Tag Archives: england

Always it is by bridges that we live.

I’m just back from two weeks in Yorkshire visiting Phil. This was my first visit to Hull. I was looking at the city through lots of different eyes: through Phil’s, as he showed me the city he loves; through mine, as they sought and discovered all the things my eyes love; through ours as we imagined a life we could share together in this city.

It was so much fun to play tourist with Phil in a city he’s lived in all his life, and watch him see things in a new way as I noticed them. He had all the fun of watching me fall in love with the light and the street names and the oh-so-welcoming frequency of pubs. And of introducing me to a number of British foods I hadn’t tried before (pork pie, Yorkshire pudding, sausage roll, pork scratchings, and so many cakes of increasing fanciness), and making sure I didn’t step out into the street after carefully looking the wrong way for traffic. I can’t count the number of times I stopped to stare up at something in dumb happiness, only to feel a gentle hand on my elbow, steering me back to the sidewalk. No, the pavement. Sidewalk is called pavement in England. (I must also accustom myself to the word trousers, to avoid Very British Scenes of Embarrassment.)

We spent a lovely long morning rambling through an enormous old cemetery, deciphering inscriptions. It just kept going back and back and back, into ever more tangled underbrush, and then opening suddenly into little clearings full of crypts and monuments. There were two days spent hunting down 41 fish sculptures on the Historic Fish Trail (you can read about that on Phil’s blog), pleasantly interspersed with 15 pubs on the no less historic Ale Trail. (Phil did a really beautiful job documenting both of these in their entirety on Instagram.) We visited the Gentoo penguins at The Deep, and got all nerdy-giddy over the sharks and rays. I met his family, and we liked each other.

We also spent a solid amount of time sitting on the couch with the cat and watching one dumb movie after another. We’ve gotten very good at being together long distance, but it’s not easy to live 6,000 miles away from your partner. When we’re lucky enough to be in the same room for a while, the simplicity of reaching out to touch one another is a huge happiness. Reading aloud, sitting quietly together immersed in our own projects, doing the interwoven kitchen dance of preparing a meal together – these were my favorite times in these two weeks, and they’re what carry us through until we can be in the same room again.

We found this sign in the charmingly-named Land of Green Ginger. The tiny street in Old Town is also home to England's smallest window.

. . We found this sign in the charmingly-named Land of Green Ginger. The tiny street in Old Town is also home to England’s smallest window.

Side door of St. Mary's Church in Old Town

Side door of St. Mary’s Church in Old Town

Hull is the only region in the UK with its own telecom company, and has cream phone boxes instead of the traditional red.

Hull is the only region in the UK with its own telecom company, and has cream phone boxes instead of the traditional red.

The Ferens Gallery has a wonderful collection of Dutch masters.

The Ferens Gallery has a wonderful collection of Dutch masters.

SHARK! The Deep is a wonderful aquarium with several different vantage points on an impressive shark tank.

SHARK! The Deep is a wonderful aquarium with several different vantage points on an impressive shark tank.

Jellyfish at The Deep.

Jellyfish at The Deep.

We have had beer. At Wm Hawkes in the Old Town.

I fell in love with the light in Hull, especially on the water.

I fell in love with the light in Hull, especially on the water.

Art Nouveau detailing on an arcade in Old Town.

Art Nouveau detailing on an arcade in Old Town.

Waffle doughnuts with cake on top at Hull Fair.

Waffle doughnuts with cake on top at Hull Fair.

Kissable.

Kissable.

One of 25 installations commemorating Philip Larkin, found throughout Hull and surrounding towns. This was my favorite of the ones we saw.

One of 25 installations commemorating Philip Larkin, found throughout Hull and surrounding towns. This was my favorite of the ones we saw.

Yorkshire Rose at the bottom of my pint glass.

Yorkshire Rose at the bottom of my pint glass.

Archie.

Archie.

Phil photographing the sign at the Green Bricks for the ale trail.

Phil photographing the sign at the Green Bricks for the ale trail.

archives, not cheating and the floatie.

I’m going through boxes of letters and photo albums to see if there’s anything I can get rid of while I’m packing. It’s a bit of an ambush-type project, as I have no idea what’s in these boxes; I’m doing it slowly, in between other packing. Sometimes what I find is hilarious, sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s wonderfully happy. Sometimes I don’t even remember what it is I’m looking at. 


Particularly with scrapbooks and photo albums, I’m experiencing an impulse to edit them. Keep the photographs, but oh God, get rid of the gruesomely affected scrapbooks elements! That’s not how archiving works, though, so I leave them alone. Just because I wish I’d been cooler doesn’t mean the record is inaccurate. I was a very cool kid, I think – dorky and a bit elderly and shy, but interested in everything. If my thorough records of my teen years are to be believed, however, I was kind of a dull teenager. Who kept everything.


So I’m not making changes to the record, but there are a lot of things I’m just getting rid of entirely. A separate scrapbook from my year at boarding school that doesn’t really add any additional information to the photo album I’m keeping. A pile of letters from people I traveled with years ago. I found the packet, I recognized what it was, but I had no interest in reading the letters again. This is the move when these things finally go, after getting carted around for the last 6 relocations.


Yesterday I found my photo album from a trip to England the summer I turned 15. I traveled with a group of about 20 other teenagers and we spent most of the summer living on canal boats and traveling through the middle of the country. The cramped quarters and constant ducking into low doorways and never having access to clean laundry would probably make me cry now, but it was hugely fun at 15. We piloted and refueled the boats and operated the locks ourselves; once upon a time, that was a skill I could claim, although I’m sure I wouldn’t remember how to do it now.


I think this was probably the first time I was ever in a photobooth. 
I had bangs!

When you’re moving around a canal boat, you mainly use the gunwales (the narrow bit around the edge of the boat that Roxanne is standing on in this picture). They’re slippery, and it’s easy to lose your footing. That summer, I distinguished myself by falling into the canal twice. That’s twice more than most people did, and once more than everyone else did. I earned the nickname Floatie. I am here to tell you that an English canal is no place to go for a swim. They may look pretty, but they’re filthy. We once saw a whole dead pig swirling around in the lock water near Birmingham. If you fall in, even in the cleaner midstream water, you need a shower. It’s also really hard to get back on a boat from the water, once you’re off it. The second time I fell in, I lost my glasses. We were about 8 days from coming home and I said I’d just do without them, but a boy named Andy went in after them and actually kept diving in the muddy water until he found them. It was a spectacle miracle. He was kind of an obnoxious jerk and by the end of the summer we’d mostly ostracized him. I remember being profoundly touched that he would take the trouble. I don’t remember your last name anymore, Andy, but thanks for finding my glasses. I’m sorry I was mean to you.