Quickly Through the English Countryside

Rolling Farmland

The ‘Gruesome Twosome’ (silly Avis attendants!) asked us where we were going, and were genuinely shocked by our answer. Neither had really been out of Dover much. ‘Steve’ (or was it Dave?) stated he ‘once went to Manchester for a football game’, but that was the extent of his personal travels.

We felt quite worldly at that moment, not to mention ambitious! A quick injection of appreciation for our inherent desire to see the world, and ability to follow through with that desire. It is a privilege, that’s for sure.

Farmland England

We pull out, directions in hand, ready to power through to Scotland when we get caught up in traffic. Instead of growing impatient, we see this as an excellent opportunity to people watch. In doing so, we capture an image mentally that may never be forgotten.

Let me paint the scene; school is letting out and there are cars everywhere and women with their children all around them – busy and chaotic.

Many of the women show visible signs of poor nutrition in their bodies, mouths (oh teeth!), and hair. One particular ‘example’ is standing to the left of us yelling at a woman across the street to the right.

The ‘yeller’ has 3 or 4 children in tow with an infant on her hip, she is smoking – not wearing a bra  – in a see through well worn white t-shirt with tight track pants (I am sure they fit her once).

She had huge brown roots at the base of her bleached, pony-tailed hair, and poor dental hygiene – so poor we could see missing teeth from our view in the car. She was also nearly grey in physical colour.

Too much fish and chips, not enough broccoli. Sections of Britain really do have a problem with eating enough greenery.

There were billboard campaigns all over the south aimed at public education regarding this and the long term ramifications of poor nutrition in general – which can absolutely include mental health (depression) issues as well as the obvious physical.

She bellowed in a gruff, deep, smoky voice across the street to a brunette lady of similar description;

‘Oh ya? I will punch ‘er in the nose, I will. I will punch ‘er in the nose, I will!

This was stated while bouncing so wildly, with her one fist clenched, that the baby flailed about in her other arm.

The image of this discombobulated woman yelling about, babies in tow, smoke in mouth, threatening to punch in the nose of a fellow mother while standing in front of the school her children attended was just too much.

The combination somehow made that terrible scene crudely hilarious to us. It would be months before my husband relented with the repeating of his poor faux British rendition.

Though to me it was architecturally more appealing, in my mind I compared this area of southern England to a very familiar town not far from where I grew up in Ontario, a town called Oshawa.

A rough factory town, perpetually grey (even when it is not), and always a bit gritty – not in a good way. A socio-economically depressed place, especially since the factory crashed.

Northern England

On our way up through the English countryside to ‘The North’, we met fantastic people, one after another, people who joked with us, and made strange comments;

“You’re the happiest couple I have ever seen! What are you doing HERE?”

“Look at you, you’re smiling!”

“What are you doing in this dump?”

Yes, seriously we did get asked that again and again. We in no way consider England a dump. Quite the opposite, actually. But it was darling that over and over the modest Brits would choose to interact with us by asking that very question. And they certainly all noticed that we were smiling.

English Sky

We crossed the countryside from south to north, made it to ‘Scotch Corner‘ and decided we needed to rest. We had our first fitful paranoid sleep that night, and would later find that it was not without cause…

Additional photos in the slideshow.

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Follow this trip by heading to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section. Enjoy many more photos of England by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


15 responses to “Quickly Through the English Countryside

  1. What is this pre-occupation with England being a dump I wonder?

    I remember flying back from a holiday in Tenerife earlier this year. It had been in the mid-30’s all week – a little too hot for me. On the plane back home, as we flew in over southern England, the captain gave us a weather update – 12 degrees with a light rain.

    The woman sitting next to my wife turned to her. “God we live in a dump!” she said; there was real despise in her voice. Her husband sat across the isle from her, playing at full volume on a hand-held gaming console as he had done all flight. I looked out of the window. After the arid desert landscape of Tenerife all I was able to think was what a Green and Pleasant Land I lived in.


    • !!Agreed – green & pleasant!! I don’t understand it at all. Must be some historically-psychologically-ingrained-nonsensical-effacing-mannerism ;).

      Personally I love the weather that our homes share – being on the west coast of Canada, my winters are very similar to those of Britain, and our summers too. I am not so into the heat – or the cold. Perfect in the UK, I think. Complainers!


  2. A lot of the British feel their country is going to hell in a handbasket, politically and economically. While I haven’t had that kind of reaction when i’ve visited, I did have a similar one when going through passport control in Paris for the Eurostar once. Destination? Salford. (which is the more industrial working class city next to Manchester) The agent looked at me in surprise and wondered why anyone would go on holiday to Salford! 🙂 It’s a fair enough question but that’s where my partner lives and it is a short bus ride to Manchester city centre 🙂


    • I always told myself I would marry someone from somewhere in the EU – LOL! For love of course, but also for travel! Alas, that didn’t happen – got all caught up in the ‘soul mate’, ‘fate’ thing & ended up with a Canadian – darnit! 😛

      I actually LOVE going to out of the way towns that no one else would think to visit (I don’t think to visit them either, just land there by chance). It’s great getting to see people as they are in as many varying aspects as possible. Fascinating. I have never heard of Salford, which makes it cool to me – I will keep watching your travels as well!


  3. Loving your ‘interpretation’. A woman after my own heart, I think. I often feel as if I’m running away or should be soon. This year I’ve managed it six times but haven’t recorded it as you do. I did write about a moment in Zurich – ‘I don’t like the smell of Antipasti’ but must do more. You’ve inspired me.

    Where’s the favourite place you have run to so far?


    • Oh thank you =). I do hope to inspire people to take their own journeys, when and where they may. Favourite place? Gee, that’s hard – the place I wish I could live is Ljubljana, Slovenia. My favourite to work is Thailand, and my favourite for exploring and discovering (so far) is the UK. have you found favourites yet? (& I dislike the smell of ‘antipasti’ too!).


      • Oh I love the smell of antipasti. T’was my friend who spoilt my day.
        In Europe I have never been east of Greece so Slovenia is not my patch. I tried to take the Fam to Yugoslavia this summer but ended up in Puerto Pollenca, Mallorca which, 10 years later, is still fab.
        Thailand I know well. see most of my Photo challenge weekly. I go there almost every year.
        And, to keep a bit of the mystery, I do not come from where I live. By a lot of milesI Do love your background map. It gets my heart racing.


  4. Oh gosh …. you are so right in many ways !!
    There are lovely pockets of UK and people to go with it …. on the otherhand we can be a most ‘unlovely’ sort when observed on many occasions . I love my country but sometimes I just think ..the little ones bawling in pushchairs or being shouted at to ‘ gerrin in there and stop yer cryin or I’ll give you summut to moan about’ just don’t stand a chance . Too may excuses are given for bad attitudes, manners, generally for not being ‘nice’ to each other I feel .
    Anyway mustn’t go on …. Loving your wanderings and observations 🙂


  5. We found that English people in general couldn’t get over the distances we were prepared to drive while we were on holiday. I guess it’s because here in Australia everywhere is a long way from anywhere else. We think nothing of a two hour drive each way in one day just to go to Brisbane to see a show or an exhibition. It would be the same for you in Canada.


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