When I first traveled to the UK, I was excited about starting art school: I was also apprehensive about traveling to a foreign country for an extended period of time. What if I didn't like it? What if it didn't like me?
I admit, I went with preconceptions--even prejudices--that other USA-born travelers might share. I honestly didn't know if they were on target or a lot of baloney, as just before I left Nova Scotia (a chilly place in spring and summer, and damned cold the other 10 months of the year), a cashier at the Atlantic Superstore told me she had relocated from England in large part because of the horrid English weather! Holy moley--what was I getting myself into?
Which leads me to a short list of my prejudices and what I discovered when I actually hit the English shores: today, I will discuss:
The "Horrid" English Weather
First caveat: I'm not talking about Scotland here. I suspect Scotland and Nova Scotia are very similar in weather, and thus, often too cold for human life. (At least, when the human is a delicate flower with joints that cement together when the temperature drops below 60F.) I have a Scottish friend whose wardrobe consists of layers of woolen shawls, which she wears all at once, all the time, the puir wee lass.
I found English weather delightful. In the South of England, in and around Chichester, even the winter rains were never cold or icy. It snowed once, in January, just enough to dust the grass and be picturesque. Spring rains and the air, soft and perfumed, and birds singing and owls hooting all night. Carpets of flowers all year 'round--I saw yellow roses blooming in someone's doorway in January in Chichester. Yes, it's wet, all right, and that wetness generates an unimaginable variety of shades of green. Also, bluebell woods, vast vines of fragrant wysteria, gorgeous roses, violets, --I could go on forever about English flowers.
On living in England, north, south and west, I discovered that it's not that the weather is cold--it's that the population refuses to turn the heat on between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Friend or foe, stranger or intimate--the heat stays off. In houses of brick and stone, the damp gets inside you and stays there. My advice to combat this lack of heat (probably a leftover from WWII privations)? Stay in communal housing--youth hostels, colleges, buddhist practice centers--where many people share the space. Choose places where you can soak in a hot bath, or a hot tub. When someone offers you Wellies, (big, heavy rubber boots) for your walk, accept with thanks. Make a pair of wrist warmers by chopping the sleeves off the sweater you accidentally put in the drier last week ( it's a "jumper" in English English, btw). Keep them long enough so you can wear them in one layer or two when out striding briskly across the Downs. (Watch this space for further posts on English customs I can't comprehend, including brisk walks.)
And find the pub with an actual log fire in the hearth. Not one of the modernized ones with the sports TV - one where you still have to duck under the beams, and everything is made of ancient wood. The windows will be leaded, too.
One of the lovely things about a damp English day is spending the late afternoon hours sipping a cider and chatting with a friend in a congenial, cozy (or cosy) pub.