I am in England, and I’d be purple all over if I tried to pinch myself into belief. It’ll take a while to sink in. In the short span of time since leaving Bangalore, I’ve seen a look-alike of Freddie Flintoff and one of Frederick Algernon Trotteville, tried shortbread and cheese-and-pickle, and drunk water purportedly from Scottish and Welsh springs. One of the items on today's agenda is finding some gingerbeer.
My journey started in the usual klutzy manner, with a briefly scary moment on the escalator when my cabin bag almost went tumbling down; it took me a while to recover, because I was obviously not in my senses when I next went crashing into a benign Englishman. He accepted my apology with a gentle smile, and if I thought I’d seen the last of him then, I was wrong; he came up behind me as I waited for the security check, and told me politely that the ladies’ queue was “over there”. I was beyond feeling sheepish at having joined the wrong queue. This wasn’t the first time I’d done it, after all.
The flight was rather uneventful. Though I did feel like we were packed sardine-style into the aircraft, I knew I was lucky not to have been squashed between rotund people. To my left sat the aforementioned clone of Freddie Flintoff, bringing out his Kindle occasionally to read a business manual. He and the Indian man to my right took it in turns to guffaw at the movies they were watching. I tried to lose myself in my copy of ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’, but for once Murakami failed to rise to the occasion- lack of sleep mingled with excitement suppressed to sobriety had made me delirious.
However, the real flavour of England made itself felt in the drive from Heathrow to Gatwick. Gentle mounds emerged abruptly out of flat stretches of land, smooth and populated by little copses. The trees by the roadside broke into autumn colours at intervals, flashes of magenta appearing in the otherwise uniform green cover. Horses grazed in distant meadows, swishing their tails as they cropped the grass hungrily. We passed some pretty, quaint cottages with creepers climbing up their walls, and it wasn’t quite difficult to imagine a highwayman go clattering up one of their driveways, wanting to see his Bess at the casement window.
As the coach made its way into Brighton, rows of neat brick houses, rather alike one another, came into sight. The winding streets of the town were quiet; as we approached the Brighton Marina, the roads seemed to come to life. People scurried to and fro laden with bags, or took a calm walk down by the Brighton Pavilion (an absurdly Moorish structure, but I need to find something out about it before I condemn it as an incongruity). I caught a brief glimpse of the sea, a nice sleepy blue, glinting in the rays of the waning sun.
The vagaries of the English weather have been slow in making themselves felt, but I know it shan’t be long before I’m talking of constant rain and the perennial absence of sunshine. With a not-too-pleasant summer having been replaced by autumn already, a snowy winter can’t be too far behind!