Thursday, June 25, 2009

Postcard from the Pendolino

I've been a regular on the train between Birmingham and London recently. The Pendolino cuts a high-speed slice through the middle of England, leaning as it rounds the bends. Should I attempt to read, the velocity and jolting make me nauseous. So I gaze out the window at the glimpses of life the panoramic windows display, the soundtrack from the wheels a white noise pitched just too high to ignore.

Anglers drop their lines into lakes, horses and their riders cut across fields and canal boat dwellers take a more sedate journey through the countryside. Into towns, and the land by the tracks is shared between industrial units and housing crammed in painfully close to the rails. A few moments, and I'm back in the country where a Land Rover is mobbed by sheep looking for lunch. Makes more sense than the craziness of car parks – empty, but for one car parked just off centre.
The stations we don't stop for pass in a blur of lights and platforms where solitary passengers are left standing for the next train. Then my field of vision adjusts to widescreen once again as the foreground detail becomes irrelevant compared to the deep vista of woods and hills. Until the buildings appear again and we zoom past factories with advertising claims: you have to go a long, long way to bake a better biscuit. Perhaps a little further than Watford Junction.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Postcard from the parlour

Sunny afternoons in Britain aren't complete until you've heard the chimes of the ice cream van. The discordant rendition of 'Greensleeves' is a more welcome soundtrack to summer than drumbeats leaking from the open windows of passing cars.

My problem is that a Mr Whippy-style dollop into a cone made of crunchy air cannot satisfy the Pavlovian craving the music triggers. Not even if you stick a Flake in it.

I'm certain there's a gap in the market for quality ice cream parlours in the suburbs. I'd love to be able to wander down the road and choose from a range of delicious flavours as I did in the tiny ice cream parlour in Spain, pictured above.
I selected creamy coffee (and a pink spoon), my companion chose decadently rich chocolate (and a blue spoon) – gender stereotypes are alive and well! The gelato texture was heavy and smooth, the flavours intense. My only disappointment was that they weren't playing 'Greensleeves'.