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And whoever wakes in England

I've just spent the weekend in the UK. I went to see my sister and mother. I had a splendid time.

I don't go to the UK very often. I was last there in February 2011. In the past nine years I've maybe spent around ten days there so it's quite a strange place to me nowadays. These are a few of the things I noticed.

Nearly everyone speaks English. This may not be surprising to you but it seemed a bit strange to me. In Ely I heard someone speak and my instant reaction was "ah, Brits, just like me." I turned to have a look. I can say anything I need to in Spanish but in English I can say what I want. It was a marked difference. Mind you I did find myself marvelling at the language of the DJs on Radio 1.

I hired a car. I tried to get into it on the wrong side several times - ah, other door for the steering wheel. I fished around with my right hand for the gear lever. Driving on the other side of the road wasn't a big problem but the traffic was. It goes much slower than I remember and there is absolutely no lane discipline on motorways. It didn't matter that much anyway because nobody was going anywhere - miles and miles of jams. It took us three and a half hours to travel the 150kms (93 miles) from Bedford to Gatwick and we thought we were going to miss the plane. I had to pay a massive fuel surcharge because we didn't have time to tank up the car. In Spain the journey time relates to distance not to the traffic density.

The weather was horrid. It wasn't that much colder than some of the bad days we have in Culebrón (600 metres above sea level) but the sky was grey at best, it rained a lot, it snowed heavily too and it was so dull and dark. The colours of the landscape were all very drab too. Much greener than here of course but the green was balanced with lots of muddy brown.

The bars, cafes and pubs are much more comfortable in the UK than Spain. The doors are closed against the elements, there are comfy chairs and all the buildings are heated. The beer was lovely and the price didn't seem too bad to me. Not the same with coffee though or the pastries and cakes which looked scrummy but were out of my price range.

There was also, probably, more rush about the place and I was a bit surprised at the lack of courtesy on a couple of occasions. I thought it was a particularly Spanish thing to dawdle across zebra crossings or to let the door swing to in someone's face but I experienced both in Cambridgeshire which hardly has the excuse of metropolitan frenzy.

All in all it seemed very much as I remembered. Nice to visit, nice to get home too.


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