and I don’t want to be alone/but sometimes I just want to be somewhere else/untethered and unknown/when I am far from home/From departure to arrival/what does it mean to travel? (MCCarpenter)
Along one-lane roads and train tracks, and back and forth across borders, I have been wandering around the UK for three and a half weeks now. My peregrinations have taken me from Galway to Edinburgh to Hexham to Devonshire and finally to London, from which I will launch into the final phase of my journey.
I have loved all of it, every single moment. I have reveled in the fact that all places are holy, not just the “holy” places. Before I leave England, a few random non sequitur observations.
- I have appreciated–even as it caused me stress–that there is a lot to be learned by not knowing what to do or how to do it.
- Cities are the same everywhere: London looks a lot like St. Louis or New York.
- On the other hand, there is always something to remind you that you are Somewhere Else: things like backwards traffic and doors, weirdly numbered floors, and mushy peas.
- It’s so hard not to think that everything and everyone in England is adorable, for which I blame every single Hugh Grant movie.
- Where else are you going to get the Piccadilly line to Cockfosters?
- Duvets are brilliant.
- The English are the masters of the subjunctive.
- It turns out that the yellow flowers as far as my eye could see were canola.
- The words “in” and “on” are totally reversed: You live in Croftdown Road, but you don’t leave your bags unattended on the train station.
- You don’t ask for the bathroom, which would be a place you take a bath, silly. You ask for the toilet. And it is down 100 stairs and the light switch is on the outside.
- American news is news in England. I heard an Irish priest called Fr. Brian talking on the radio about a trip he had taken to Louisville, where he had met Muhammad Ali–whose name means “Beloved of God”–while on a pilgrimage to Thomas Merton’s monastery. Fr. Brian quoted Ali: if a man does not have the courage to do something that scares him, he will accomplish nothing.
- American music is everywhere, in the form of Michael Jackson, Motown and the 60s.
- If you miss your train, another will come along. That will preach.