It’s good to be back
Karen and I were away for two weeks in England and had a wonderful time, but it’s nice to come home.
This visit was practically historic because we spent almost two weeks in England and the sun was shining every single day, which probably hasn’t happened since the Norman invasion in 1066. We left with a Malibu June pallor and came home with an English suntan, strange as that may seem.
If, like me, you have difficulty understanding the significance of a weak dollar versus a strong dollar, 20 minutes in London will make it all very clear. The prices in London are staggering. Malibu, which is certainly not vacationing on $5 per day (I know I date myself), is absolutely reasonable compared to what you pay in London. Starbucks and McDonalds are going strong over there, and well they should because a Big Mac and a Grande Latte are about double what we pay here. Any cab fare is a minimum of 15 pounds, which is about $30 dollars, and you quickly learn to use the underground, which is a great bargain and can get you just about anywhere. The underground is easy to use with wonderful maps and signs. The streets, however, are a killer. In England, they drive on the opposite side of the road, so foreign pedestrians are always looking in the wrong direction. The English finally took to giving foreigners hints by writing directions on the street at each crosswalk, saying look left or look right with an arrow, which I’m sure has saved untold numbers of Americans from some very messy accidents.
The Brits were very friendly. Maybe because they are a very polite nation, or because it was the 60th anniversary of D-Day, but I think it was more because it feels like we’re allies again. In the final analysis we and the Brits have almost always been on the same team, except for some early colonial unpleasantness. That doesn’t mean the war in Iraq is popular, because it most decidedly is not. The Labor Party headed by Prime Minister Tony Blair appears to be in big trouble. Last week, there were city council elections all over Britain and, unlike our city council races, which are nonpartisan, theirs are partisan and considered a harbinger of what’s going to happen in the national elections. Labor, the party in power, got clobbered in the local elections, and there were many cries for Blair’s scalp. He’ll probably survive, but he’s certain to put a little space between himself and Bush to help his party.
We went to see a performance of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” at the Old Globe Theatre, and it gave me an entirely new perspective on Shakespeare. I’ve never been a Shakespeare fan because the work always seemed so artificial, particularly the way we’re taught it in English classes. But on the stage of the Globe it’s entirely different because it’s played more like I imagine Shakespeare wrote it and played it. It’s really a soap opera, but a soap opera written by a genius for the mass audience of his day. Shakespeare was a very successful playwright and died a rich man.
We spent the second week with some friends of ours on a barge trip on the canals in the midlands of England, in the vicinity of Worcester. If you’ve never taken a barge trip and you want to try something really different, spend a week on a barge and you will leave the 21st century behind. In fact, you’ll leave the 20th and 19th centuries behind also. The canals were built in the 1780s, and the barges move along on motors at 2 miles per hour or so, which is probably pretty much the speed they used to do in the 18th century when horses pulled them along the towpaths. Every hour or so, you get out to put the barge through a lock, which you operate yourselves. The technology is 18th century, and it’s amazing how appropriate it is to the task and how well it still works. Going through locks is sort of like filling a bathtub, then sailing your barge into the bathtub. Then you pull the stopper and the barge goes down to a lower level. You open the gates and out you go. There is no crew. You’re it. After a few days, you fall into the rhythm of doing a simple, but physical repetitive task, and your entire body rhythm slows down to the speed of the canal life, which is a fraction of your normal operating speed. It’s a remarkable experience, and I recommend it.
Our trip ended too soon, and despite having spent a week eating wonderful but often fattening foods and drinking beer (which you can now get chilled) in pubs along the canal, we didn’t put on any weight. The Brits wrap everything in pastry shells-certainly not low carb-so whether it was the exercise or something else I don’t know, but to have a free carb week was definitely an added bonus.
Nevertheless, it’s good to be back home and off to the gym again because in this country, carbs count.