The first time I …
Saw England from the air, like a small, precious model.
Took a taxi, one of the old, black ones.
Encountered one of London’s old tube station escalators: sides and treads of varnished wood—and fast! Like something out of a Harry Potter book. The last one was replaced several years ago.
Discovered that fish and chips came in different varieties: plaice and chips, sole and chips, haddock and chips, and all of them delicious.
Tried to use an English pay phone. Required manual dexterity and split-second timing.
Saw the medieval kitchen at Arundel Castle. It gave me a new insight into what it meant to prepare a medieval meal.
In the British Museum cafeteria, the tea was hot and strong and the cups were lined up, all of them with milk in them, before the tea was poured.
Contrary to myth, the English we met were very friendly. Maybe it’s different in the aristocracy.
Found that ladies like Miss Marple actually exist (presumably minus the crime-solving) aboard the Flying Scotsman, where we shared a compartment (just like in the old movies) with three white-haired Scots ladies in tweed suits who were going home after a shopping trip. They were amused to see us gaping at the old towers that seem to be sprinkled all over the Borders.
The cheese sandwiches on Brit Rail were identical to American cheese sandwiches, but it was possible to buy shortbread, which made up for it.
All of this was in the 1970s. At the time, everything I knew about England came from reading English novels—and 99% of it was true. The only thing that had changed was that it was no longer possible to stash one’s baggage in the Left Luggage office at the train station. Because of bombs, you know.
I’m sure much has changed, some of it for the better (the phones, maybe?). But I’m glad I experienced England while it still resembled the England of Dorothy Sayers, Marjory Allingham, Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, Manning Coles and others.