Day Two in England and I remain truly a stranger in a strange land.
Today I travelled to Winchester…what a prize!
First rule of travelling in England:
People do NOT talk to strangers on the train, especially in the morning…
Such a contrast to life in Montreal where there are bus drivers who spontaneously break into songs of la bella Italia arias to the great amusement and enjoyment of all the passengers.
Riding the rails of an English train is like sitting inside the sanctuary of a tomb…
Nothing dares disturb the silence…
It is sacrosanct, inviolable, a protected part of the fabric of English mentality.
Most seem to hate their jobs, endure their lives and long for escape.
They withdraw into themselves, earphones in ears, eyes on smart phones or in free newspapers or paperbacks.
Winchester seems to have one primary focus…
Funnel people into and along High Street….
Friday is Market Day.
High Street lined with stalls selling everything imaginable: fruit, vegetables, woodwork, millinery, electronic gizmos, ciabatta, hamburgers, coffee…all sorts of odds and sods.
It was my first visit to Winchester, but the attraction for me was not the world famous Cathedral, or the University, or the College (the oldest public school in the United Kingdom)…
It was a 1960s song long remembered from my childhood, “Winchester Cathedral” by the group New Vaudeville Band.
This song made me want to visit the Cathedral and try to experience how Winchester Cathedral “is bringing me down”.
From the train station to the Brasserie Blanc, a chain of restaurants-cafes owned and inspired by world-famous Chef Raymond Blanc (I never heard of him either.), for a delicious traditional English breakfast.
Then found myself on High Street.
Now normally what followed next would not be something I would normally share with the world about visiting a public gents’ toilet…
But it is often in the discussion of how basic human needs are resolved that a country shows its true colours.
Near an intersection called Butter Cross are the public facilities.
So far, every public loo I have visited in the UK has been remarkably clean.
I achieved my personal nirvana and proceeded to wash my hands at the sink when the WC attendant came along and proceeded with his cleaning duties.
I remarked to him that I was surprised that the toilets did not have accompanying toilet brushes.
He responded that there were no toilet brushes because people kept stealing them!
Why on God’s green Earth would anyone steal a used toilet brush?
According to the attendant, everything in England must be “nailed down or it’ll be nicked.”
And this. despite the fact that this is the land of Big Brother, with CCTV cameras almost anywhere that capture the average Brit a minimum of 8 times a day.
Clearly being constantly under surveillance does not make for better behaviour from the citizenry…