Smelling the Roses …

I finally started planting my garden last week.  Unfortunately for me this occurred in the midst of a heat and humidity wave that had me begging for the good old days of summers in the Valley (100 degrees on a good day).  I lovingly potted the beautiful new roses (which, in England, only require an occasional glance and a monthly howya doin’ to thrive like crazy) and carefully placed the dahlias.  Thrilling.  Strange how the littlest things can make you feel just a tiny bit more at home when you’re living in a foreign country.  Every morning when I look out my window and see those roses (growing madly) or walk up the front path and catch a glimpse of my dahlias happily nodding in the breeze, I feel just a little better, just a little more grounded and, oh I don’t know … here.

The roses actually gave me an opportunity to get to know another member of our neighborhood – the friendly earwig.  Only here I think they’re more often referred to as EARWIGS!!!!!  Because they’re huge.  I’m serious, here.  They’re frigging ridiculously enormous.  For example … picture a Volkswagen.  Now imagine that it’s actually an EARWIG!!!!!  There ya go.  Apparently these EARWIGS!!!!! are great fans of my roses.  I found this out the hard way when I went out to pick some for the house and one of those little (I mean HUGE) buggers literally jumped me from the midst of the petals.  (Now, Byron insists that the EARWIG!!!!! just fell to the ground and attempted to scurry away, more frightened than anything, but I know the truth.  It attacked.)  The moral of the story for me?  Wear gloves.

This weekend we threw in the towel on trying to appear like locals, and decided to go whole-hog touristy.  We jumped on a boat down the Thames to Hampton Court.  I thought it would be a good opportunity to see the area from a different perspective.  And what a perspective I got.  For the most part, the ride was interesting and fun.  The countryside on either side of the river was beautiful.  There are some huge homes, mixed in with little cottages, rolling wheat-colored fields and lush, green woods.  So there we were, enjoying our day out on the river, reveling in the wind on our face and the warm sun beating down when suddenly, our idyll was interrupted.  Here’s where my perspective got a little, shall we say, warped.

We were sitting out in the front area of a good-sized tourist (clearly) boat.  We were on the bench that wraps around the edge of the boat, facing the front, with people sitting both in front of and behind us.  So I’m peacefully enjoying the boat ride when the woman in front of me very deliberately shifts forward, points her bottom directly at me (less than 6 inches away – the boat was crowed – again, touristy) and … toots.  Or farts.  Or whatever the hell you’d like to call it.  The point is it happened.  In my face.  Deliberately.  And she wasn’t even fazed.  There was no acknowledgment, no “gee, I’m sorry I momentarily lost control of my bodily functions IN YOUR FACE”.  Nothing.  All I can say is thank goodness there was more of a wind than the one she created to help the situation.

I think it should be said that, as that incident was the high point of the boat ride, I won’t recommend it to visitors.  It’s fun and relaxing for about 10 minutes.  Then a woman farts in your face.  Then you just want to get there, already.

After thoroughly enjoying the interiors of Hampton Court – who doesn’t want to explore the history and drama of the English monarchy?!  and their kitchens?!  (oh, that’s right, Byron) – we hit the rose garden and the maze.  Where it was remarkably difficult to get lost, go figure.  At the end of the afternoon, we opted for the bus home (we were a little boated out) and, after a small but fiery I-really-need-to-pee-so-please-can-I-use-the-bus-stop-bathroom-no-you-may-not incident, we were on our way.  Back in town, we headed to the German beer gardens by the river and finished off a beautiful, sunny summer day with a nice bathroom, enormous beers and juicy bratwurst.  No better way.

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