I leave for England in less than a month. I am in the most delicious phase of anticipating the trip, the one where departure is actually in sight. The next most delicious phase is after you’ve come home and slept a few nights in your own bed. The actual travel is arguably the least fun part. One of the souvenirs of my last visit was sciatica.
It’s not just my age and train wreck of a back. My former voice and piano student, the young, brilliant, beautiful, and in-shape Anna Ellermeier (remember that name for future world events) who is now in law school at William and Mary has a riff about the glamor of travel. She described to me her trip to England and France after she graduated from high school. I paraphrase:
“We spent most of the day trying to find something to eat, my stomach bothered me, I didn’t sleep well and when we got to whatever we came to see, I could only stare at it in a sleep fog. The further away you get from a trip, the better it is. After six months at home, it’s the most idyllic vacation you’ve ever had.”
This will be my sixth visit to England. I thought I would never again be able to go. For one thing, I never thought I’d be able to afford it—and it remains to be seen if I can afford it. I’ve also wondered how much longer it would be physically feasible. However last year I was practically eaten away by envy when two of my closest friends went to England. I decided that I would somehow make it work: I would go to England.
I remembered a very funny e-mail my cousin in England sent me about her village fête a few years back —something about one of the organizers acting like she was Queen of the May. I smelled BBC mini-series. I was also reminded of a block-watch captain in my neighborhood who took herself way too seriously.
When I found out the Butleigh village fête is in June, I immediately decided I would make my visit in June so I could be part of it. On June 11 I’ll be selling raffle tickets at the fête and I hope to God that America doesn’t do something so spectacularly stupid on the world stage that the fête organizers won’t let me participate because my American accent would be a deterrent to revenue.
I’ll be in Butleigh for the first week and in Burnham-on-Sea for the second week, where another cousin and a friend from a previous visit live. I’ll fly home after the third week spent in London. Those first two weeks are mostly about being part of village life although we going to do some touring around on the weekends. The last week I’ll be a tourist at large in London. There will be lots to write about when I get home, but currently I am in anticipation of things to come.
The other day I was in my pajamas till noon, absorbed in figuring out how to get from my London hotel to the places I wanted to visit. I want to stay off the tube this time because I want to see the city as I go along. It’s disorienting be thrust underground from one end to the other and it seems a waste of a great city. This means I have to learn the buses and I am doing as much homework as I can.
In all the time I’ve spent in London I have never visited The Tower. After reading all of Shakespeare’s plays a few summers ago as well as Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (by Hilary Mantel in case you’ve not been on earth recently,) I feel hungry to see this famous place. I want to approach it from the Thames, though. I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out if one can just ride a boat on the Thames like a water taxi. It turns out one can and one might want to look into getting an Oyster card if one wants to be able to afford it.
Before all this was clear to me I had emailed the folks at The Clipper to ask how I could go to the tower the way people did who were to be be-headed. They wrote back promptly indicating the embarkation stop closest to my hotel. There was no comment about whether or not I could also be be-headed.
I alternate between whirls of activity and paralysis over all there is to think about. I have a cat/house-sitter and I need to condense all the things I think are important for her to know into a manageable few. She needs to know the odd way the front room light turns on but she doesn’t need to know where to get a hot water heater in the unlikely event that mine would need replacing while I’m gone. Paralysis has set in even as I write this—because I am writing this– so I am going stop and call my house sitter to make sure I didn’t just imagine her.
Then I need to make the critical decision of what book to take on the plane.