Sunday, July 12, 2009

First Impressions

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Having more or less given up on finding a flat in Ormskirk, we decided to try Southport today.

Well, we briefly entertained the idea of buying a canal boat instead. This part of England is laced with canals, which during the Industrial Revolution were the principle means of transporting goods to consumers. Nowadays they are for recreation, and some people live on them. Canal boats are narrow, sometimes called “narrowboats”, in order to pass each other in the canals, and are low, to fit under the bridges, and are long, presumably to make up for the tightness of the other two dimensions.

But it only took us a minute or two to reject the idea of living on a narrowboat. There’s too much to learn, starting with its maintenance and repair.

Instead, we walked to Lord Street and into the office of Entwistle Green, where we met Carolyn, a young lady with enormous blue eyes, very blonde hair, a sweet smile, and gracious professionalism. When she asked our price range, I told her, adding, “And that’s our problem.”

“No problem!” she said. “We have lots of properties in that range.”

She brought them up on her computer screen, and we went down the list, choosing 7 or 8 that piqued our interest. She suggested we come back in the afternoon, to give her time to set up appointments for viewings.

We agreed, and went back down Lord Street a way to a bookstore, where we bought a booklet of maps of the area. Armed with the map of Southport and the sheaf of papers about each property, we went to a café, ordered coffee and tea, and plotted the places on our new map.

Then we walked – and walked, and walked and walked! – to see the outsides of these flats. Not that Carolyn had requested this of us, but we had nothing better to do, and sometimes one can rule out a property just from seeing such things as what’s next to it, and whether the exterior has been well-kept, whether the gardens look tidy, and so forth.

Late in the afternoon, we went back to Entwistle Green, where Carolyn presented us a list of appointments, including the names of the people we were to meet.

Nothing more to do for today.

Meanwhile, here are a few first impressions of this area:

• First and foremost, we are still overwhelmed by the kindness of the people! We are actually glad of the difficulties we had, because without them, we might never have discovered this treasure. We value the human kindness far more than we regret the circumstances.

• Some things are better in England than in America. “Porridge,” for example, is better than “oatmeal” even though they are purportedly the same thing. Milk here seems creamier than whole milk in the U.S. And of course, the English have clotted cream!!!! (It’s made from unpasteurized milk, which is hard if not impossible to find in the United States.)

• The babies here are incredibly beautiful. Oddly enough, it does not appear that they grow up to be any more beautiful than anyone else (Christopher Orr being a notable exception) but as babies, they are the cutest! And as this is a holiday resort for young families, we’ve seen dozens of babies already.

• The accent here is delightful! Everybody sounds like the Beatles – well, in speech, at least. They call you “love” or “mate”.

• Things here are orderly and tidy.

• I’m going to have to learn a lot of vocabulary. For starters, “zed” instead of “zee” and “naught” instead of “zero”. Then of course there’s “trolley” instead of “cart” and “lorrie” instead of “truck” and “lift” instead of “elevator”. And then there’s the sign we saw: “Pedestrians beware of rising bollards.”



We had a delicious moment or two speculating upon what rising bollards might be. We came nowhere close.

A bollard is a barrier post. It’s usually one of a series of posts, put there to keep traffic out of an alley or pedestrian walkway. Well, some of the ones in downtown Southport are retractable in case an ambulance or fire engine needs to pass that way. They sink into the ground and a cover flap drops over the hole. After the emergency vehicle leaves, somebody presses a button and the bollards slowly rise up again out of the ground. You don’t want to be standing on one when this happens.

We learned this from some woman sitting on a park bench, of whom we enquired. She looked an ordinary woman, so we presume “bollard” is a word any ordinary Englishman knows. Here's a picture of a retracted bollard. (Only one needs to be retractable to let a vehicle through.)


Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

The UK is just as crazy as Greece but in a different way !
I am so glad you are having fun and that you have found your bank.....

123 said...

From the experience of many, many Merseyside cousins, I agree re English children - they are the most beautiful, but then grow up rather awkwardly.

I'm also half American and grew up here rather than over yonder, so...