“It’s supposed to be blue. Blue air…. And it’s white air…” I hear a kid at my back saying, as we’re flying up through the fluffy cloud blanket, leaving the thick London fog below, before getting into the blinding sun burning the sky above the clouds.
It was my fourth time in England and it feels so much like home that I don’t even feel like I was very far away… Although it is extremely different from Romania, it does remind me of my home town and the weather there during my childhood, before the effects of global warming became impossible to ignore and we could still joke about the weather, me an my mom, saying “Last year we had summer on a Thursday.” Now all that has changed and it’s much warmer and drier. But England still has that damp air and the fog and the perpetual spring scent that I miss. And I love it for that.
“She was donated to us”, an elderly curator starts telling us the story about the huge elephant skull on the right of the staircase in the Peterborough museum. “She had her own coach on the train when she came to us from London. They got bored with her there. Sometime after the war…” And we have a pleasant chat before he politely rushes us out of the place so he can close the museum. And right before we leave, I miraculously find a green stone (peacock ore) in the museum shop, just like the one I dreamed I was buying the night before, together with a small, hand carved wooden broom for erasing debts.
The next day, I find London as I remembered her: a wrinkled chic old lady wearing high heeled sandals in winter, no tights, a thick layer of lipstick in military red shade and colorful clothes in an outrageous mix of patterns and prints over nude silk underwear. All topped with a stiff Victorian collar. She’s still got it in her. I’ve never managed to fall out of love with her. Never even tried, to be perfectly honest.
“Now I understand what you tried to say to me, how you suffered for your sanity, how you tried to set them free. But they would not listen, they did not know how, perhaps they’ll listen now… For they could not love you, but still your love was true, and when no hope was left inside on that starry, starry night, you took your life as lovers often do. But I could’ve told you, Vincent, this world was never made for one as beautiful as you.” I hear my own voice singing in my friend’s ear at the National Gallery, before Van Gogh’s paintings. And I love my voice. I sounds so full and soft and brave, as if I could actually sing. Amsterdam is waiting.
Spent two days in London, going places and having beers in pubs, getting all permeated with the London atmosphere like a green, soft moss under heavy rain. I absorbed everything like a sponge. I still have the same feeling it gave me the first time I visited: no matter who you are or what you are like, you find your place here, there’s something for you, too. The city feels like a huge salad with everything – all colors and textures and tastes, enough for everyone. And the morning being woken up by the chirping of the birds in the park across the street from our artist friends’ basement apartment in Islington, where we spent the night on a mattress in their living room… priceless!
The third day was King’s Lynn day. A small medieval town about an hour and a half bus ride from Peterborough. The center is packed with hair salons (literally, three or four in every street) and shops and the greatest attraction was a beautiful antique shop kept by some friendly old ladies wearing thick knitted jumpers and vests to insulate their fragile bodies from the penetrating cold that conserved their impressive collection of antiques, all polished and well kept.
“What is there to do here?”
“Hmm… I don’t know… Have kids, I guess… I mean what else can one do here?”
“Yes. You’re right. We should move here and have kids.”
“And a new haircut every week.”
We make the plan and then head back to Peterborough and the next day it’s York. We loved York. So neat and red and English to the bone (well, to the timber beams holding all the red bricks in place). We climb up to the highest tower in the York Minster (where we have tickets that are valid for a whole year, so we really should go back and visit it again) and take pictures and laugh a lot through the nausea caused by the narrow spiral climb. Later on, after a boring visit at the Museum of York, we get a beautiful game of story cubes from a lovely shop called Traveling Man and then play at a pub with a fireplace, igniting our imagination and when the beers kick in we laugh and create funny collaborative stories, following new rules every round. We continue the same game the entire train ride back to Peterborough, making the beautiful young Asian student sitting next to us get up and find another seat where she can learn in silence, away from the ridiculous thirty something Romanians playing their weird game.
And that was our last night in England on this journey, so the next day we are back to the airport and back on the plane. This time, for the first time ever, I spend almost the entire flight sleeping. I remember not being able to understand people who slept during short flights. For me the view out the window is so spectacular I couldn’t understand how anyone could sleep through such a marvelous display of beauty. Now, flying so often and sleeping so little, I can understand. So, having my eyes flooded by the white air that funny kid at my back noticed, I let them close and rest my head on my travel companion’s shoulder. And there’s this precious moment, right before falling asleep, when I feel my mind skidding like a car wheel on a patch of ice unexpectedly encountered on a dry road, when everything feels perfect.