I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve had a guest staying with me from Patagonia in Argentina, since the end of June.
Meet Vero, who hails from Río Colorado, on the Atlantic side of Patagonia. She became a good friend on my two journeys to that part of the world in 2008 and 2009. She’s about to graduate as an English-Spanish translator, which has taken her five years and was fitted in with bringing up her (now 15 year old) son and having to travel many hours by public transport to get to her university over 300 km away. This necessitated staying there several nights a week during term time; there were numerous assignments required by the course and part time work was also essential to help fund her studies. Fortunately, with Río Colorado being a small town and most of her family living there, she has received the necessary support to complete her studies this year.
To help her future career along and give her some practice in spoken English, she came to England at the end of June to attend a summer school course for literary translators at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and stayed with us beforehand and afterwards. She had never ventured out of Argentina before, so I tried to devise a programme for her which would show her British life in all its aspects, meet plenty of people so she could listen to English being spoken to her in as many different regional accents as possible, and include visits to the theatre. She’s a vegetarian, which was a personal challenge for me in the kitchen. I – er – didn’t do so well here, and we ate out a lot, but I kept a list of all the new foods and drinks she tried.
We had a shaky start when Vero donned her Argentine football supporters’ shirt in early July…
when they played Germany and were beaten 3-nil...
Maradona not amused...
However, things got better after that.
We visited many places, most of which I had seen almost exactly forty years ago when I visited Britain as a school leaver in 1971, before deciding subsequently to return and study here – and then making it my permanent home. It was a revelation to me as we proceeded from one to the next to note in some ways how much things had changed, and yet how much had stayed the same.
The overriding impression was the increase in population on this little island, from 54 million in 1970 to over 62 million today, and this does not of course include the unknown numbers of recent illegal immigrants which are though to be several million. It was also evident that there is a greater degree of prosperity – the number of vehicles, the widespread ownership of mobile phones at all ages, and so on. Adherence to European laws has also meant that the number of continental lorries on the roads bringing goods into Britain has multiplied - as you drive along you become aware that there are almost as many mega-trucks as there are cars.
One of our first visits was across the Severn Bridge into Wales. We headed for Chepstow Castle and before we had even left the car park were entertained by a troupe of Morris dancers…
(No idea what the costumes meant,
except the ole Welsh dragon of course)
…before admiring the views from the castle.
Next week: The Bristol country bumpkin and friend go to London…
From Lonicera's non-digital archives
Views of Bristol, my home
The Clifton Suspension Bridge
designed & built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
For the less fortunate, a snooze in the sunshine
outside the Victoria Rooms
Peace at last for a cat on a Sunday, in a
historic building now used for offices
during the working week.
Offices seen reflected in the Spectrum building
with its blue windows
Mulligans fish restaurant, at the foot of Park Street,
now sadly disappeared.
Together with the Clifton Suspension Bridge,
Bristol's best known landmark:
the Wills Memorial Building at the top of Park Street.
It is the seat of the University of Bristol, used
mainly for ceremonial events and large public lectures.
I was very proud to graduate there in 1977,
when the Dean was Dorothy Hodgkin,
Nobel prizewinning chemist.