Monday, September 12, 2016

One month Anniversary

‘Congratulations!” I chirped, as my husband was getting dressed.
"Congrats to you, too", he replied. But as he turned to me, I saw him thinking.. What date is it? Congrats for what? Anniversary? Something about the kids?
"It is our one month anniversary today. One month in UK,"I chuckled.
"That's right! It has been a month already, hasn't it?"

Day 31 of our Year in UK. The month flew by fast. Moving into the flat in Surrey, settling in with school schedules and exploring the country on weekends had left us in a whirlwind. As I sit down to think about the bygone month, there is so much that comes to mind that I will split this post into two parts. Here is Part One.

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name United Kingdom is its greatest import - the English language. A year spent immersed in the Queen's English, to hear what has become my de-facto mother tongue being spoken in its 'native' form, by the people who claim to have invented it, was a dream come true. And I am enjoying every moment of it. How can you not swoon when you hear the morning news anchors say churlish or peripatetic, when you are asked very politely to wait whilst your order is being processed and your Amazon Prime order is dispatched within a few hours to be delivered by the Royal Mail. The cable TV technician waves a cheery Cheers just as the well meaning neighbor asks, "How are you getting on, then?", the pitch of her voice climbing melodically with every word and the question mark, just breaking off to float silently down to the ground?

And it is not just the way they speak. The British have a penchant for naming things. My personal favorite, the inimitable Bill Bryson wrote,"At a minimum the name should puzzle foreigners-this is a basic requirement of most British institutions-and ideally it should excite long and inconclusive debate, defy all logical explanation, and evoke images that border on the surreal.” The naming skills apply to all walks of British life. For example, at the local pub, you can order black pudding, Hog pudding or kippers; pasty, steak and kidney pie or plain old Victoria sponge.  Welsh rabbit, Toad in the hole or Spotted Dick are nothing like you would imagine them to be. However, you will not go wrong with the ubiquitous fish and chips - the freshest fish fried in the lightest batter and thick cut chips slathered with malt vinegar or the generous Sunday roast -with its roast lamb and Yorkshire pudding (which is not a pudding by a long stretch) with Sticky toffee pudding and Devonshire Cream. An afternoon delight - fragrant warm black tea, served in a cup and saucer with a small scone, biscuit or a slice of cake. And then there is the beer. Unlike its Belgian cousins, the English brew is lighter in taste and calories so you end up drinking a lot more than you should. And it is not your fault, really. Inviting building claiming to be 'free houses' are open day and (most of) night at every corner. With names like The Bricklayers Arms, The Waterman's Arms, The Queen's Head, The Pyrotechnist's Arms, The Hung, Drawn and Quartered, The Drunken Duck, The Fighting Cocks, The Pig and The Goose or Ye Olde Cheshire cheese, there is always a place to throw back a pint or two.

As you drive out of London on the notorious M25, the landscape changes from stone, glass and concrete to rolling hills and grasslands. The green you see through the window is fresher, deeper,and crisper than anywhere else. The ever-present cool island breeze carries with it a damp freshness that sustains Mother Nature at her very best. The citizens of this nation take their role as care-takers of their surroundings very seriously. The National Trust, The Wildlife Trust and National Nature Reserves are just some of the organizations that work to conserve, protect and promote the 94,00 odd square miles of mountains, meadows and water bodies on this island.  Buildings of limestone, Portland stone and sandstone adorned with slate roof or tiles stand in harmony with miles of heathland sprouting heather and gorse, grounded by beech, silver birch, oaks and rowan trees laden with cheery red clusters. Rivers, streams, lakes and shallow ponds store the plentiful rainwater and nourish the vegetation all around. Modern  buidlings made of glass, stone, stucco or red bricks are spoilt for choice as they draw on inspiration from centuries of different styles of architecture.

Though nature is allowed to run wild, the British gardens are anything but. Symmetrical flower beds, with plants arranged in order of height or varying shades of foliage are encircled by tight stone walls. Hedges are pruned with surgical precision whether they are inside the garden or lining the narrow winding streets that pass through lush rolling hills where sheep and cows graze all day. Perhaps, this is what he was describing when Shakespeare wrote :

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea.”