The British are probably the most polite nation in the world. They go to great lengths to make the other person comfortable and at ease. Their cheery greetings, patiently waiting for pedestrians to cross the road whilst in cars and involuntary queue formations are absolutely delightful. There is an unwritten code of conduct which every Briton swears by making day-to-day interactions tolerable and hassle-free.
Strong sunshine warming one’s back is the most uplifting and exhilarating experience in Britain. The normally overcast skies, chilly wind and slow drizzle make the occasional clear sunny warmth all the more precious. I had the pleasure of this experience today morning. I was reading Private Eye, a fortnightly magazine reporting wrongdoings, gaffes and general dodgy behaviour by politicians, financiers, celebrities and key institutions including the press.
Today was a more relaxed day. We went to Dover by car and saw the White Cliffs of Dover in all their beauty and majesty.
The cliff-faces are white as they mainly constitute of limestone. The repeated assault of the sea-tides prevents growth of vegetation on the sides. The Cliffs are scenically beautiful with smooth azure waters on one side contrasting the vivid intense greenery on the other side.
This is an impeccably dressed Englishman at the railway station going off to Ascot to see the horse races. He’s just taken off his hat which you can see on the chair in front of him. Royal Ascot is a five day horse-racing event which is attended by the Royal family, the more affluent aristocrats, the nouveau riche, and anyone who is or aspires to become a Big Name in the UK.
Today was the first day of sightseeing. We caught the bus to Guildford Rail Station at 09:07 AM. There are no conductors in these buses so we paid the driver himself. It took about 25 mins. At Guildford we caught the SouthWest train on the National Rail to Waterloo. This ride was about 50 mins. Then we walked a terribly long way to the Tourism desk at Charing Cross to avail our London Passes. This walk took us past the most iconic landmarks in London like the Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster which houses the UK Parliament, the various picturesque government buildings including the Foreign Office and Trafalgar Square.
Today was the first day of my UK trip. The temperature when we left Heathrow at 2:00 PM was a brisk 17 C, prompting me to turn up the collar of my coat. The parking lot looked like this:
Our chauffeur was well-read and spoke in depth on several topics from Brexit to 2008 financial crisis to the weather. It was drizzling when we set out but the rain soon stopped and strong sunshine burst forth between the grey clouds. Observing this he memorably said “In Britain, you can’t trust Weather, Work or Women.”
There is a certain type of novel which pulls you into a marvelous ecosystem and leaves you wondering at the bustling enterprise and unquenchable spirit of the men and women running this mini-world. Arthur Hailey is probably the creator and undoubted Master of this genre. He had spent a lifetime meticulously chronicling the great advancements in old industries and new ones in the latter half of the twentieth century. Each of these varied sectors (hotel management in Hotel, aviation in Airport, banking in Moneychangers to name a few) play such crucial roles in modern life that we can’t conceive life without them; Hailey brings forth their wonders, secrets, achievements and fallacies in unparalleled style.