Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A little piece of England

Although I'm a lost South African I spent seven years in England during my late 20s and early 30s and that became home to me too. In fact, when I'm totally blue and "just want to go home", it's my cosy little house in a small village at the edge of London that I long for, far more than the soaring majesty of Table Mountain in Cape Town. I loved England. I loved the history, the humour, the infrastructure, the free healthcare, the sleepy villages and the crazy bustle of the cities. I'm happy here in Australia, but sometimes I really miss my last homeland.

I'm generalising based on my experience, but Australians seem fiercely patriotic and surprisingly xenophobic. They practically deny their colonial heritage, while at the same time hanging onto the British monarchy. The Union Jack dominates their flag and Queen Elizabeth is on their banknotes, but they villify the "Poms". As a South African I am more welcome here than as a Brit. The fact that the UK took home more medals than Australia from the Olympics completely freaks these guys out - and I'd be prepared to bet that no non-Aussie even noticed (Kat?).

So I was startled this morning to find a little piece of England on my way to work. I caught the wrong bus and was halfway to the airport when I realised and jumped off! Luckily I was next to a railway station so I bought a ticket to the city and walked down to the platform... of a picture-perfect Victorian English train station! Small red brick buildings with roofs edged in iron filligree - all that was missing was a few hanging baskets of flowers and I would have been on the train station of my old village!

The train was all wrong - a big silver double decker electric train - but each station we passed through on the way to town was "English". Once into the city we dove underground... and the underground stations were absolutely transplanted from the older parts of London's Tube! The station name on a horizontal strip surrounded by a circle - all in glossy green tiles on a cream tiled wall. All the walls were covered in small cream tiles in fact, with a border of green tiles and the occasional big advertising poster. I got off at St James station (!), and walked though a tiled tunnel to the surface where I emerged in a wintery green park on a crisp morning...

Wow. Talk about dislocation!


Suzanne said...

That sounds lovely. I'm sure now, when you're missing home, you'll find a way to take a journey along that rail line.

Perhaps a photo journey is in order? I could so see a collage of prints taken in and around some of those stations.

Kat said...

We did notice :) It even made the news, and I think I heard some Australian (not sure if it was a politian?) apparantly also said they would wear an england top to ...err.. some sports match if England won more medals than Australia - and so now they have to and our news crews are eagerly looking out for that!