My mother managed to survive Air Canada, although she isn’t in a big hurry to repeat the experience. It wasn’t so much the airline, it wasn’t terribly bad, but it wasn’t terribly good, either. Rather, it was the mess that is Toronto Pearson and the complexities of getting through Canadian and US customs.
She even survived her family. It was an unusually pleasant visit to Germany, one that was relatively free of drama. Life becomes infinitely more pleasant when you cut out toxic people, genetic similarity be damned. She had thought it could, would well be her last visit but she’s gone back on that. Since moving to Texas, land of the inbred mongos, she’s started going to a lot of events that proclaim themselves to be “Oktoberfest”. They’re generally underwhelming as, apparently, are most things in Texas in spit of the number of people thinking that, by virtue of it being Texan, they’re the mutt’s nuts. She’s already planning on visiting Munich year after next to see the real one.
I pre-booked her ticket from London Waterloo to Dorset in order to save money. She managed to get to Dorset in one piece, although she was absolutely gobsmacked by the size of Waterloo and just how big things in London are. Dorset was far more clement. The three nights we stayed in Dorset we stayed at the B&B I used whenever I visited in the past. Actually, she enjoyed it a great deal. It is a clean, pleasant place in one of the nicer neighbourhoods, aesthetically speaking.She liked the architecture in England. It compares favourably to that of Germany. It’s more human, it’s friendlier.
She also rather liked Dorset apple cake with clotted cream. Some acquaintances drove us around western Dorset, visiting Cerne Abbas and a few other sites along the way. One thing she observed was how much cleaner and better maintained England is than Germany. The countryside is beautiful with its greens deeper than anything you can see in inbred mongoland, I mean, Texas — greener, even, than Germany.
After a few days of visiting people, walking river trails, having a Devon cream tea at an old half-timbered building, seeing a military museum, etc. we travelled to Bath. It is one of Britain’s more scenic journeys, although it was slightly marred by the entrance of a family of chavs. Still… Out hotel was in an 18th century row house. She loved it, its quirkiness, its antique furniture, just how uneven it was. It had a lot of character. The only real problem was that our room faced a uni bus stop and the savages piled out late into the night. Pity one can’t take pot shots at the beasts. That would have at least provided some light entertainment.
Bath is glorious. Even if a bit touristy, it always has been, it’s not utterly soulless. People have been visiting it for centuries because it is beautiful. The abbey was impressive. I took her to my favourite restaurant there, Nepalese. It was a very different experience to any she’s ever had before, one that was worth it. She also enjoyed Sally Lunn’s. The ambiance alone makes it worth it. It’s so uneven, nothing matches — but somehow, that’s what it is and it does it well. By my insistence, we went to Bath’s fashion museum. It is impressive. Seeing the evolution of fashion from the Renaissance to the 21st century is an experience. A horrid example of a woman kept pushing her way around in the later stages, intentionally crowding others and being generally insufferable. It was her mistake. I had been eating beans for breakfast three days running and I wasn’t about to spare her the consequences of that. I generally try to be civilised, but when people like that make themselves my problem, I’m not beyond using gas warfare in response.
The one thing she disliked was something I had tried to warn her about. For all its virtues, there are over-rated tourist traps that verge on being scams. She’s a fan of Jane Austen. I tried to dissuade her from going to a place that I knew, just from gut instinct, was a part of “Rip Off Britain”. She insisted only to be thoroughly disgusted by it. She paid far too much, in her view, for a few props, a couple of rooms and a brief lecture. She was, however, pleasantly surprised by Bath’s East Asian Art Museum. That was what I insisted on visiting. The entrance fee was vastly cheaper than the Jane Austen trap and it was a far more interesting experience. Unfortunately, part of it was shut because some oiks broke in, stoke a few pieces and smashed a few others. I made the suggestion that the guilty party/parties be summarily executed as it’s far easier to replace a thieving oik than a priceless masterpiece of 18th century Chinese jade. I think the people I blessed with that opinion surprised themselves by not entirely disagreeing with me.
Finally, we went to London. London is not my favourite part of Britain. We travelled on one of GWR’s new Hitachi trains. My mum noted that the trains in Britain are far cleaner, nicer and better-maintained than those in Germany. Actually, Britain in general is cleaner, nice and better-maintained than Germany. She also was impressed by the fact that there are still staff checking tickets and ensuring that people have paid their fare. Deutsche Bahn have all but given up on that. At that point, we’d both gone well over budget. Finally, she listened to me and we had an affordable visit — by London standards. Instead of visiting some of the dearer sites, we visited free places. The one thing she did insist on seeing was Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s London estate. It was brilliant and it was a years-long ambition of hers to visit a property of that sort. We did a fair amount of people watching, although it’s much less pleasant in a place with that many smug people.
By my insistence we visited the V&A. It is an impressive museum and one that is worth visiting, especially when one is surrounded by the residents of inbred mongoland. The scale of it was daunting. It would take days to give its collection justice. As for the hotel… It’s the place I always stay, near Paddington Station. It’s simple, clean and affordable although it was a bit of an ordeal to get several suitcases up three flights of narrow, Georgian stairs.
We took the Heathrow Express — far safer than the tube and not much more expensive than a much slower and less reliable train. Heathrow daunted her, its scale, its vastness. She’s back to work and settled down again in Texas. I’ve been dealing with my own issues. I’ve had growing doubts recently. My finances haven’t been in great shape and, as pleasant as things are, there isn’t great hope that the situation will do more than improve marginally. At the same time, I’ve been offered chances to triple my income — chances that would require me to return to California. Even six months ago, I would have dismissed the idea. Now, I can’t dismiss it entirely. There comes a point in life when the passing of years focuses the mind on priorities. The work climate is no better in Britain than it is in California, but the pay is far, far less. The cost of living is higher, but it’s a matter of tripling income and doubling expenses — still a net positive. I’ve not made a final decision, but logic is rearing its ugly head.