Friday, April 8, 2011

Graffiti Is Universal, Architecture Is Not

After a long flight from SeaTac to London, Heathrow, in which I nabbed a center aisle of four seats that were unoccupied and stretched out across them to try sleeping, we landed and dropped straight into the world of the underground. The Heathrow Express to Paddington Station for a tube ride, then another tube ride, and finally another leg of train out to Canterbury.
Having missed most of London, due to being underneath it, I didn't get much of a feel for it at all. On the tube and the trains, I learned that anywhere a bridge crosses over railway tracks, there will be graffiti. This is true at home and it is true in England as well. That much was so familiar as to feel as if I'd never left.
Once we got out into the country, however, what struck me most was the architecture of the housing. Row upon row of brick townhomes, their white-washed back windows looking out at tracks like staggered eyes. Every building had at least one chimney, with an apparent minimum of four separate stovepipes opening out the top.
This, indeed, was different. I really am in another country. That and I don't throw out garbage, it's rubbish, thank you.
We are both tired, but have put up a strong effort to remain awake until our new, British, bedtime. Canterbury is a mix of new things, grocery stores and the like, and very old. In the old town, the buildings are nearly universally storefronts on the bottom, a brick mid-level, with a tudor-style third floor - dark wood beams a white daub. Everything mingles together, from a book binder to a Starbucks, to leather goods to the Indian restaurant where we ate dinner.
The people are just as eclectic. We passed groups of juvenile french students, heard people speaking in both German and Spanish, and also walked past many a Brit, including at least one who hurled an egg at us from a passing car. Good news for them, they had very bad aim.
Welcome to England!

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