This last week started with the Queen’s Jubilee, which was a quintessentially British occasion. First the flotilla, which was a ‘first in hundreds of years occasion’ and yet was predictably marred by winds, rain and mist – or what Jon Stewart called “what passes for June in the UK.” I must admit that I found myself tearing up a little at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra valiantly singing “Land of Hope and Glory” to an old lady in a funny hat while getting soaked like drowned rats. There was just something so English about that whole scene – totally ridiculous but completely endearing (to me at least). That’s not the last time I teared up this week but more about that later. Then there was “the concert” which was a mish-mash of the terrible, the grotesque and the just plain out of tune. How the Queen tolerated it, I have no idea. Thank God for Peter Kay (so funny to see the two young Princes laughing as hard as I do at Peter Kay)
But we can’t celebrate the longevity of a random old lady forever, so by Wednesday it was back to work and my first foray into the NHS. I had registered with a doctor the Friday previously and after 22 years away, I wondered if they would give me any grief about rejoining the free national health care system. “Call after the holiday,” the receptionist said, “and we’ll have you registered. You’ll be able to book an appointment with a doctor at that point.”
Ha, I thought. I’ve heard all about you lot on the American news shows. Your Marxist bureaucracy will be a nightmare. I will be lucky if I make it out of this alive.
But, come Wednesday morning I called, fully expecting to be told “we’ve never heard of you.” Instead the lady said “ah yes, would you like to come in this afternoon?” Um, OK. I’m used to waiting two weeks to see Dr Rabadi in Bronxville, but I suppose today will do.
Without boring you with the details, I’ll just say: Where America does better: nicer carpeting and magazines and a TV in the waiting room. Where the UK does better: Only waited 15 minutes instead of upwards of 90; got 3 times the number of migraine tablets per month than my US insurer allowed me; only had to pay £7; got authorised repeats until September with no required office visit; and got the brand name that works rather than the generic that is less effective but cheaper. Oh and I did make it out alive 🙂
Wacky Local Event!
Next came the Great Knaresborough Bed Race. Ever since we arrived back home and landed temporarily in Knaresborough, we had seen teams of people running along pushing metal carts and urging each other to go faster, Preliminary investigations revealed that every year for the last 40 years, Knaresborough has held a charity event called “The Great Knaresborough Bed Race.”
I can’t explain this other than to say many small English towns have similar weird traditions and we all just accept it and get on with things. Not only do we accept it but we embrace it. It seemed like the whole town had come out for the bed race – normally sleepy streets were suddenly packed with people, the trains were standing room only, and there were bouncers outside the pubs as though we were in Manhattan rather than a quiet and quaint town in the north of England.
And this was the second time I teared up this weekend. See, old friends of ours had come to stay, so we took them to the race. I was already feeling that warm glow of being with people you’ve known and liked for a long time, plus we had drinks from the local pub which always helps, and then the race started and I just suddenly felt my eyes welling up. Because to see so many people coming out and having a good time, cheering and laughing, just because beds were racing by … it was far more British than the Jubilee flotilla and just another of those wonderful “I’m really home!” moments.
Here’s a very short video I took of a few beds whizzing by:
And finally, this morning, still buzzing from the race excitement, we decided to take Dave and Deb for breakfast at Betty’s tea rooms. Betty’s is a true Yorkshire legend, having opened its first branch (the one we went to) in 1924.
To this day they serve traditional British food complete with silver teapots and lace doilies and waitresses in black and white aprons.
The food was to die for and the cakes Dave bought to take home were even better.
Have I mentioned that I’m glad to be home?