Sunday, July 12, 2009

#25: Visiting Darwen

Dear Reader,

After a few months of chatting via web-cam, and a full five months after meeting, it was time to visit Andrew in England. We had spent a week together in Virginia, and he proved to be all that I could possibly hope for, yet there was a need to confirm that he wasn't a serial killer or child molester by meeting his parents.

In late May of 2008, I boarded a plane to Manchester. It's been ages since travelling internationally and never that far by myself. At baggage claim, the suitcase arrived, and I was ready to check into a hotel if necessary. Upon walking out to the public area, there was a man holding a sign that said, "Pied Pfeffer". It was Andrew.

The cab ride to his (our) home was easy. Andrew had the taxi waiting to take us down the A666 and up to the curb where he handed me a set of keys to the house. It was as symbolic as an engagement ring.

Th first 2 days were devoted to a tour of Darwen. We strolled through the market place, the library, a fast-paced stride up to Darwen Tower, and a leisurely dinner at the Pothouse Pub. Keep in mind that Andrew gave up his automobile years ago, as there was no reason to spend the incredulous amount of money on petrol, maintenance and taxes when he could walk or take excellent public transportation wherever needed. It's quite different than the US lifestyle, yet appeals to the sustainability aspect so longed for.

On Monday, his parents arrived, and swept us away to the caravan. A day was spent in one of England's most famous towns: Blackpool. Who knew that it would take a trip to England in order to have my first meal of McDonald's Fil-a-o-fish. We walked the docks and saw a Dr. Who Tardis. Andrew's mother and I had our fortunes told, which resulted in a questionable amount of money spent for what we already knew.

The next day, we headed to Fleetwood, where the Greenhalghs spent their summers as the children grew up. It was an amazing area, and the stories of the family were worthy of the trip. Andrew and I sampled cockels, which were dire...otherwise, the visit was fantastic. At some point, we had a meal of fish and chips. For those that are planning to visit England, go to a restaurant, as we did, versus a street vendor for the fish and chips. As for the side dish of mushy peas...I'll leave that choice up to you.

On the way home, we stopped at a store for some groceries. It is all quite fascinating, as much is the same as in the US, just by different names. We headed back to the caravan in the rain, had a light meal, watched British television until nodding off, and then headed to bed.

In the 2 days at the caravan, Andrew and I took long strolls along the country-side. It is odd how England has birds that look similar to the ones in the US, yet are called by different names. And they have birds of the same name that look completely different. The robin is an Britan, it is 1/2 the size of the US robin, and much duller in color. We are both interested in the British birds, and his back yard is set up to attract them.

The rest of the week was utterly fantastic and flew by too quickly. There was a dinner at a local Indian restaurant with his 2 sisters, their husbands and sister Denise's charming children Daniel and Martha. We trotted all over Darwen, and apparently, it is not appropriate to greet those that you pass by, particulary if they are strangers, and you need to keep your eye on where you step.
We took long walks in the countryside, through 2 cemetaries with much older tombstones than found in the US, and the library and local market. A movie theatre and shopping mall are a bus ride away to the next town.

The week went all too quickly. And once back into our separate realities, the world was changing. Andrew's company was bought out by a major Asian company, and Hilton Hotels went from public to private. Despite wanting to build a life together, it made little sense for either of us to make a move until we knew how it all shook out.

Lisa Jane

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