The summer of 1997 was the last time I visited England. It was the first time for my two daughters. They agreed with me how much it was like America, yet different, a foreign country. The fact that we generally understood what people said to us, and they understood us, was, I’m sure, a big factor in how familiar it seemed.
Certain words are different over there, as anyone who has watched any BBC shows will recall. Lift, boot, flat, arse, and fringe. Fringe means bangs, and I have read some near violent opposition to our word, bangs. Possibly because it sounds violent. Crash! Thwack! Bangs!
When we left London I rented a car. They drive on the left side of the road, opposite from us, and their driver’s seat is on the right front, also opposite from us. One gets used to it rather quickly. Fear of crashes and all that. So one daughter sat to my left and called out whenever I got too close to the left side, where curbs and parked cars lurked. The other daughter sat in the back and navigated. The daughter to my left quickly learned I didn’t need a sentence saying I was a little too close and perhaps I needed to… So it was soon, ‘Close.’ or ‘Close!’
They must love round-abouts over there, because they have so many. Traffic circles. Navigator daughter (and they took turns because sitting next to mother wasn’t always fun) had to decide which turn I needed to take. One day I really did go around and around the circle until it was decided exactly which ‘kind of to the left’ exit we needed to take. To us, some of them they really did look as though they indicated, go kind of this way or maybe kind of that way.
We stayed a few days in Trowbridge so we could make day trips. I was never, ever, able to quickly find the exit I needed to return there each day. Unless they were humoring me, both daughters agreed it was very weird that each day we should have so much trouble finding our way home to our B&B. But we were near Stonehenge and Avebury and the B&B was wonderful.
One of the proprietors always inquired, “And where has Mother driven today?” when we returned. I think by then he realized I wasn’t satisfied with one half inch of Grande Marnier in my glass when I plopped down after finally getting back. I got the bottle. I believe we amazed him by all the places we attempted to visit. Certainly amused him. Tintagel was the farthest I’d driven in one day, but oh so worth the miles.
Avebury is huge. They say the ditch was dug out with antlers.
One day we passed a large sign that said, “Cats Eyes Removed For Free”. There was a silent, collective, W.T…..? in the car. We knew it couldn’t mean they removed eyes from cats. Or could it? Was there some trouble with their cats that their eyes needed to be removed? Some disease? We’d seen the affection the people over there had for their pets, taking their dogs with them on their day trips, water bowls always included. We puzzled about cat eye removal all day. That night, after a good laugh, the proprietor explained that cat’s eyes were those round yellow, reflective, metal things on the road. They sometimes got stuck in tires. Which was another thing to worry about.
Obviously, visiting such ancient places had my writer’s mind whirling with new ideas, and making adjustments to old ones. As I mentioned in a previous post, I Know What I Know, I happen to know more than my ancestors knew, mainly because I went to school, our knowledge of the physical world has expanded, and I read. So it makes me more determined that I get it right when I write about times past. Their world view, beliefs and customs. They were different. They were also the same as us.
Which will lead to another post on that subject.