In 1983 I went on a trip to England. I was dating a Brit for a while back then, he was teaching English as second language in my home town. I took the course, as I thought it would be cool with a native English-speaker as a tutor.
This wasn’t a very serious relationship, mind you. We were different as night and day and had completely different interests and values. In hindsight, I have no idea how this even came about. He was a vegan for one thing, and I love a good steak ever now and then … not to mention fast food.
Anyway, we didn’t have any plans for Easter that year, and were meaning to go to Lyon, France, where he had friends. We couldn’t get any ticket that was cheap enough — this was a real low-budget trip — and at the same time he got word that he had a job interview in London. He had applied for a job as a teacher in Kuwait. So he asked me if I’d be interested in going to England for a while and I was elated, as I’d always wanted to go there.
Took the night train all the way down to Gothenburg, arrived in the morning and spent the day there. The ferry to Harwich departed in the evening some time.
Since this was low-budget, as I said, we had chosen the cheapest kind of cabin … I shared with five other women, there were bunk beds and one blanket per bed. A little locker where you could put your valuables. I didn’t sleep very well, but it was a Danish ferry line and in the morning we got hot Danish pastries!
The crossing took twenty four hours and we arrived in Harwich the Saturday after Good Friday. Took a train in to Liverpool Street Station and from there, one of the traditional London cabs, to his parents’ place in Harrow [on the Hill]. The weather was brilliant and the parks were lush and green … full of daffodils … not a sign of fog or rain, like I’d always imagined London.
His parents were on vacation on the Jersey Islands, but his sisters were all at home. One arrived a little later … she’d been out protesting against some missiles in Greenham Commons or whatever. She decided right then and there that she didn’t like me. «Oh, another foreigner», she said when we were introduced. She added another adjective that I won’t even write here. The following morning, Phil Collins was on the breakfast-TV when I came down for breakfast. I really like Phil Collins so I said something about that. «Oh … you actually know about him in Sweden???!!!», she said … as if I came from a different planet or something. Now, this was really a parenthesis … she had nothing to do with this trip and I didn’t see much of her.
He asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to do or see during our stay. I told him I wanted to have tea at the Ritz and go to one soccer game … or football as we say. We did neither. I don’t remember now in which order things happened … we stayed almost two weeks there, travelled around, visited people and churches. I saw a countless number of churches which was strange considering he claimed to be an atheist, but it was about the architecture.
One place stands out in my memory, namely The Swan Hotel in Guildford. We were driving from Ashford in Kent and were going to Bury St. Edmunds. The day was hot, I wasn’t feeling really well … we halted at this Swan Hotel and had a beer. This was ten years before I gave up drinking. I don’t know why … the town in itself was so cute and so old and so was the hotel. I’ve tried to google it but I don’t know … it might be gone or changed name. I wish someone from the U.K. would read this.
The picture is of Bury St. Edmunds … I didn’t have a camera, but I managed to find a free image online that looks just like I remember this wonderfully quaint little town.
When it was almost time to go back to Harwich and the ferry, I guess it dawned on him that we had not done any of the two things I wanted to do, so he decided to ‘take me’ to Harrod’s … the posh department store on Knightsbridge in London. We roamed around there for a while … I could have spent hours there had I been on my own. I wanted to buy something with the Harrod’s logo on it as a souvenir but everything was excessively pricey and our budget had certainly not improved. Ended up buying nothing because I felt discouraged. He might have sensed that, because he said we’d go to another, even more exclusive place … Fortnum & Mason. That was literally awesome! We had tea upstairs and cucumber sandwiches. Before we left the place, I bought a Stilton cheese in a jar that you can see in the picture on top.
To sum up this long post I can just say that I ate a tremendous amount of Big Macs during this trip because all of his friends that we visited with were likewise vegans. I have so many memories from this trip but it’s getting to be too long perhaps.
Oh … and he got the job in Kuwait and I only saw him once more, many, many years later.
This song will forever be associated with this trip … not only because it was very popular at that time but also because he constantly kept correcting my grammar, my tongue got more and more twisted so finally I ended up hardly speaking at all 🙂