Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stokenham: First Impressions

     Stokenham, England: 

     You arrive at the train station, alongside your boyfriend who, absurdly, has brought you here to England. Foreign, yes. Beautiful, yes. Grateful, absolutely. But who would have ever thought? The train pulls up to a rickety station that looks salted with rain for the past, oh, five hundred years or so. You have seen more train stations in the past six weeks than in the past twenty-four years of your entire life. Before England you had never even stepped foot on a train. Now they are one of your primary methods of transportation. The other being by foot. But Stokenham, where his parents live, is far too great a distance to walk. So, the train. 
     Quickly, you gather your things alongside a handful or two of other passengers. You note, subconsciously, the garbled words of the train driver as he comes over the intercom speakers, mentioning something about a farther distanced location in the next few minutes or so. You don't really pay attention. Once you've grabbed all of your things you bustle (politely) off of the train. English people are strangely polite, and when you'd first arrived, you thought they were aloof, pompous, assholes - when really they were simply raised to mind their own damn business. Your friend, who had been here before, had to let you in on that secret. Otherwise, you would have likely gone the entire trip thinking "assholes" every time one of them passed you. Just out of spite. 
     You are greeted warmly by the kind smiles of his parents, who are, undoubtedly, lovely people. His father swiftly packs up the car in the spitting rain as the rest of you file into the car and then you drive off. 
     "I hate trying to get out of this station," his mother remarks, and soon, when you come upon the odd, noodle-y roads, you see why. You quickly note to yourself that, unless you have a baby, you will NEVER drive in England. The roads are far too difficult to maneuver for an American driver. At least that's what your anxiety riddled mind has decided for now. The thought floats away, though, once you see the rolling, patchwork-quilted hills, speckled with small white sheep. You fall in love instantly. In the background you can see the faintest glittering of the sea. You fell in love with the Sea in Paignton, which, he said was part of the original English Rivera. You had made a mental note of that because 1.) it sounded impressive and 2.) it sounded old and you, being yourself, love old things. The older, the better. 
     You drive deeper inland and find you are lost and don't know which way is up for the strange brush that towers above you. Something about vikings, his father says. They all make small talk amongst themselves but you are lost in a fairytale in your head and thoroughly enjoying watching it blossom into a tangible product before your eyes. You somehow feel as though you've been ripped from the hell that is your home in America and plopped, quite softly, in this delicate, pillowy place, suspended in a time that you can't quite put your finger on. 
     You drive around a corner and are greeted by a cheerful, pink house with a slate grey roof. To your immediate left is a large, old barn that you later come to find was initially for horses, but is now for storage. In front of it sit several dozen pots of various flowers and vegetables producing their last harvest in the final weeks of October. His mother mentions something about courgettes that had been overlooked and makes you all promise to remind her to collect them later. You climb out of the car, noting the scent of farmland and seaside, and look at the various trees, plants, flowers, etc. Just to the right of the barn is a path leading to the garden. The garden is enormous and reminds you of Beatrix Potters' fairy tales of Mr. McGregor's garden, complete with more flowers, apple trees, vegetable plants on their last legs, corn in the very back, and other odd flowers that you don't know anything about. You fall in love with it instantly. It's wild, relaxing in its unkempt beauty, and positively glorious. 
     To your right is the front yard, spare and neat. Bushes and flowers, but not as many as the garden reside here. You love the spacious feel of it in comparison to the gardens lushness. You will, one night, walk out with your Love and smile up at the sky to see a giant spill of stars above you. You will never see that many stars back home. The milky way is so vast and grand you could almost reach out and touch it with your fingers, swirl them in it's whiteness, and then lick the cosmos off of your fingertips. It will remain in constant battle for your heart along with the Sea. You don't think it's a war that will ever be properly won. 
     You collect your things and walk down the old, stone steps to the conservatory. No one you know back home has a conservatory. This one is special, though. You walk inside, it smells like apples and plant remains. Like earth-caked, rubber Wellingtons. You note that it is completely glass and that there is a beautifully spread white table set to your left and a shoe rack to your right. It holds hiking boots and wellies and strange socks and plastic bags. When you glance outside your breath is taken right out of you, for you can see glorious rolling hills for miles and miles. In the distance is a deep, blue haze that his mother says is the sea - but you can't see it for the rain. It will, as you will come to note, do that. When clear days come and there are only a few clouds in the sky - you will be able to see clearly, the white-tipped waves lapping on the surface of the water. Then on days when it's rainy and cool, the only thing you will see is a blue blur in the background and it will force you to focus on the gorgeous, patchwork hills that roll forever and ever. 
     They mention that England is not putting its best foot forward what with the rain and all - but you have no idea what they're talking about. You will never figure it out, not for the life of you. You have never seen anything so fabulous and you may never again - but who cares? You got to see it! You will, one day, sit out on that white table set and type about the house that you grow to be very fond of with it's sheep and flowers and unique smells and beautiful people. Or at least - the outside of it...and you will leave the inside for another day... 

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