In England (and definitely in Wales, though, remember I was there for a marathon!) I didn’t notice obesity being a big problem. Perhaps it is that I am used to seeing people (both locals and visitors) with less clothing, so I didn’t notice so much, but it seemed much less prevalent than my observations of Brits in Tenerife lead me to believe. That’s good, and yes, I do realize that obesity is only the outward sign, in some cases, not all, of unhealthy eating. That said, were I living in England right now I would weigh at least 280lbs!
I forgave myself for feeling like a time traveller when I passed through train stations (almost kicked the ticket machine in Euston, but very nice Virgin lady saw my distress and offered help before I even asked…..thumbs up to Virgin!), but I was totally unprepared for the feasts spread out around the peripheries of the concourses. OK I live on a small island, but I have heard of Starbucks. I’ve been to Starbucks. I like Starbucks. What I didn’t realize is how many imitators they have (ok someone’s going to say So-and-So were doing it first, but be fair, it’s the name that’s known internationally), or rivals, and ALL are laden with brownies, donuts, carrot cake, chocolate cake, chocolate caramel shortbread, fruit slices, tiffin and cookies (just the first few which trip off my tongue). At home, finding fresh donuts is hard (but the café known to all as “The French Bakery” in Los Cristianos makes very passable ones), and everything else is loaded with cream, which, you see, is my saving grace, because I don’t especially like cream. Actually, The French Bakery does wonderful chocolate cake, almond and cherry slices and a variety of other cakes amongst their cream-filled offerings……..just for the record. It used to be that railway food was one of those great standbys for comedians, along with mothers-in-law and hangovers, but I guess that’s changed then! Even the little café on Bangor station, which looked as if it might be subject to a preservation order, so familiar was it from memories of my youth, had the most divine green tea with jasmine, which I lingered over – really, it smelled so much of jasmine I could have dabbed it behind my ears, and it tasted the same way, perfumed and light, and absolutely to-die-for.
Whilst we’re on the subject of food – again, yes – the chicken at Wembley was a disappointment, too politically correct I think. If I’m going to indulge in chicken and fries, they might as well be the real thing, like, they can’t be made healthy so why try? The same went for the Lancashire Hot Pot in Booth’s café in Kendal. There was a faint aroma, a hint of the taste my grandmother’s used to have, but no substance to it! One of the best meals was in the hotel in Llanberis after the marathon. We’d eaten in the dining room the previous night, but it was a bit chilly, and although the waiters were nice enough, and the food was fine, the place was so flat and old-fashioned in atmosphere we didn’t want to go the second night, and we ate in the hotel bar, where I was introduced to what I think was lobscows (asked the name twice and too shy to admit I hadn’t heard correctly). It was the perfect meal after being chilly and rained and hailed on all day, I must say – a beef stew with all the ingredients kind of mashed up together….which is how my grandmother used to cook! It was tasty, hot and perfect to eat in a bar – I was given a spoon and not a fork….and since the name is so similar I presume is related to the good old Liverpool scouse. I was rather partial to my drink too, which was a Swedish mixed fruit cider by Kopparberg, so delicious I imagine it’s way too easy to get drunk on because it’s light and fruity. I tried pear cider last year in Ireland, but this was a new one for me.
Best meal, however, remains the Eggs Benedict brunch at Giraffe in Guildford.
OK, just to prove I have things other than food on my mind (not a lot, but some) – biggest disappointment was NO RECYCLING facilities in St James’s Park. I couldn’t believe this. Isn’t Prince Charles one of Britain’s leading environmental protection enthusiasts? How can he have failed to do something about this? I wandered around for ages with my paper bag and glass bottle, hoping to find recycling bins. I asked at the ice cream stall, where they didn’t know, so I went on looking and finally a very smart, little garbage truck came along, all royal and official looking, and I asked the expert, and “No, just chuck it on the lorry, love”. Just a half hour previously I’d been admiring the citizen who stopped to pick up someone else’s chip packet and toss it into a rubbish bin……..unheard of here……..so I was really disappointed. In fact, I didn’t see one opportunity to recycle outside of Gatwick airport, which surprised me. OK, so not enough people do it here, but some do, and there are containers on every street corner in most towns and villages, so it’s no effort. I don’t know how it works in Britain, but it needs a rethink I think.
What else? I liked the purposeful energy many places had, even the wee village of Llanberis. There is an awful lot to be said for living in a more relaxed atmosphere, not letting stuff stress you, but, simply, you can’t have it all.
Trains – good, especially Virgin, even the loos are cool……..but not the people who use them, apparently. Was also nice to note so many people reading books. I expected cellphones and laptops, so that was good too. Mostly, I was extremely impressed by how polite and considerate train users were too, not arguing over seating, swaying in the entrances when there were no seats (which was a lot, actually). There were the usual show offs, who addressed the entire compartment and not just their immediate circle: the middle-aged foursome going on their vacation to the sun, who were boasting about how many tequilas and champagne they had knocked back the previous night (grow up and get a life for god’s sake – wonder if they were coming to Tenerife?!); the 60-somethings evidently going to a dance festival, who thought their racist anti-asylum seeker comments were funny; not to mention the aging and over-made-up “Avon” lady who was screaming to her confidant about not being asked to go to the President’s dinner……made me think of Glen Garry Glenross! The great thing is that they have quiet cars too, seemed like a brilliant idea to me!
Nice to see so many people wearing poppies. I wonder why they don’t make it a Bank Holiday?
So – good trip. New places discovered. Good food enjoyed. A bit of shopping done, and I knew I was home when I saw “book & brolly” man strolling along the beach road in El Médano the first time I walked Trixy. El Médano, it must be said, is home to a few eccentrics, but this guy amused me more than most. I first spotted him a way ahead, he stood out because of the umbrella, on a warm, sunny morning, even before I got closer, but as I did, I realized that he was reading a book as he walked along. Now, that’s a risk, let’s just say I’m not the only dog owner who walks there, but I do appear to be the only one who picks up after their dog! He clutched a towel to his ample stomach, and, to my surprise was not wearing socks with his sandals. His progress was stately, as he swayed from side to side, like a character from Gilbert and Sullivan, in fact we overtook him and met him again on the way back, though he didn’t notice absorbed as he was in his reading, ah well, I did mention I like to see people reading real books!