Friday, July 30, 2010

The UK files - Familiarity

For me, one of the special things about visiting the UK, as opposed to any other country, is the immense familiarity with the place-names. I've come across these places in ever so many books, and it feels fabulous to see it in person.

On the South-Western rail from Reading to London, I saw Ascot station. How many books, how many movies talk about the races in Ascot! In the Wimbledon and Greenwich stations, I actually stood a while looking at the "Welcome to Wimbledon" and "Welcome to Greenwich" boards with a thrill creeping down my spine, thinking, "I'm actually here."

The London tube map looks like a concise Sherlock Holmes. I knew the names of most of the station thanks to Holmes' habits. Charing cross, Kensington, Brompton, Tottenham Court Road, Clapham Junction - and from innumerable movies, Covent garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly - all of them are as familiar to me as if they are neighbouring streets.

Driving across the country, I saw exits to places like Manchester and Liverpool, and arrows to lesser known, but yet familiar towns and shires that are sprinkled all over English literature.

Last month, I was reading a Wodehouse when one of the characters walked from Piccadilly to Hyde Park Corner, and I could actually see him do that - I knew the route he took, the roads he crossed - it made the book even more interesting. More exciting was the mention of Twickenham, a station we passed on the way from Reading to London.

At every corner in London, there was something I recognized. "Scotland Yard", said a board in London, "Downing street", pointed another arrow - I know I'm rambling, but I don't know what that peculiar feeling is - that excitement when you see something that you've never seen before, but is so familiar to you! Has it happened to you?

It is priceless.

Next: Garden centre


Arundhati said...

I know exactly what you mean, I felt the same! The other thing was when I read Enid Blyton as a kid I'd always assumed that the books were set in imaginary places - there couldn't really be so much greenery, caves, cliffs, farms, moors, cycling paths, lovely old houses... could there? It was a wonderful feeling to know that yes all these exist :) Not so lovely when I realised hot cross buns aren't as great as they sound!

praneshachar said...

its wonderful when you link the names so familiar to you thro books and movies. absolutely u feel delighted. you have got great way of presenting have great great time and great works from you pen and brain

sandhya said...

With you every step of the way. Enid Blyton had lived a stone's throw from Maidenhead, in Bourne End.
And do you know that the walls of the station at Baker Street have been covered with tiny tiles bearing the profile of Jeremy Brett, the most famous Holmes?

Viky said...

It's a pity there's no real Malgudi for us to visit.

But then again, it's a good thing, because I'm not sure we would have let Malgudi alone.

Manish'sMom said...

:)))))))) Et Tu Brutus?

Shruthi said...

Arundhati, I know exactly what you mean! And LOLing at hot cross buns. Glad you told me that - They were on my wishlist, now I can safely strike that out.

PRaneshachar, thank you!

Sandhya, those are very interesting titbits! Didn't know either fact. I've passed through Baker Street station (I've even gotten down there I think), but didn't observe that.

Viky, good point! But Malgudi is supposed to be based on Mysore.... and the name supposedly is a combination of Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi... so.....

Manish's mom, heh heh - notch up one more similarity!

Anu said...

oh, I agree with you totally! Simply loved London when I was there for the very same reason, it all felt so familiar and I was reminded so much of the books and the joy they had brought me - the joy seemed complete then!

starry eyed said...

I felt that thrill go down my spine when we lived in Atlanta and visited the CDC where so many of Robin Cook's books were based...all those epidemics! People were wondering why the heck I was looking so very excited there!

I'd love to visit UK too and see all these places! And Canada, Prince Edward Island where my heroine Anne of Green Gables lived.

Sigh! You lucky thing.

@sandhya: Maidenhead reminds me of one of the advnetures of the Five Findouters...a chit with Maidenhead written on it was one of the clues!

Shruthi said...

Anu, exactly! Didn't something click in your brain just as it all fell into place? :)

Starry, LOL!! But wow, that must've been fun! Oh yes, LM Montgomery makes PE Island sound like heaven on earth.

Nerisha said...

Have recently returned from the UK myself and have experienced exactly what you have written about- especially visiting Kings Cross Station and Leceister Square.

Just wanted to add that its not just the UK that i experienced te same feeling. when i visited India for the first time- it was so familiar to us. It was wonderful to actually experience Marine Parade, Victoria Terminal etc which we became familiar through books and movies.

- -