UK: Day One

Half of us arrived Thursday just after noon, bleary eyed but glad to be back in England. Cars hired, we wheeled onto the motorway (M25 then M40, for those keeping count) and flirted with Oxford by following that city’s ring road for eighty degrees or so before shooting off for the West.
I own a house in Oxford, but generally have others living in it, either renters, or family. Which is fine, because I’m constitutionally incapable of city life, being allergic to tarmac, intimate conversations in easy earshot, and late-coming neighbors in high heels.
This means that whenever we want to stay in England, I get out my catalogue of offerings from my friends at Cottage in the Country and drool over their offerings. Which this year: a lodge house on the Cherwell River (punts by request)? A 17th century farmhouse within walking distance of the Stone Age settlement at Whittenham Clumps, the Roman town of Dorchester, and the cooling towers of the nuclear plant at Didcot? Or a converted barn (stone of course—everything old here is stone) between the medieval market town of Burford and the ever-delightful Chipping Norton?
This year, accompanied by two family members who haven’t been to England before and one who has only visited briefly, it’s that last.
In a country like this, everything is new, from the instant the visitor steps out of the airport doors and sees in huge letters aimed at jet-lagged American eyes: LOOK RIGHT. That’s right, the cars are coming at you from the wrong direction. And roundabouts! Auugghhh, we’re all going to die!
I stopped in Whitney to load up on everything from coffee to Kleenex, knowing well the habits of the local houses to have a good stock of stale tea bags and weird seasonings left by former residents, but nothing in the way of coffee or actual edibles. I walked up and down the aisles at Sainsbury’s (Look—weird foods and interesting breakfast cereals! Rhubarb flavor[u]red yog[h]urt! Garbonzo beans [chick peas] in boxes instead of cans!) and loaded up the cart (UK carts are blessed with wheels that go any direction rather than in a line, which explains the number of back problems among its citizenry) with enough to keep an Arctic expedition of largely vegetarian health food maniacs from starvation for 24 hours, had a lively conversation with the check-out lady about roundabouts, the weather (in the UK, it’s always the weather) and how odd many Americans find it to have to load their own groceries into the bags, and staggered drunkenly across the car park (it was the cart, I swear) to fit a hundred bright orange plastic bags into the space left by luggage (two of our lot are going on to Europe for a year’s sabbatical) and rejoined the A40.
In Burford, I hit rush hour, taking a good ten minutes to east through the town because of the one-lane bridge at one end (it was good enough for medieval Burford, and we’ve added a light, so surely it’s good for another few centuries?) and then into the glorious Oxfordshire countryside.

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  1. Chris on August 29, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Wonderful! I think I’ve used that shopping cart :-), and I definitely remember the bridge from my two years in that part of the world, LOL.

    Enjoy some peace and quiet before the hard work starts all over again – see you in Newcastle!


  2. Laidee Marjorie on August 29, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Whittenham Clumps? Chipping Norton? How I love England and wish I could be back there right now. What other country has names like that? And how could life not be more interesting lived in places like that? No wonder so many mysteries are set in England!

    Laurie, enjoy every moment of your stay, even with work and leisure time combined. And I hope that much inspiration for the new books is flung in your direction at every opportunity.


  3. Strawberry Curls on August 29, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Oh to be in England! I’m just greedy enough that I wish I could return to that glorious country right now and attend a few of your scheduled events in the coming weeks. To see Laurie R. King in Oxford would make that city even more of a wonder.

    Thank you for taking us along on your journey, Laurie. It is the next best thing to being there.


  4. AmyLizzie on August 29, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Believe me Marjorie Chipping Norton is far form interesting! Lol : ) Sorry – I’m just too English it’s scary….

  5. Laidee Marjorie on August 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Oh, but, AmyLizzie, while I believe you, it stills sounds quite magical. I live near New Haven. We have a North Haven, an East Haven and a West Haven. We would have a South Haven, too, except that it would be in the ocean! So we seem to lack the sort of imagination for exotic place names that the U.K. has. At least in my little corner of the world in Connecticut!


  6. Erin on August 31, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I’m mildly disappointed you didn’t take the place near the power station. They apparently give tours!! Because I’m an energy nerd, I looked up the Didcot Power Station…it’s actually a coal and nat gas facility. There is a nuclear lab in the same area, but cooling towers would be part of the coal burning power plant. News reports from 2007 say they were considering the site for a future nuclear plant, but decided against it.

    Way more than you really cared to know about the place, I’m sure, but I thought I’d share my search results anyway 😉

  7. Eleanor Batchelder on September 1, 2009 at 6:17 am

    Did you mean “to ease through the town”?

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