Saturday, February 5, 2011

green and pleasant land


Drive to Detroit with JJ, flight to Charlotte, flight to London Gatwick, bus to London, tube across the city, train to Birmingham New Street, connection to Walsall and friends and finally, deliriously exhausted, arrival. In England with my boyfriend's urn, a bottle of antibiotics and a bag bursting with American junk food for my friends (skip the cherry wine and maple syrup-- bring Cheetos and Milk Duds).

Leaving Gatwick, the first sign I saw as the bus pulled onto the expressway, said, CHANGED PRIORITIES AHEAD. It seemed an ideal first signpost for this journey. Changed priorities indeed-- the grace of British understatement.

On that sleepy-heavy, hungry journey between the airport and my friends, I decided when I die I want someone to come back and spread my ashes here. On the rail line, or on the coast.  I've spent a great deal of time in Britain since my first journey here at 18, and it always feels like a kind of second home. I love it: the dirty dishwater skies meeting the vivid green patchwork farms, dotted with fluffy sheep. The brick row houses extending forever; their walled gardens and bicycles and bins jigsawed into the lanes. The quiet figures on the train, lost behind their newspapers and novels. Who was it that said when good Americans die, they go to Paris? Nevermind Paris: England is the good American's deserved refuge.

Thus far, days in the West Midlands-- urban, industrial Birmingham and its sprawl along the canals. Dissolving persistent jet lag and lingering pneumonia cough with milky tea. Stretched out with Martha Mai on the living room floor with the Independent scattered around me, remembering how vicious and good British journalism is, investigating quite what the British make of Obama. Walks around Walsall admiring the usual pleasures of this functional, ordinary sort of town: the smell of curry wafting out of the Asian neighborhoods, the people dashing between doors in the eternal grey drizzle, the spires of the churches and the gaudy neon of the innumerable takeaways (my favorite, though I've never been, is the American Burger Bar, with the stars and stripes glowing in the window). Good conversations with Matt and Manda, Lindsey and Stuart. Cuddles from Martha, nearing her first birthday as I'm nearing my 25th.

Matt was cooing to Martha this morning and said, "Someday I'll tell you about your posthummus godfather Bryan." I erupted in giggles and announced it was making the blog.

Post-hummus Bryan.

Keep calm and carry on.

Changed Priorities Ahead.

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