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An observation of present day England

on Tuesday, 27 June 2017. Posted in Columns, Opinions

By: Brenda Harrison

After recent travels around the English countryside and a few cities, I’d like to share this “yank’s” observations.

• I never saw a stop sign, instead there were roundabouts and Give Way signs – similar to our yield signs.

An English family that lived in Arizona for a couple of years told me about their reaction when first encountering a stop sign in America.

“We didn’t know what to do, they said. “How long to we stop? When can we go?”

• I only observed two traffic lights on the highway during my travels.

• Public toilets are “pay to go” with twenty pence being the required fee. What if you don’t have the coins? Well, most of the people “waiting to go” were willing to help.

• I was impressed to find a very old church in a not very populated mountain area that is always open, even though it has been damaged by vandals in the past.

• Many of the red British telephone booths are still around, even though not working. In London I saw a few painted black and offering WiFi connections.

• Restaurants and pubs offering take out food, call it “take away.”

• There is not much demand for ice. A bag of ice from the market was available only in a small bag weighing about a pound.

• Household appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers and washing machines, are much smaller. I didn’t see any clothes dryers in the places I stayed or visited. Hanging clothes outdoors seems to be favored.

• There were no top sheets on the beds where I stayed. Just an unfitted sheet over the mattress.

• The countryside is very green and fresh. There are lots of sheep raised there.

• Also, the countryside, villages and towns are not polluted with signage and large advertisements. Cottages display a small sign above the front door while public places hang a small shingle or paint their name on the building. However, signs in London, and the larger cities, were more prevalent.

• I was told by an Englishman, that a community or village must have a church to be called a town, and a cathedral to be called a city.

• While traveling on trains, I noticed the railroad cross ties were concrete, unlike the large wooden creosote planks used here.

• The Underground, or “tube” was much like the New York subway and Washington metro, but with much less graffiti in the stations and on the trains.

• Just like in America, everywhere I traveled people were texting, reading, surfing the internet or playing games on their smart phones.

• Places in England have unusual sounding names, such as Ambleside, Brackenthwaithe, Keswick, Derwentwater, Wigton, Cockermouth, Windermere, Grasmere, and Silloth in the lake and mountain district of Northwest England. Through Goggle I found meanings of the suffixes. Wick, originating from Latin and Old English, means place or settlement. Mere means lake or pool, ton is homestead or enclosure, mouth means a river or bay, and thwaithe is a forest clearing with a dwelling, or parcel of land. Sillouth, a port town, comes from old English and old Norse and means sea barn.

I was traveling with five other family members. We spent a day in Lincolnshire with the purpose of visiting the Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral. We were delighted to find the 1215 Magna Carta (one of four known copies and owned by the cathedral) on display in Lincoln Castle, along with the 1217 Charter of Forests, and “The Doomsday Book,” completed in 1086. The book was on loan for the summer from The National Archives in London. Ironically, with us was my niece’s husband who had written his college thesis on “The Doomsday Book.”

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