I finally found them.
I had been looking in every store I passed for gloves. I promised myself not to buy a single thing until I found a good pair, because walking home holding a bag meant I couldn’t keep my hand in my pocket. It’s quite cold enough out there as it is. I’d seen several very nice leather pears now for upwards of £40 that I obviously had to pass on. I normally don’t mind paying a little more for quality, but that’s a lot more and gloves are an item I can never seem to hold on to. I finally bought a pair for £10, still more than I intended, but I felt like I was running out of options. Of course, the next 5 stores I walked into after that all carried cheaper gloves. That’s my luck.
I had ended up back in the Lanes today. My plan was actually to walk to the train station in back, so that tomorrow I’d know my way and how long it would take. Tomorrow I’m hopping a train to London, to spend the day with an American friend of mine named Jolie. She’s been living in London with her husband for the past few years.
But I had a very good reason for changing my plans, which I really wasn’t very excited about in the first place. The route is pretty straightforward and there’s not a lot to see between my house and the train station, it had just seemed like a thing to do. Anyway, I made a friend today. I explained earlier my crossing the street philosophy, and the result of it is that I’m essentially always crossing with other people. This one chap looked friendly enough, so while we were both crossing the street I struck up a conversation. His name is James. He’s actually from Spain, but both of his parents are English so his accent is British. (I’m still not actually if people here call their country Britain or England, or when to use which term, so I’m just making it up as I go). As it turns out, we’re both living on the same street now. He goes to the University of Sussex, so it was especially good I’d run into him. I’m visiting there on Monday, and had no idea that it was in a different town. James says it’s a pretty easy 20 minute buss ride.
He was headed to the cinema in the Lanes, one of the oldest movie houses in Britain and still operational. It’s also quite distinct in appearance…
Which left me wandering around the Lanes. Like I said, it’s the time of year that everything seems to be on sale. There were lots of cute places and as I said before, a lot of cute clothes. A lot of cute shoes. And a lot of great everything. It’s the artsier part of town. I found one shop that seemed to be made for my Mom and I. Everything in it seemed to have either a bird or a horse on it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have packed so much in the first place. I might have to get some real rainboots while I’m here. There are also lots of cute coffee shops, tea shops, little cafes and bakeries that I’d like to get around to trying. The best part is that most of the streets seem to be pedestrian only, so I can forget my intense fear of English traffic while I’m there.
It started to get darker and colder, but since I’d found gloves I wasn’t as worried about making it home by dark. I realized that I was pretty near Harry Ramsden’s, the place my roomie had recommended as the best Fish n’ Chips in town. I had definitely been in England far too long for not having tried any fish and chips yet, so I walked over. On the way, I started wondering if fish n chips in England was like barbeque in Kansas City–everyone has a different opinion on which one is better, and all turn out to be very different. It’s definitely something I don’t mind investigating over the next 5 months.
It was late for lunch by most standards (although certainly not mine or my Dad’s) and early for dinner, so I had the place almost completely to myself. Of course, I was sat next to the one other occupied table in the entire restaurant. It was really cute, but they were clearly not going to serve their fish wrapped in newspaper. That, along with the ketchup on the table, made me wonder if this wasn’t really the authentic experience. But I suppose they do have to cater to those darned American tourists, too, and this did have the ringing endorsement of some authentically British people.
It came down to the Haddock or the Cod for me, as those were the two most classic. At Aixois we prefer cod, but the waiter recommended Haddock so that it was. It came with the choice of garden peas or mushy peas. “What are mushy peas?” was about my 20th question by this point, but the waiter was very patient. “Well, they’re peas… that have been mushed.” I went with that. When in Rome…
When my food came, I’d completely forgotten about the mushy peas conversation and had no idea what that green stuff was on my plate. Was it guacamole? Had I somehow accidentally ordered some kind of Tex Mex fish n chips? Was it for dipping? Would I look like an idiot if I started dipping my fish n chips in it and it wasn’t for dipping? What else could it be for? At the last moment before plunging one of my fries deep into the mysterious green goop, it dawned on me. Mushy peas! Got it. Everything was delicious. I ate my fries with malt vinegar. About half way through I really wanted something sweeter and the ketchup began to sound very tempting, but I was determined to do this the proper British way.
As you can tell, I didn’t like it at all. I think I’m going to have to go back though, and give it another try… just to be sure. 😉
I sat facing the window, with a nice view of traffic and the Brighton Pier, watching the sky grow dimmer. I decided to have coffee and dessert, to give myself as much time to soak in the warmth before the long cold walk home. The temperature seems to fall fast around here, and unfortunately it was pretty cold inside Harry Ramsden’s. They serve their cheesecake here with cream–not whipped cream, just cream cream. It was an interesting combination of textures, and made the cheesecake seem almost soupy for a second each time you took a bite. It was pretty delicious, but more than I could eat after that enormous lunch. (“Do you want standard or large?” the waiter had asked me when I ordered the fish n chips. Ha! Is there a small?) Fortified by my coffee and armed with my trust gloves, I made the walk home.
So today was a very good day… and tomorrow is London, if I can find the train station.