Allow me to once again match and marry my patchwork image of England in the span of my nine curious days there with the words I can skim from the top of my mind:
- While sharing a sofa bed in a tiny but cozy rented apartment located in the middle of Bristol City, it occurred that a functional space can feel like home even under a few days, that it is more meaningful than space in excess, that a kitchen provides as a generous index to its owner’s personality. So a person substitutes stevia for sugar, has no cooking oil, prefers an abundance of herbs over spices, has color-coordinated plates and just enough silverware along with sachets of only peppermint tea – does this mean that he is health-conscious, well-organized, often on-the-go, not big on hearty meals because he eats to live? This sketches an idea and it tells a story of a certain type of occupant, a certain type of man. What does a kitchen that does not look or feel like an abandoned warzone of a malnourished adolescent say and not say? Perhaps he is frisky with time and has more important things to pursue than having 5 different types of cereal to sustain sleepless nights. Or am I being too sentimental on details here?
- Oh, the glorious tiles of Harrod’s infamous Food Halls laden with fresh oysters, turrines, wondrous cakes and puddings and cookies, caviar, all the tea you would want, all the food you could dream about, an image of incandescent joy amidst the pervasive scent of something great mingling with something spectacular, intoxicating smells and sensations of a Christmas once conjured by an imagination sustained through a steady supply of fairytales and Enid Blyton books. Oh, the endless supply of beauty products to peruse at Superdrug and Boots, from the Sleek palettes to No.7 lipsticks. Oh, the aesthetic pleasure of going through racks of products marketed differently from what is offered back home and what was offered back in America. Being stuck in Primark and being smitten over the affordability of really very decent everything. And the books, the books, I brought back so many books back home. There was something sophisticated and more old-fashioned about England that felt vastly different from the open easiness of America even if one is not necessarily more dexterous than the other.
- The liberation of having no roaming plan while figuring out tube lines with fists clenched in pockets, reremembering the feeling of being out and about in the cold, experiencing the still-crisp leftover beauty of Autumn, walking around in high-heeled boots feet arched dancing over pins and needles, bonding over books with friends old and new, depending on Lemsip to ward that flu away, having conversations over baklava and hot mint tea in a store that had the best moussaka as jazz played on in the background, wishing for more weight so as to not be flung about in buses and trains, seeing a quartet perform by the Thames river wondering if it was foolish to hope that they were doing it moreso out of pleasure and passion than anything, reveling in the art of people-watching and wishing scenes could be photographed through mere sight for later remembrance, listening to sad songs by musicians still alive and upbeat songs by musicians now dead.
- Developing an unmistakeable and quick love affair for Bristol City with its scenic, bohemian and lovely self which offered with it cobblestone walkways, independent stores, secondhand books sold by the harbor, scatterings of Banksy graffiti, handsome cathedrals and museums as well as the endless, endless abundance of cafes and art, walking uphill and downhill, sitting on a bench atop Brandon Hill and not fretting to let the time slide by for once because there was no rush or panic even if the sun set by five everyday. There was an active exhilaration in being another face in a city very much new for the senses to still explore and you realize it is feelings in these type of hues that make you really want to continue writing and living.
- Also, coffee was surprisingly decent everywhere.