Down the Road a Piece

By MILT GROSS | Jan 20, 2013

Those English tales

A few days ago on my bus rode a woman from England, who lives in Bar Harbor. She had just returned from visiting her relatives in England.

Her story was kind of interesting. Basically, she had moved to the U.S. to work for some company. Then she had moved to Bar Harbor for the same reason, and while there, she met an older woman and they became friends.

Then a month ago she went to England to visit her family. She missed our good January cold snap and most of last week’s January Thaw. And her friend in Bar Harbor died while she was in England.

Not a good month, except she was glad to be back “home,” even though “home” is actually far from her former home.

She told me some things about England that were enjoyable to hear. For instance, the British have a great public transportation system. And the British love to walk.

They’re probably healthier than our American cohorts, who drive everywhere -- nearly everywhere -- and don’t like to walk. Except those who hike. If hiking counts as walking, hikers like to walk.

She also told me that the cars in England are almost all tiny, with great gas mileage. Some of ours are too, but there are still far too many gas guzzlers spewing their way down our highways.

Except for some Toyotas, some Hondas, some hybrids, a very few electric cars, and a few others I’m sure I’ve missed.

Our daughter attended a year’s college somewhere in England. I forget where, partly because I’ve been 29.5 long enough to be allowed to forget a few things -- such as hanging my clothes up at night so Dolores has to do it. And some other stuff, which I forget.

When she returned to Maine, she attempted to get her driver’s license. But she failed the test the first time she took it. She also failed the second try.

“Dad,” she told me, “if I fail it a third time, I’m moving to England.”

She loved the abundant public transportation there.

We once knew a young English maiden (young woman but maiden sounds pretty literary), who was working as a housekeeper for a couple we knew. We took a trip to Pennsylvania to visit our relatives, who hadn’t yet become savvy enough to move to Maine. We took the young English maiden with us, so she could see more of America than western Maine.

During the trip, she, whose name was Marion, accompanied us on a train ride to Philadelphia, where there is a station about every mile. At each station, a trainman would enter the front of the coach and announce the next stop, usually two or three times saying the name of the station.

As we approached a station named Merion, the trainman entered the front of the car to make that announcement. We were sitting in the rear of the coach.

“Merion, Merion,” the trainman hollered.

At that, Marion jumped up and shouted, “Here I am!”

Some of our favorite situation comedies on TV are English. We have more fun watching “The Vicar,” “As Time Goes By,” and others than any of those American shows, such as....well, we do watch a couple. But, you know what happens to your memory when you’re on the far side of 29.5.

My mother was of English and Scottish descent, but the only story about she ever told me was that some long-gone ancestor had been a lady in waiting. I was a boy when she told me this, and I was never quite sure for what the lady was waiting. As an older boy, I’m still not.

But we had wealthy relatives in Maryland, who decided to visit England and check on our ancestors -- maybe including the lady who had been waiting. They left for their trip, and our family waited to learn the results.

The result was these wealthy relatives visited a graveyard in England.

They then packed up, returned home without telling any of the family what they learned, and eventually they passed on, presumable to wherever those ancestors had landed.

Since in my doting retirement years, I drive a bus to pay the bills while I dabble in writing, I have wondered.

Was that ancestor resting in the graveyard a horse thief? A bus thief? A writing-idea thief?

And did he -- or she -- write for online papers?

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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