Sunday, January 17, 2010

A very English Sunday

I'm glad I caught the end of Europe's recent mini ice-age.

This pic was taken from my bedroom window on Friday afternoon. The next day temperatures 'soared' back up to 8 degrees centrigrade and the snow cover rapidly vanished.

Many of the local animals, specifically the rabbits and the muntjac deer probably hadn't seen grass in about three weeks and so were out in force on Saturday, scoffing.

I'm alone in the house because Maggie, even though much more of a country mouse than I will ever be, finds such a condition quite scary and so tends to spend the winter in the loft room above my father in his little annexe.

Anyway, the solitude is mitigated by the fact that the dog usually sleeps in her basket down by the Aga. She's a bit too old and lazy to come up the stairs to visit me now though. Other than my bedroom that spot in the kitchen is probably the only warm space in the big old property, because it would be prohibitively expensive for Maggie to heat all the rooms and corridors. There aren't too many weird creeky noises, but ice falling off the roof provides the occasional surprise.

Such were the almost spring-like temperatures yesterday that we didn't even have to throw a log on the fire, which was a touch disappointing. Otherwise, we had a rather typical English country Sunday yesterday involving a pint of ale at the Queen's Head in Bradfield, roast beef and Yorkshire puddings for lunch back at home and the ritual viewing of the Antiques Roadshow in the early evening. The rest of the day was interspersed with sessions of snooker from the Masters at Wembley, a sport which is fascinating and yet which, regardless of the time of day and however jet-lagged I may be, still manages to send me off to sleep.

Atlanta, downtown at least, has to be one of the world's most missable destinations. By 6pm all the shops and offices appear to have closed and their occupants have fled to the suburbs. The only lights at ground level belonged to big hotels and the steakhouses which turn up every block or so. All the Starbuckses enforce lights out from around 5. From then on the majority of my fellow pedestrians were those disconcerting shamblers one comes across in so many American cities, some of whom shouted at me, while others shouted at noone in particular.

The subway line, seemingly hewed out of solid rock, gets you there in around twenty minutes from the airport. In some ways the latter was depressingly familiar in its greyness and its generic offering of news stands and t-shirt shops, but in terms of layout, it's as if the architects decided to throw out all the rules and start from scratch, so that in effect you have 5 parallel concourses linked by driverless trains with baggage reclaim finally showing up at the last stop. It is also described in the Delta magazine as the 'world's busiest' which left me wondering if this was world as in 'World Series' or whether through some technicality Atlanta's airport really is busier than the likes of JFK, Heathrow and O'Hare.

The folk on the flight from Cancun had been encouraging, clean-cut and smart, unlike the sort of howdeedoodies you tend to get on the Houston run. But once I was out of the terminal and on my way into town, I was struck by the drabness of the local 'executive' look. Indeed the early evening passengers on the MARTA ('itsmarta') all seemed to got up in the smart, utterly flairless manner of American newsreaders (and Republican commentators on Fox.)

Unless you've been living in a dark, dank hole for the past few weeks you really ought to have come to expect a slightly longer line at security. But around me in the queue as I waited to re-enter the line of concourses were several businessmen appeared to be on the verge of spontaneous combustion.

The one in front of me kept nervously checking his iPhone, shaking his head and trying to make knowing eye contact with fellow sufferers. He was also jiggling up and down on the spot as if he's forgotten to relieve himself. Others, buoyed by a pack mentality decided to force their way through to the front of the line fibbing that some lady had told them it was OK because their flight was about to leave. They soon had a ticking off from some heavy from the TSA who explained that it was their duty to arrive two hours before take-off. Some of them were sent back, but the advance party had already got their shoes off and were sneaking through the metal detector.

I'm glad this wasn't one of those full body scanners. I've worked out that this coming May I'll have to make ten international flights in the space of about four weeks and if those heavy duty zappers are universally in place by then, I'd expect my teeth and hair to start dropping out.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Mate, the only thing I can imagine worse than a white man in downtown Atlanta after dark is a white Brit. Try Buckhead next time!