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.
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.
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.
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.
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.