far too much writing, far too many photos

Back in Madrid after 8 nights in the U.K. A few thoughts and observations in the wake of the journey back:

Sitting in a café off Oxford Street yesterday morning. A place run by extremely nice Italian folks. At the table next to mine, two suits sat working on coffee, a morning scene I´m used to from here in Madrid. One major difference: instead of chatting over coffee as they do here, these two were bent over their cellphones, reading and sending messages, surfacing now and then to glance at the telly (an Italian channel showing music videos and the occasional brief newsbreak) or making comments about attractive women passing outside.

Headlines seen during this last stay in England:
“Christmas Comes Every Day For Tragic Teenager”
“He’s Not Out Of The Woods Yet”
(That last one referred to guess which professional golfer, currently the subject of a whole lot of gleeful gossip by virtually every newspaper — tabloid and otherwise — I saw in and out of London during the last few days.)

I’m not sure streets and sidewalks ever completely dried out during my eight days on that big island, even during lovely spells of sunshine. When I disappeared into the Undergound in Marble Arch yesterday at the start of the journey out to Heathrow, wan sunshine fell. When I arrived at the airport, that had changed to rain, heavy enough to delay takeoff by 15 or 20 minutes.

The security routine travelers are funneled through in Heathrow is organized and intense, with a boarding pass checkpoint at the beginning and at the end. When one totters out from all that, overwhelmed and a bit off balance, they get released directly into a bright, orderly, extensive shopping area instead of hallways leading to gates and stores. Designed to maximize the possibility of hoovering money from the pockets of travelers before they board a plane and get out of there. Diabolical.

Stepping into an Iberia Airlines plane to find the inboard music cranked and playing loudly, a woman singing ‘Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?’

During the flight to England eight days back, the plane featured rows spread comfortably apart, leaving plenty of leg and body room for us paying customers (making me wonder if they only packed the seats closely together on flights to and from the States). Yesterday’s flight made up for that, the rows so tightly arranged that I could barely make it into my window seat. A tall, business-suited Englishman sat ahead of me, me dreading the moment that he tilted his seat back, wiping out the teeny bit of space left to me. Happily, he never did that, for which I gave silent, repeated thanks. (Seriously — thank you, unknown businessdude. Your consideration was deeply appreciated.)

The lights from homes and streetlamps that shone softly through the rain when we took off looked like enormous displays of Christmas lights, stretching off into the darkness. The flow of headlights along curved main roads moved between all that, looking far more quiet and gentle from the air than their reality on the ground, I’m sure.

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Life underground, London:

España, te amo

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