words don’t come easy — or a trip to England

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.

Bury St Edmunds City CenterOne 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 & MasonFortnum and 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 🙂

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23 thoughts on “words don’t come easy — or a trip to England”

  1. My sweet Anam Cara,

    I’m so sorry you didn’t have a better set of circumstances…but I’m glad you finally decided to share and write about it. Perfect song accompaniment, anyway. I doubt the sister of the bore ever got any better at manners.

    1. Angh, Thank you for stopping by … it wasn’t all that bad. In general I have nice memories of this trip and am glad that I did it. Oh, I doubt that girl has any better manners now … she kept on being rude: She saw me eating a shrimp sandwich with knife and fork [it was full of mayo and I hate getting my fingers sticky] … her eyes almost fell out of their orbits. I asked her what I was doing wrong NOW and it was the ‘knife and fork-part…

  2. I am from the UK, even though I now live in Bulgaria. I will find out about the Swan Hotel and then let you know.
    I am so sorry that your one and only visit was not 100% successful. As for boyfriends sister..well that is just ignorance,,so you must forgive her, especially if she was a protester at Greenham Common..( they were all a bit odd).

    You could at least have got a Harrod’s carry bag….Never mind the opportunity may arise again one day

  3. I have had a look for the Swan Hotel. There is definitely no Swan Hotel in Guildford at the moment. There is one in Farnborough which is not far away from Guildford and then there is one in Esher which is very near to Kingston Upon Thames where you visited.

    However I do have some relatives who have lived in that area for many many years I will ask them

    1. Patrecia, It was the one in Farnborough!!! I googled it now as I read your comment and I recognized the place. After all these years, my memory is getting fuzzy … it wasn’t actually IN Guildford! Either way, it was a beautiful place…

  4. I know what you mean about Harrod’s. I am ‘she who hates to shop’ but could have wandered through there for hours. I did manage to buy a coffee tin which i still have and use, although I gulped at the price but was determined!
    I loved my visit to England – spent ten days there with my best friend and would go back again for sure.

    1. Joss, I could have found something there, but I got ticked off. Had my eyes on a nice little towel with their logo on it, and then I saw the price tag and that sort of did it.

      I loved my visit too … would like to see so much more.

  5. What a great trip and experience and trip!! I would love to go to England. And now that I know where my ancestors were from there, it would be fun to visit those towns. Maybe someday!!!

    1. Julie-Ann, Yes it was a great trip … when I read this after I’d posted it, I thought I brought up too many negative aspects but still left it as it was. I have many great memories from this … Cambridge was beautiful … the post would have been so long ..

  6. Hi,
    It really was a shame that you didn’t get to do things you wanted. I think England, France and a lot of Europe would be a great place to visit, I’m into History so I know there would be great places to see over there, I have never been there, maybe one day. 🙂

    1. Oh, I hope you’ll make it there one day, Mags… especially for a person into history, it’s wonderful! Like I said in previous comment/reply, I think I brought up too many negative things … it really was a great trip!

  7. Hmmm, you’re well rid of HIM!

    And you did get to eat cucumber sandwiches; they were probably just as good at Fortnum & Mason as at the Ritz. If you come here to the Pioneer Valley some time, I’ll be delighted to make you a gala tea, complete with cucumber sandwiches! Long ago we were Anglophiles and went as often as we could manage.

    Fascinating account, Rebekah. You certainly know how to tell a story —

    1. Judith, Thank you for this comment, which meant a lot to me.

      Yes, I remember the sandwiches and the place itself was beautiful, with sparkling chandeliers, carpets that felt like walking on clouds … Wonderful memory. That thing about Ritz was just a hang-up I had … to be able to say that I’d had high tea at The Ritz 🙂

      Beware .. I might take you up on that one day…

  8. I’m originally from London (but I live in rural Wales now) – Harrods is one of the most expensive stores there but is fun to visit occasionally. My dad used to take me there occasionally when I was a child as at the time they had a pet department where you could buy (should you want to) any pet at all. I wanted an elephant… I expect that my parents dissuaded me from that, I wonder how? 😉 Likewise, Fortnum and Mason is very expensive. I remember a friend of mine and her aunt took me there for a ‘cream tea’ (scones, clotted cream, jam and tea and jam), it was very nice but I didn’t dare look at the price of it… thankfully, they were paying!

    Glad you enjoyed your visit to England, sorry the boyfriend didn’t work out – and what an awful sister he had!

  9. Just LOL!! Never bought at Harrods, or eaten at F&M or the Ritz. You probably don’t when you live there.

    Great post, but 1983? I was sharing cabins on ferries and trains a few years ago, nothing wrong with that 🙂

    He sounds all right. Jersey. One of the Channel Islands. (Situated in the English Channel).

    Harrow was serious money even back then. Sounds an interesting family.

    Odd someone being so racist and protesting at Greenham, 😦 sorry about that.

    I may need to read back through your blog for other gems now!!

    1. Now, when I think back, it really was hilarious. No two people could have been more different than David and I. This is not the same blog as I use now. I changed, 1st of January this year… This one here, is one year’s worth of ‘daily posts’ 😉

      1. Oh no! 365 posts to work through!! Oh well, helps when I want a good read 🙂

        You may have been different but if you read your post you don’t have a bad word to say about him, and it doesn’t come over as a bad experience (to me).

        1. Oh no, I don’t have a bad word to say about David … it was just that he was too ‘perfect’ LOL and there was of course the grammar! He even critisized those voices in the loudspeakers on the ferry.

    1. oh that’s so nice! 🙂 Thank you …
      I haven’t travelled very much in my life, so I guess therefore I remember all the details from the few trips I have done..

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