Seeing England for the First Time through the Eyes of a Sixteen Year Old
Our nephew, M Wanderer, has been sixteen for almost two weeks now and a good portion of this trip is our birthday present to him.
Jim and I have been travelling to England on and off for 37 years and we lived here when I did a year of teacher exchange about twenty years ago, so seeing England through the eyes of a first timer has been fascinating.
I must admit, M has noticed things I completely take for granted and some things I had forgotten made such an impression on me the first time I visited Merry Olde.
When we were first able to see the UK through a break in the clouds, he was extrememely excited and when we actually touched down, he was fist-bumping everyone. This is rather unusual for our normally rather more sedate teenager. He was not surprised by the patchwork quilt landscape and fields lined with hedgerows. I suppose images like that are common enough on the internet.
However, like most teenagers, he if full of questions. His first was about “Do not turn here” signs. The next was why some licence plates were white and some yellow. (White is for the front of the car, yellow for the back.) He finds it extremely unnerving that the trains run so closely together. When you are sitting by the window, you just get this fleeting impression of a massive engine ploughing right at you and then the wall of wind it pushes with it hits your train with an explosive bang. The first time a high-speed train sped by us, I thought M was going to leap out of his seat!
Now, to put things into perspective, M is 6’2″ but he has only been this tall for a few months so he has not yet had much time for his brain to get used to his new bulk. As a result, he finds England rather intimidating. He keep banging his head on things, low hanging chandeliers, doorframes, even ceilings in some of the older buildings. Watching him try to figure out the best way to squeeze his frame up and especially down the spiral staircase in the St. Albans’ Medieval clocktower was quite the sight! In fact, he discovered the best way to descend was to go backwards. At least that way he could see his feet.
Going up in the London Eye was a real eye (sorry) opener for him. He was struck by the difference in archecture from Norman castles to modern skyscrapers and everything in between. All the various heights, styles, and building materials really gave him an appreciation of the vast and continuous history of London.
Oh, and naturally he finds right-hand drive disconcerting. Surprisingly, he has adapted well to looking “the other way” when he crosses the street but he still finds seeing the steering wheel on the “wrong side” rather perplexing. I, too, find this a shock, especially when it first appears there’s a dog driving the car.