Travel does broaden the mind, and if broadening your mind is something for you, nothing works better than a road trip. One day, you may wake up in a container in Cornwall, then walk through a rain forest biome in the Eden Project, take a left turn and find a wonderful inn, visit King Arthur’s Tintangel, and end the day at Grittleton. Or, maybe you wake up in Grittleton, drive to see the Stonehenge in the morning, and then have lunch at Bath, and dinner at Grittleton’s Neeld Arms.
Basically, you just learn things.
In my case, I’ve learned that one does get used to driving on the left side of the road but also that it does take some brain power. I noticed that early on, while driving on the left, and handling the stick with my left hand, my brain began to mix different languages. In short, my mouth was writing checks my brain couldn’t cash. But, things are better now, and I can get myself understood in several languages again.
On this trip, I have learned – for example – that …
… George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” is the best-selling solo release by a Beatle and that George made a cameo in Life of Brian (and looks like he’s about to burst into laughter any second).
… the automatic speed control signs in the UK are the same as in Finland.
… Engels sent Marx two halves of a five-pound note every two weeks, one half at a time, to keep them from disappearing in the mail, that was most likely opened and read before it reached Marx.
… Poirot would never have walked from the Torquay downtown to the Imperial Hotel. It’s quite a steep uphill, he would have hitched a ride with Hastings.
… Brits like books and theatre, and festivals. A lot. Every village has a festival.
… Banksy is from Bristol, where you can sit behind the science museum and watch Wimbledon.
… Stonehenge wasn’t built by druids and that it did survive the Griswolds visit (as well as ours).
… Araf means “slow” in Welsh.
… You shouldn’t talk politics in a fudge shop, especially if you work in one. (I saw a note taped onto the inside of a fudge store counter in Edinburgh.)
… In 1835, you could travel from Manchester to Liverpool in an hour, by train. We drove the same distance in 80 minutes.
… in England (and in Wales and Scotland), the baristas always put chocolate on your cappuccino.
… Glasgow is the fourth largest city in the UK, behind London, Birmingham, and Leeds.
The last bit comes from Wife, as do many other things I’ve learned (but didn’t list above). As my co-pilot, she’s in charge of navigation and fact-checking, and since my brain has been overworked by the different traffic circumstances, I can safely say that we wouldn’t be in Edinburgh today without her. (We’d still be in a roundabout in Brighton).
She rattles off facts as we drive and makes interesting comments. While we haven’t had a very detailed plan on this trip she keeps the rest of us educated, but that’s not surprising. She’s like that.
The best part is that I’m still impressed by her. Every day she say something that makes me think, or opens my eyes on something I haven’t even thought about.
In Manchester, we visited the Museum of Science and Industry, and while Son and Daughter went to do experiments, we walked though the textile industry section of the museum. I may have thought it as slightly boring, especially towards the end so I leaned against a rail, looking over the spinning mules when Wife caught up with me and read the caption in front of us.
“In 1779, Samuel Crompton’s spinning mule revolutionized the cotton industry … most common textile in Lancashire,” it said.
Wife read it and when she got to the part about Lancashire, she stopped reading.
“Huh,” she said, “do you think that’s why yarn is called “lanka” in Finnish?”
You could have knocked me over with a feather. Now, I don’t know if that’s the etymology of the word in Finnish, but the fact that she came up with that theory right there was enough for me to buy it. It makes sense. Finns were probably still wearing wooden shoes and caps in the late 18th century, and when a Swedish trader guy showed up in Turku with some of that Lancashire’s finest with him, surely the Finns started use Lancashire for all yarn, and then just shortened it to “lanka” because Finns shorten everything.
Somewhere in her beautiful mind, Wife – not a native Finnish speaker – had the pieces to put all that together.
Yesterday at breakfast, Daughter asked me if she could put Nutella on her toast. I told her to ask Wife.
“Why?” she asked me.
“‘Cause Mom’s the boss,” Wife said.
“That’s right,” I said.
“Why?” asked Daughter.
“Because I’m so wise,” Wife said.
And I learned that we all agree on that, too.