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Monday, September 15, 2014

Vignettes from Across the Pond

The natives are not friendly.

I could count on my hand the number of friendly smiles that I might have received as I walked around for the span of three weeks. The feeling of being constantly evaluated as in 'What class is this person from?' pervades every little transaction, no matter how insignificant.

Though there was a gorgeously dressed black lady who smiled without hesitation at me as I exited the sports camp building. Must have been of Caribbean extraction.

They are polite and business-like when you have dealings with them. But there is no sense of joy in interactions with them, just a fatigued tension.

The one day that I received more than an average share of 'Mornings' from the other walkers was the day I trudged home with two Sainsbury plastic bags in hand, carrying a couple of quarts of milk.  Maybe they thought that I was a local, accounting for the friendlier attitudes.
 Maybe that's what it takes to crack the serious facades.

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My brightly colored sneakers must have seemed quite odd.
 An tiny grey-haired lady wearing a violent magenta blazer paired with a bright orange skirt passed by as I escorted my toddler nephew to his sports camp.
"I love your trainers', she offered with a smile.
'They're nice, aren't they?' I replied, glancing automatically at my nephew's shoes, white with green accents, flashing red with mini lights.
Then I thought, maybe she was referring to my shoes, a bright violet and lime combination, whose main attraction for me had been the cheap price for a decent brand name.
I do not like the current year's fashions of horrendously bright color contrasts and neon shades, but wear them, nevertheless.

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Slugs and snails come out in droves when it rains.

We reached there during a relatively sunny and dry spell, so the green turf of the park was starting to dry out. But then the rain kicked in, with no warning other than a greyish light at dawn. It was a steady rain, falling in large drops over several hours.
The next morning, I saw a huge snail, bigger than any I had ever seen in my life, crawling across the glass door, leaving slimy streak in its wake. It must have been at least 3 inches long.
I stepped out for my morning walk and nearly squished something  that looked disgustingly like dog feces, but on closer examination, was actually moving. A big fat slug, bigger than the miniscule ones I have seen in my garden in the US, was crossing the footpath.
A few steps later, another snail with a reddish brown shell, another pair of slugs making merry.
I spent the whole walk watching for snails and slugs, and hope that I didn't squish any. There were the messy results of a few more careless walkers ahead of me to provide an 'ick' element to the walk. Poor squished slugs, unlovely though they might have been.


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The British museum with its collections of treasures from far and wide, collected over the centuries of dominion.
 Assyrian reliefs, no doubt saved from the horrors of bombing of Iraq and Lebanon in the current era, massive pillars and statues lifted wholesale from ancient temples of  Nineveh and Nimrud.
In the Asian section, a Chola bronze Nataraja took center stage, and there was an impressive, five faced Vinayaka. Provenance, anyone? Will those statues be ever returned to India, as Australia did recently? I think probably not. The British museum doesn't recognize claims made for art and artifacts that were removed from India prior to 1947.
The privileges of being an empire, I suppose.

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We sit exhausted in the train after the museum outing, our stop is still about 10 minutes away. I notice a man on the opposite side staring at M, or rather, leering at her. Kohl on his eyes, bearded. What a wacko! I glare at him as best as I can manage for a few seconds before I resume gazing at the Tube map above the seats, thankful that we get off shortly.
No further weird characters on the next train we hop on for the trip home. 
Now in light of the Rotherham scandal and worse, I suppress a shudder.Things that seem unimportant take a more ominous significance, as the casual leerer in the train, or the little girl who toddles away from her 'home' with noone apparently watching her.

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