I remember quite clearly the plane coming in to land at Heathrow in November 1978. It was my first visit to England -- one I had dreamed about ever since I was a small child. It was a grey day and just light enough to see the suburban houses and streets ... those moments were strangely emotional for me and I could feel my eyes welling up. There was absolutely nothing familiar about the houses -- it all looked 'different', 'foreign' and I was enthralled.
I stayed in a Belsize Park Bedsit that belonged to a good friend of mine. London bedsit land was a completely new experience for this American! The room was the width of a bed and about twice as long, with a window along most of the length. At the opposite end of the single bed was a sink and a hot plate. There was no fridge -- there was a box outside the window where you could put a bottle of milk and perhaps some butter. And there were meters: one for gas, one for electricity. Heat was provided by an overhead electric heater that burned 10 pence pieces at a phenomenal rate! The bathroom was down the hall and the toilet was on the half-landing! Home for two weeks! At least the room was small enough to heat up fast and believe me I didn't spend a lot of time lounging around -- I was up and out every morning taking in as much as I could in two short weeks.
I saw plays, including 'Night and Day' with Diana Rigg (I adored her) and John Thaw and 'Coriolanus' with Alan Howard. Six months later I saw Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp in Ibsen's 'The Lady from the Sea'. Harrods became my favourite store -- I think I made my way there almost every day -- I was after all a typical American tourist! My friend, Freya, who did a lot of work with the BBC World Service took me to Broadcasting House and I was able to witness a program being taped. They even used the 'click' of my instamatic camera as a sound effect -- for what, I cannot remember!
That November, Jim Callaghan was still Prime Minister and during my stay there were many one day strikes -- from one day to the next I was never sure what might affect me. By the time I returned the following June there would be a new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
England in the Summer is very beautiful. I paid my first visit to Wales and found it to be a wonderful beautiful place -- the sides of the hills were covered in Rhododendron, there were gardens like I'd never seen -- everywhere -- North Wales was my first foray outside of London and I was enchanted. Soon though it was back to London and the end of the beginning of a romance that was to end with my returning to England and The Man!
So, with one thing leading to another, I can heartily recommend row boats on the Serpentine, strolling along the Embankment and long warm evenings in the glow of England at mid-Summer!