Summer begins this afternoon, here in the Northern Hemisphere...at 4:09 pm (PDT). Somehow the sun has broken through today, after nearly a month of solid rain here in Colville. I'd spent much of June in England, but the rain followed me there, as well, so I splashed through the streets of Newport and Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and splattered through the streets of London, Portsmouth, Broadstairs and Rochester.
Though my sweaters and jeans may have been soggy, my spirits never sagged. What a vacation this was indeed! Not only did I get to see the very room where Charles Dickens was born at One Mile Terrace in Portsmouth, but I also gazed at the house at Gad's Hill Place where he died. Well, at least it's the official recorded place of his death, though rumors abound that he might have died at Slough, as rumors are wont to do.
But that's not all! I also celebrated the Queen's Diamond Jubilee with a country fair and band concert in Kewstoke and viewed her Thames salute at a Chinese restaurant on the Isle of Wight. Her Majesty is a very nice girl, indeed! But not the only English queen I like, so I attended a recreation of Victoria's Jubilee at Osborne House, her winter home on Isle of Wight.
And I soaked up my share of musicals....from a rowdy music hall version of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and a community theatre production of Oliver! to the full scale razzle dazzle of the West End's revival of Singin' in the Rain.
New experiences to write about include:
- Girls' night out at The Castle with Heather Bird, longtime friend from Weston-super-Mare, where we befriended two exuberant young lads, one a "caulkhead" (Isle of Wight native) and gravedigger, and the other a "overner" (Englishman mainlander settled on Wight) and VSO demolitions expert. Here I learned that I'm regarded as a "grockle," a term for tourist. We gabbed about Cheech and Chong, the merits of Old Rosie vs. Thatcher Gold cider, and the ghosts that inhabit this most haunted of all the world's islands.
- Close encounters on planes. On the journey over I met a man from Wenatchee, WA, who fashions his own bows and arrows and was on his way to hunt long horned cape buffalo outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. On the flight home I met a Unity chaplain who'd fallen in love at a retreat in Scotland that she'd wanted to attend for decades.
- Surprises of my Dickensian "The Best of Times" trek for Uncle Jam, and additionally, at publisher Phil Yeh's request, a remembrance of Ray Bradbury, my high school inspiration.
- Museums and why they continue to enchant me, whether they're all-inclusive like the Victoria and Albert, or just plain quirky, like the Old Operating Theatre Museum.
A final note...George Harrison, too, had tired of the English rain when he wrote his song:
"Here Comes the Sun" was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: 'Sign this' and 'sign that'. Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton's house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric's acoustic guitars and wrote "Here Comes the Sun".