Reshmi S is a second year student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. She spent most of her summer in Crewe, England and also visited London for a while.
From 40 degrees to 10 degrees Celsius. Scorching heat to freezing cold. I was delighted to leave Chennai for the summer and go stay with my pregnant sister, her husband (and later on, their newborn) in Crewe, UK.
“This is hot, for people here. This is the only time they leave their mufflers and woollen coats behind,” my sister informed me. I could barely feel my fingers, having put on both. I wondered how I would survive in winter, when mercury would hit the zero level and beyond. Thankfully, I’d be back in good ol’ Chennai long before that. Walk through the town, one can feel the chilly breeze on one’s face and see green patches, meadows scattered with cows, people walking their dogs, kids chasing each other. A quintessential countryside view. It had a magical effect, like being transported to a bygone time, how I pictured it while reading The Secret Seven or watching Harry Potter.
When my brother-in-law declared that we were going to Stoke-on-Trent, the city of the football club Stoke City, I was excited, since I had never been to a football city before. But boy, was I disappointed! Maybe the idea of posters, flags and statues of legends everywhere and everyone wearing a football jersey was a bit too much to hope for. However I am sure it was only reasonable to expect some sign of football. As it turns out, the city is better known for its Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
I don’t know how much my love for Manchester United has blinded me, but the Theatre of Dreams is the best thing I have seen in my life. We were accompanied by a heavily accented British guide, a former football player. Although most of what he said sounded like Greek and Latin, I did gather two notable facts about Old Trafford. One, they use artificial lighting system to trigger grass growth when it’s cloudy. Two, the stadium has underground pipes which pump hot water to melt the snow when it’s winter, so that the grass is undamaged. Overall the grass looked perfectly green and level. The lengths to which they go to maintain the place surprised me. I had the time of my life when I set foot on the home dressing room, and I could almost feel the drama that would be there on a match day.
I had my first proper English meal when we went to London. We had to shop for some jewelry for my sister’s newborn there. Not something I was too keen to do. And of course my mother’s everlasting love for her motherland (Kerala) did not permit her from buying it from any place other than Joy Alukkas, a trusted Malayali jewelry shop in London. I accompanied them because I was promised a day of sightseeing and pub food, both of which I was looking forward to. But little did I know that I was going to encounter a very uncomfortable moment.
We were on our way to the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel from which one can view the entire city. On the way, we encountered something most shocking – a nude protest rally! Inevitably, we had to cut through it to cross the street, a fact my Brother-in-law and I made an unspoken agreement never to talk about. Those were the longest and most awkward 3 minutes of my life. That being said, London Eye was a wonderful experience. The Thames River can be seen in its full glory as well as the many bridges across the river, including the Tower Bridge and the London Bridge. While the Tower Bridge is the lesser known of the two, it is usually mistaken for the latter. (Rumour has it that a long time ago, Robert McCulloch of Arizona, who wanted to dismantle the Tower Bridge and move it to Arizona, had bought the London Bridge, mistaking it for the other!) Also visible from the London Eye is the bell of the Palace of Westminster, nicknamed Big Ben. Despite many distractions owing to excited tourists, I managed to have a nice time.
I also went to Madame Tussauds wax museum, which happens to be on Sherlock Holmes’ haven, the Baker Street. Allegedly some people believe he was real and have actually gone looking for his non-existent house at 221B Baker Street! There was nothing very Holmes-y there, apart from a statue of the great detective. Google informed me that there was a Museum dedicated to the detective, but lack of time didn’t permit a visit. Madame Tussauds (yes, they spell it without the apostrophe) is one place not to be missed in London. Granted, they didn’t do justice to Aishwarya Rai’s pretty face and rather made her statue look like a mannequin in some second class saree shop. Nevertheless, some of the statues look so real, one can actually see the glint in their eyes. Notable works include Barack Obama and Princess Diana, among others.
Whoever said that the British set out to conquer other nations to look for decent food has never dined in a pub. Britain has many chains of pubs, which serve authentic English food. Mashed potatoes, onion rings and boiled peas accompany almost everything you order. People go there after work or on Saturday afternoons to chat with friends, have a beer, watch football, or simply chill out. Anyway, the food was delicious. Ignoring the fact that I couldn’t even pronounce the names on the menu, I enjoyed my sausage and mixed-grill.
Despite being a not-so-popular holiday destination, Crewe is the perfect hide-out to spend a nice cool summer. Be it winter or summer, it rains almost every day. Like every other British county, its beauty lies in symmetry. Houses look alike, every single one made of red brick, with sloping roofs and tiny lawns embroidered with pretty and colourful flowers; making them look like miniature models. I was told there is some rule that states adjacent houses have to look similar on the exterior!
One cannot talk about England without talking about the people. It is surprising how much civic sense they have. Not to mention the people are awfully nice. If I had a penny each time someone said ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’ or ‘Sorry’ to me, I’d be rich by the time I returned. However, their insistence on table manners is a bit annoying for us Indians.
My sister’s pregnancy ruled out any long distance travel, so I was stuck at home for the most part, which gave me enough time to indulge in creative activities such as sketching and writing. Overall, England made this the best summer of my life, making me want to return, visit the pubs, go to all the places I missed, maybe relive this summer again.