Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UK correspondence

Sister & I in Hyde Park

(this picture is me and my sister in Hyde Park in London with the Peter Pan statue that JM Barrie gave to the park. Perhaps pictures of Somerset to come)

Taunton is 'the Best Large Floral Town in the South West' and when you drive in from their farm in the village of Curland you go through and past places like Staple Fitzpane, Slough Green and West Hatch, along windy hedged roads that barely fit one car on, let alone two, roads that make my mother say "shit" like I say "fuck" - mother never swears. People on horses wave as you slow down to let them pass safely. Every house you pass is like the last: cute thatched white affairs that you know where built sometime in the last 300 years. By that I mean 300 years ago. The village of Staple Fitzpane is this amazing picturesque thing, almost ridiculous in its Englishness, with a beautiful church up on a hill that overlooks the rest of the village down in its wake. And you can see old men tramping through their fields with canes, waistcoats and those old men hats, with their collie dogs just a bit ahead, looking back to make sure they're not too far behind. Faithful, those dogs. My uncle has one who is presently lying on the carpet in front of the fire with my sister. Their house is the most amazing thing ever: the fireplace has an old bread oven, the kitchen home to an Aga, with millions of pots and pans hanging from the ceiling with chillies drying. Onions hang outside in the garage and you have to go out and cut them down if you need them. You have to take baths because the shower's gone wrong. The fire's only lit every few days because the wood supply is low and it's best to stay downstairs because the Aga keeps the whole of the downstairs warm somehow. Heating doesn't always come on. Grass round here is as green as you like and fog sometimes so thick you can't see a metre in front of you.

My uncle also tells the best stories. He's obsessed with farming and cows and just heaps of traditional country English things. It's actually pretty adorable. He and my aunt own a cook's shop in Taunton which has got to be the sweetest, nicest shop ever. A man just came in today looking for a knife sharpener and my uncle gave him the most involved talk about the different types of knives and sharpeners. He knows all the stock so well, as do all the staff there really. I find it quite fascinating and I feel bad when people ask me for things - as I'm just helping out on the till - and I can't help them out. I try to be as friendly as everyone else but really, this is the kind of store where, after you serve people and they go "thank you very much" my uncle goes "(no,) thank YOU very much". As we were driving home this evening he told me that in England (and Australia) we drive on the left hand side because back when people used to ride horses instead of driving cars, they were mostly right handed and needed their right hand spare to draw out their swords and defend themselves. Of course, the hedge was on the left hand side so you were protected on that side. I don't know whether that story is true but I like to think that it is because it's quite enjoyable. I made it my facebook status anyway so we'll see how it stands up.