11/25/2006

Afternoon tea in Berkhamsted with Mr. Gateway

Sit down with me for a second while I have several cups of tea?

Today's warning of gale force winds did not come about, and so the day ended up quite lovely, with the sun shining on Hertfordshire. Of course, Henry is at his cousin's play. Matthew is sixteen and six-foot-six, but he's still playing a Munchkin in a presentation of the Wizard of Oz in Pendley. Henry's aunt came to pick him up.

We had eight hours of pure fun today, though. Henry wakes up early, and so at 5:30 this morning he came to collect me from the sofa. And we began to play.

In the past, this might have left me exhausted, but the best thing about being news director at WNRN is that I'm now ready to go after being awake for just a few minutes. I can shake off exhaustion pretty easily.

So, we began to play, but not until he had his breakfast. Today, that consisted of "grown-up cereal", a cup of milk, and some toast with marmite. Unfortunately, I ended up eating most of the toast.

So far today we've built two truck-stops out of blocks, so the Coa-Cola truck has some place to go at night. The first truck-stop fell victim to the smashing that all small children are compelled to do when something fragile is in front of them. But, that just paved the way for a second one.

At about 10:00, we decided to go out for an adventure, and we went to the park, the one I've not been to yet. This is the one up a footpath from where he'll go to school next year. I got to see where he'll go to his first class, in his little blazer and tie. It's still hard to imagine how different his life is going to be to mine.

My family history carries with it strange prophecies. First, my great-grandfather moved to Malta from London. Then his son, my grandfather moved from Malta to Liverpool, which he used as a base during his career in the merchant marines. Then, my dad moved from Liverpool to America with my mother. At one point, I married a woman from England, and thought we would end up in England, but so far, I'm still living in the U.S.

But, I'm not breaking the cycle, given that my son is going to grow up in England. Who knows where he will go, what he will do, who he will become?

We left the park because it began to pour with rain. Cold, driving rain that was actually visible this time. We walked back down the hill and up Christchurch Road back to the flat. He was complaining about his tummy, which was bothering him. Of course, after I put Stuart Little on the telly, he was perfectly fine again.

I kept seeing signs for a car boot sale at some hall on Bulborne Road. I looked it up on the map that Pippa got for me, and thought I could manage it in the car. So, I got up the courage to get Henry strapped in the car, and off I went.

I did drive here on the last trip over, for the first time ever. I'm quite skittish about it, though, and so I was a bit scared about getting in for the first time. It was also pouring with rain, but I figured I should stop being a coward and just get on with it.

There are many little things you have to remember when you drive on the left. First, shifting gears with the left hand takes a bit of getting used to. You also have to remember to look behind you to your left when you're backing up. Looking right does no good. You also have to watch out for parked cars on the left of the road.

In England, it seems to be perfectly permissible to simply park on the road. This creates lots of one-way strips that aren't sign-posted. So, you've really got to work with oncoming drivers. People are incredibly polite about it all, of course. It all seems to work out, somehow, and has done for years and years.

But, to the American driver, it comes as a bit of a shock. I took a wrong turn and ended up on a single-track road, and at one point scraped the left-hand side of the car in the hedge that lines the way.

There's a lot of talk in Virginia about traffic circles, which I hope do come into play. But, I'm not sure Americans will be able to handle the concept of giving way. As this is my second trip, I'm an old hand at them now, though I do have to remember to think every second I'm driving. Being alert tends to pay off, especially when you're driving your ex-wife's car.

At the moment, I'm in Berkhamsted, sitting at a coffee shop called the Bloc. I'm at the intersection of the high street and the road to the train station. I'd say about 2,000 people have walked past me in the past hour and fifteen minutes I've been here. Everyone else is taking advantage of the day as well, though the light has already faded. The sun has already set, and the blue is giving way to a faded white, which will itself switch to an orange-tinted black before to long.

I've got one more night in Tring, and then it's back to Dunstable for the last three nights I have here. I'll be back in Charlottesville on Wednesday, and back to getting the business up, and back to the podcasting. I've done no work since I got over here. I had hoped to do a lot more, and I do have all day Monday to get on with it.

Tomorrow I take Henry to a birthday party, also here in Berkhamsted, very close to where Pippa's brother lives. That's going to be a very interesting experience. These glimpses I'm getting into his life are priceless. They can't build affordable teleportation devices fast enough.

No comments: