Friday, July 30, 2010

In Colchester - Or my hunt for Blyton's England

Retina fatigue waiting for you in Colchester
Sid & I discovered the ugliest garden of England in Colchester a couple of weekends ago. I mean, sure, purple, yellow, blood red, pink, and white are lovely colours individually. But together in close vicinity – under the sharp summer sun – and in strange geometrical combinations...uhhmm.. not such a great idea.

Of course, that leads us to the question, what were Sid and I doing in Colchester – a little townlet (as I call it) in Essex – anyway?

We were in Colchester to in pursuit of Enid Blyton’s England that had me so obsessed as a child. I read my first Blyton in fourth grade – it was one of the Secret Seven series – and was hooked. I polished off secret sevens, famous fives, five find-outers and whatever else that came with Blyton’s name on top and little English boys, girls and dogs inside: cycling, swimming, camping, caravanning, having adventures and eating exotic things like lemon tarts & macaroons.

Now, you have to be a shy 8-year-old in a godforsaken coal town called Dhanbad in India to understand why their macaroon-fed, adventure-filled, nature-soaked lives would have me so overwhelmed. The only adventure my sisters and I ever got in Dhanbad was taking the school bus (which considering the frightening state of the bus, the road, the traffic and the coal dust-filled air should have been enough).

And thus I arrived in England with visions of cream teas, jam tarts, seacoasts, town-squares, butcher shops, constables on their bicycles and lots and lots of little sun-browned English kids running about busily solving mysteries. Imagine my horror to find it filled with Starbucks, kebab shops, Tescos, Arabs at Harrods, Katie Price, and fat English girls stuffing themselves at McDonalds instead.

But I wasn't to be vanquished that easily. In search of Blyton's England, Sid and I started touring around UK in buses, trains and cars - stopping at quaint-sounding towns and villages.

No, I haven’t found my Julian, Dick, Anne, George, Timmy & Kirrin Island yet, but I am glad for my trips. And yes, Tesco and Katie Price-inspired fashion still rules. But hidden in the din, I also did find myself sipping cream tea on a rainy afternoon in Carlisle; or sharing thoughts with a farmer's wife in her B&B in Haltwhistle in Cumbria; or watching ponies peacefull graze by the side of the roads in gorgeous New Forest; or walking along the wind-swept, bleak coastline of the fishing village of Blakeney chomping on the best crayfish sandwich, I ever had; a or lazing about in a hidden sunny seabeach just outside of Swansea; and of course, the coming face-to-face with the ugliest garden of England in Colchester.

Blyton's England or not, the visits were totally worth it.

Nostalgia trip

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