The Pains and Pleasures of Foreign Travel

‘Thar she blows!’ Feeling a bit like Moby Dick, the great, white whale these days – much more comfortable well below the surface wrapped in the security blanket of ‘Home‘!


We’ve been back from our trip to the UK nearly a week, during which time I’ve sat and gazed blankly at this post page on numerous occasions. The pleasures of being unconnected (mostly), whilst away, seem to have solidified into a ‘memory-foam mattress’ of blogging-Facebook-Googleless lethargy cum disconnect. Re-reading The Road To Wigan Pier and starting Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan/Gormenghast trilogy has proved a far more interesting occupation.

Our UK visit was timed around SPGB Summer School weekend at the very attractive and user-friendly Fircroft College. This is an event that always lifts our spirits along with many a glass of fine ale! This year felt special reconnecting with a number of old friends and getting to know some new faces.

Summer School was followed by the seriously enjoyable pleasures of spending time with family and dear friends and the mixed pleasures and pains of getting reacquainted with the land of our birth. Here, in no particular order are some of them:

Fine, English bitter beer . .

fine bitter beer

 J getting stuck into one

No1 daughter

(full credit belongs to No1 Daughter who understands perfectly how to please we crusty ‘boffers’)

. . and learning that it’s only most and not all of the traditional pubs that have closed down . .



The Shipwright’s Arms, Hollow Shore, Faversham – once, the only way to get to it was across the fields or, our preferred method, using our boat – which we sold more than twenty years ago. Imagine our surprise and delight as we walked along the creek embankment to spot a familiar hull – and there she was . .


. . albeit with all of her brass bits, ports and varnish-work buried under a very unflattering paint job. Cosmic Wind, for that is indeed her name, was built around 1959-60 in Oxford to a Maurice Griffiths  Eventide design and proved to be the perfect East Coast cruising boat. Looking at her still plucks a few strings!

Moving on and giving some balance to the pleasures above was the delight of getting infected by *&+% (no names, no pack-drill) who should have been wearing one of these . .


. . as that cleared up it was followed by . .


. . further demonstrating the need to protect oneself against foreign pathogens whilst in foreign lands!

Back to the good stuff – in Tankerton, again, thanks to No1 Daughter, we were introduced to this gem, little changed from days of childhood of the 1950’s – then . .

seaview cafe1950

. . and now . .


. . with the best bacon sarnies in the world . .

Bacon sandwich

More ‘quintessentially English’ stuff . .

bearstead green cricket

Cricket on the village green – Bearstead CC founded in 1749

canal tow-path Birmingham

. . wandering along canal tow-paths around Birmingham . .

. . and reconnecting, after a very long time, with dear friends and two of the loveliest people on Planet Earth . .

dearest of friends

The ‘joy’ of taking four and half hours to drive 91 miles . .


the M6 northbound

. . to get to a concert at the very impressive Manchester Central Library . .

manchester central library

. . to meet up with John Surman, Chris Lawrence and the Trans4mation string quartet led by Rita Manning. We also met up with old friend composer/arranger John Warren. JS is family and J has known Chris and JW from long before she and I teamed up. We last saw this line-up about three or four years ago when they played at the Hagia Irene in Istanbul – it was yet another memorable experience. Here’s a sample to finish off with . .

Alan Fenn, still somewhere out in the Wide, Blue Yonder!

24 thoughts on “The Pains and Pleasures of Foreign Travel

  1. When you say “two of the loveliest people on planet earth” you mean not counting J and yourself I presume. Right?

  2. Be my guest.. lets begin at the box office,
    Repeat after me:
    forbidden the fishing, forbidden the swimming, always eat, between the heat! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment Mark – no friends in NI but do know of some of the amazing attractions for those who love being out and about, walking, exploring, etc. We seldom visit the UK these days, but you never know! 🙂

  3. Alan — You are making me think I should have done a post about my trip home to New England this summer. Like you, I am always pleased to see some of the old things that I love that I cannot find in Italy — like a Maine Lobster, crew boats on the Charles River, whales blowing their spouts off Cape Cod that you can see from the beach, great big hot fudge ice cream sundaes (yeah, basta with gelato), really good Indian and Thai curry (none of that availble in Rome, and public libraries. Of course there are plenty of negative things too and I am happy to get back home to Rome.

    1. Hi Trisha! There are a few things we really do miss (aside from family and friends) and right at the top of the list is good,English, bitter beer. Now, I know that that is something that is way outside of the experience of most North American natives and probably labels us as weird. That said, a good Indian curry was something we indulged in and I’d love to miss whales spouting off the beach – few sights are that impressive!

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