Surviving the dusty, hot and humid air of Middle East summer for past many months, UK was an experience that thrust adrenaline out of my nerves. An episode stranding the leisure intervals of a 12 day long business trip to UK.
As the flight spiralled down the runway of Heathrow, the glimmering sun rays built an aura round the blonde on window seat. Through the window, outer London seemed a maze on green carpet. Luckily the dreamliner showed its 'cough and cold' only when it came to a hault. The lights in the airplane went off for a few minutes pausing the rush to move out.
Flights to London are plenty from India as well as from the Middle East. Emirates gives value for money services with its A380 fleet of airplanes to London Heathrow. Air India and Jet Airways are the other successful services from India.
Once the cab(that collected me from Heathrow) took diversion from the motorway, it was all awe. Sheep and wild ponies roaming on the meadows. Roads tunneling to the woods and occasional drizzles. I was fortunate that my stay was booked in a village; Lyndhurst, 10 miles away from the coastal town of Southampton.
Half past nine* in the morning was too early to reach the hotel. It was my mistake that I assumed the hotel would permit me an early check-in. The usual check-in time was two o' clock in the afternoon. Leaving my luggage at the hotel reception, I moved out holding my camera.
*For everything there is a British way which stands apart from the American or often the rest of European styles. The British love to express the time in words(quarter to six instead of 5.45) even in casual conversations.
Down the church lane, it drizzled again dropping down the temperature to around 12 degree. Without a jacket or an umbrella, I stood under the extended roof of a closed crockery shop clicking everything that passed the street. Of the excitement, I failed to realize how cold it was around. The street resembled the paintings of Victorian Era. The colonial facade of the buildings with steeply sloped tile paved roofs. Gardens that hung on walls and lamp posts. Vintage cars, pubs and church bells. Nothing was lost. All preserved in its very authentic form.
I roamed around the cemetery of St. Michael's & Angels church, another construction done in the Victorian times. I was getting a senseof déjà vu seeing the tombs dated 1800s. The huge trees that surrounded, preparing themselves for the fast approaching fall. The whole scene pulled me back to the frames of some weird dream I had in the past.
Days got shorter and colder as the calender pages turned forward.The exotic experience of every cold morning was accompanied by the traditional British Breakfast served in the hotel restaurant; chick peas in tomato paste, sauteed potatoes, fried egg and mushrooms (bacon and sausages were also the part of the package but exempted from my diet). Every dining area, it be the office or restaurant, had the presense of a coffee machine with strong decoction brewed hot. Coffee has been part of the English way of living.
The most surprising part was to know that the British are the greatest fans of spicy Indian Food. Almost all the Indian restaurants attracted a good crown in the evenings.
On the weekdays, I had short and long travels as part of my business, but there weren't better teasers when I could not stop by the apple orchards or countryside farming lands. Bound by the time and purpose, I was undergoing the fatigue of bursting bubbles. My camera missed a lot frames.
I witnessed one of the the best examples of sustainable lifestyle in the two weeks. Never did I come across a heap of plastics by the wayside. Never did the tap water tasted chlorine. Houses dint lose their shapes to concrete cubes. The forest, meadows and rivers weren't wiped away for the so called development. Being from a third world country, I was sure we missed a lot of goodness when cloning our version of the western lifestyle.
I opted for London on the only weekend I got there. The legendary city built by the Thames stood apart from the rest of the country in its cult and crowd, radiating the vibes of its prestigious history in every atom. The Cavalry of the House Gaurds paraded round and shielded the Buckingham. Those stallions were the tallest and finest of breeds. The guards in their striking red costumes and golden helmets stood almost (e)motionless despite all those posing and photographic exercises by the visitors.
London's cult is a superlatively rich mix of operas, theatre, fine arts, music, night life and other carnivals. By the theatres that played Mousetrap I was literally longing to spend some part of my life in there. The city bustled with a vibrant crowd, mostly tourists. Walking through them, one has to be vigilant about own valuables.
London maintains a fair crime rate when about robbery. One should take care not to remain alone in an isolated place during the wee hours. Stories detail the physical strength of money snatchers.
Trees ribboned roads, parks and walkways; the citywas soothingly green. Along the roads ran the never changing faces, London Taxis and Routemaster buses.
The city has a very strong network of Public Transport with the oldest tube services(or better known as London Underground) and the buses. One can use the prepaid 'Oyster' cards or single day passes for the tube.
Walking through London for one whole day was a dream pampered for long, but yet to quench my thirst in whole. Relishing myself with a sumptuous pepper steak dinner, I was finding it hard to calm my nerves.
The week succeeded was busier at job, still we maintained a good amount of fun. The twelve days I lived there brought a lot life into me. The love that flows in from that part of the world pulls me back. On the return flight, I remained the same day-dreamer caressing another trip back to the happy lively English countrysides.