During the past week, blogging has been overtaken by so many other things. Of course I want to blog about it all because this is the storehouse of my thoughts and my adventures. I just feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of things that went on. Or you could say I'm hungover and tired.
Yesterday, I went down south. That's what England is referred to in Scotland. It's a strange phrase, I still wonder why people don't just say "I'm going to England". Is it because secretly, it's the same country, even if a different nation? Is it bad luck to say the word England? Nevermind, Cubling is getting good at it and was rather excited that her mummy would go on an aeroplane to Ingelland to see Elli-nora (as she pronounces her name). My friend's daughter who she's not yet met because my friends are just a bit too scattered. She was so excited that she didn't mind not coming along and rather watch the aeroplane from down below.
Every trip to England I've ever made brings back rather similar observations. And these go back to my very first trip to this country when I was sweet 14 or 15.
Back then, my ideas of England were formed in school books, and through Duran Duran songs. England was the country of cool, a modern place where pop was made. The place to be, a language that rule the world (in a very positive and innocent way of interpreting those words). As soon as I arrived, I was stunned, and yet fell in love with the place.
We stayed in a host family in Romsey, Hants. It was a brick two up two down. No hall, you walked in right from the street. It was cosy, warm, the people were amazing and very hospitable. Red brick the colour of the country, in between it green gardens. brown red and green. The modern and hip of my mind were replaced by the traditional and a relaxed slowness.
I remember so much of this first visit, and the place names catch up with me on the desk of the B&B that I'm writing this on. Beaulieu. Jeovil. Blenheim Palace. I remember a painting from a museum in Brighton, a trip to the Isle of Wight, two to London, Elvis in Madame Tussaud's, Winchester, Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and much more.
I remember my introduction to vegetarianism through the host family. They fed us vegetarian food for 2 weeks and I didn't notice anything but that this food was different and so much tastier.
I remember their lovely interaction with their toddler daughter.
I remember a small kitchen, full of cookbooks and vegetables, with seemed to grow in from the tiny garden.
I remember strange names that had never made it into our school textbooks, long hair and absence of ties, an informality I wasn't used to, and a hospitality which was amazing. These people put two of us up in a tiny weeny house, and made our stay so wonderful that my first sentence to my parents' "how was it?" was, "can I go again next year?".
Even now, over 20 years later, what I see is red brick houses and English gardens. A B&B that is run by a couple in their seventies, with flowery wallpapers, mismatching Laura Ashley patterns in the room, mahogany furniture, a fabulous garden with an apple tree.
I am given a choice of the daily newspapers at the breakfast table. What a nice idea I say, until I'm made to feel very Scottish having to choose between the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. I don't want to be impolite, so take the Daily Telegraph, dodge the offer of talking about Afghanistan and move the conversation unnoticeably to Wimbledon, before establishing the family tree of today's garden party's hosts. We had a lovely chat, and I passed on the key knowing that one of my best friends would stay in the same room the following night.
It surprised me how a short trip can take me into a whole new sphere of memories and images. It took me an hour or two to get here, the trip was so fast and if you travel without child, it's so easy to get here. Yet I feel a culture apart. These are the days where I understand why the Scots insist on their difference. These are the days I can understand
why one of the first English people I met after moving to Glasgow stated that he was a political refugee. I laughed at him at the time, but it's clear that Glasgow is politically very different. Not just from England, you only need to go as far as Edinburgh to notice.
After all these years, I still feel the same when I enter England. It's where traditional and cool meet. Cool Britannia, just that really, it's not quite Britannia. Just England.
I love it yet I'm reasonably sure I could not live here. My political stance gets me into all sort of trouble in Germany and I fear it would be similar here. Glasgow is safe. We're all red, a much deeper red than can be imagined in Germany or England.
Of course, it's a strange irony that the Scottish flag is indeed - blue.
Nevermind, this is just one more contradition of many that make this country, and I mean the whole of the UK, what it is, a fascinating place to live.
Now, I'd come to this Hampshire market town for a traditional garden party in one of the oldest houses of the town. There was a roasted hog, fish and chips, strawberries and cream and a tasty carrot cake. And it poured. The kids got soaking wet, giddy and shivering, but still enjoying themselves, until we sang and danced along to the two musicians who played close to my favourite selection of songs. And Elli-Nora? She never let go of the Highland Coo I'd brought along, cuddling in between her daddy, her dummy and the Coo when it got late and she didn't want to submit to her tiredness. A piece of Scotland in her German - English world.
Cubling would have loved to have been there. I would have loved to have shared this with her. In the morning, her first words were: Mami! Aeroplane! Ingelland!
What a welcome back to Scotland.