is the very tea-shop that got me hooked on the finest of beverages when I was but a young man.
London was calling again so we drove south and stayed in the newly developed Kings Cross area.
In the morning we visited the Imperial War Museum and the Garden Museum were we had a little lunch. After eating we walked down the river to South Bank and took in the sites and sounds of the Tate Modern.
The same evening found us back in Kings Cross at one of the many new bars and restaurants in the area, The Lighterman. Here we drank pints, laughed a lot and dined on some fine food with some close friends. But time alas was running us…
For our last day in London we made our way across town to the Natural History Museum. On arrival we were pleasantly surprised to discover they had a butterfly house for the summer months. Like a couple of kids, we spent several hours photographing butterflies and viewing the exhibits on display. To be fair, we could have spent even longer there than we did.
Looking back now, our three weeks in England was like a whirlwind. We loved every minute of the time we got to share with our family and friends and it was joyous visiting the world-renowned places that are so quintessentially British.
I’ve had the privilege to live in many interesting places and observe the UK from afar for many years now and it was interesting to not only see the physical changes to the cities (more cameras, skyscrapers, defensive structures and homelessness) and countryside (still wind turbines, cameras, stamp of approval free range eggs) but also the people. From the outside everyone seems to be doing spiffingly well but underneath, not unlike the long neck albino ducks, I got the impression they are paddling furiously along trying to stay afloat and speaking in hushed tones in case their thoughts and views offended anyone.
During our time there we attended a wedding, my grandmother (96) died, more radicalized Muslims massacred innocents on the multicultural streets of London’s SE1 area. There was also a bazaar pop concert for the Manchester attack, a general election and by some amazing mass cognitive dissonance that seems to be infecting the country, we were told Labour won and the Tory’s lost, even though the Tory’s won and Labor lost. Go figure! England’s dreaming or is it descending into a nightmare!
If you find an urban place where you are still allowed to drive a car, it’s now 20mph and there are even more cameras on the roads than ever before. The television channels and ‘news’ papers are full of fear porn and it’s bloody freezing in June. (And too hot when it’s hot… some things never change!)
It’s sad to say but I believe the UK is in terminal decline. We live under a military junta here in Thailand but it actually feels freer than the Orwellian surveillance state, with its harsh austerity and the divide and conquer of communities by the bankster elites. Hopefully more people will turn off their television programming and realize who the enemy of the people are. Hint, it’s not your neighbors. Stranger in a strange place, maybe. I for one am happy that I don’t live there anymore.
Rant over, at least it isn’t raining… I’m heading back to the garden!
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Stranger in a Strange Place