A Brave New Adventure

on Thursday, November 26, 2009

Unrecognisable Hugh Laurie

Half a lifetime ago, I spent 5 years in the British Isles; three of those years as a poor University student in London and apart from a short stopover, I have not been back to visit for 20 years. Very shortly, I will be making that trip and I will be meeting up with old friends for the very first time since.

I am excited and a little apprehensive at what I will find. I already know that at least one of my old haunts have fallen under the wheels of progress and the relentless march of time. Will old memories come flooding back or will I find I no longer have a connection with this great city.

The London and indeed the Britain I knew must be quite different from what they are today. Mine was a Britain under the iron rule of Margaret Thatcher; a Britain where the fish and chippie shop was still common place; a country that still faced the problem of terrorist attacks from the IRA (I was nearby when bombs went off outside Harrod's Department Store); a country whose Queen was almost uniformly respected and adored; a country that fought a risky but (most people would agree) justified war for the Falklands; and finally, a country where Hugh Laurie played the straight-laced and proper mommy's boy sidekick to Rowan Atkinson in the Black Adder TV series.

Today, the time of Thatcher is like a distant memory. The fish and chip shop has been largely replaced by curry and rice shops. Thankfully, there is hope of a lasting peace in Ireland but London has been attacked by Islamic terrorists instead. The once unsullied Queen has suffered much bad publicity over her relationship with Princess Diana. Today, a commission is investigating the reasons why Tony Blair's government committed the country to an unpopular and possibly unjustified war in Iraq. And Hugh Laurie is almost unrecognisable as the caustic and cankerous Doctor House in the American TV series.

I have not seen the Millennium Bridge (or indeed any of the Millennium projects), the Princess Diana memorial, the London Eye, the Gerkhin etc. I'm hoping the old open air market in Fulham is still there. I'm hoping the kebab place near Golder's Green tube station still sells the best kebabs ever. I'm hoping to visit my old University residence and find it largely unchanged. I'm hoping Somerset Cider is as delicious as I remember it. I'm hoping that U.K. food standards have improved!

Most of all, I am hoping my old friendships will pick up where we left off some twenty years ago. Wish me luck.

31 comments:

Joyce's Ramblings said...

A chance to see old friends and places is something to renew old memories. The fear of it going wrong is covered by the little joys you may get out of it. Memories are like a blanket on a cold night-its still cold but you are warm. Go and enjoy. I'll be waiting for the post with lots of good tales.

J said...

Trust me, where I live the chippie is still thriving - along with myriad chinese and indians!

Lorac said...

Going back can be hard but I would think well worth the trip if for nothing more than to answer all your Questions!

Molly said...

Were you a fan of the Black Adder series? We loved that show here! I think Baldrick was my favourite character.....Best wishes on you trip. I'm sure, even if some things are not the same you'll find new things to love about Jolly Olde Englande!

Jo said...

Oh, gosh, LGS, I hope you have a wonderful time, but I think you should expect some changes. Didn't they get rid of the double decker buses too?

And Hugh Laurie has always been one of my favorite actors. Did you ever see him with Stephen Fry in the Jeeves and Wooster series? Stephen Fry was in Black Adder too.

Now they have taken Hugh Laurie, stripped him of his British accent, stripped him of his sense of humor, and are paying him a LOT of money to be obnoxious. I want the old Hugh Laurie back.

Oh, goodness, yes, things change!

jmb said...

I lived in London for two years almost fifty years ago and I too have never been back. I don't quite know why, but I always prefer to go to the Continent as I feel as if I saw everything when I lived there but still feel as if there is lots to explore in Europe.

Have a wonderful trip and I am sure you will enjoy catching up with your friends again.

Ruth W. said...

I love London and have been there several times, times do change but I always go for the history, that will never change.

Enjoy your stay

Marja said...

I know were the fish and chios shops are They all moved to new zealand. Oh I loved London I went there for a long weekend also long time ago. From there we also went by train to Oxford I hope you have a great time LGS

Grace said...

Hugh Laurie is AMAZING in HOUSE and also very funny. I don't know why you seem to resent the fact that he is doing an American show with an American accent. He does the accent so very well...you should be pleased for him. He is now beloved all over the world... and is making the kind of money he deserves. We don't resent the British, why do you resent the Americans?
Anyway, I ADORE Hugh Laurie and am very thankful that I got to meet him. I never would have if he had not left London for a bit. He'll be home again and we will miss him dearly.

the walking man said...

Reunions are neither as good nor as bad as one may look forward to but I say go with a mind to the present and and eye on the past and all that has changed and stayed the same will be well met.

mago said...

My best wishes for your journey. And of course all will have changed. And nothing. I really hope you will meet friends again.
Travel safe, return well.

geewits said...

Good for you! I think you will have a great time. You will have glimpses of things that will spark wonderful memories while at the same time get to explore a whole "new" place.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Joyce,
That is so nicely said. "Memories are like a blanket on a cold night-its still cold but you are warm." I like it. It is certainly very cold here in London at the moment. Cold and wet. I hope the memories do indeed warm me up soon. Thank you.

J,
Thanks. I have indeed found a traditional chippie with the help of a guide book. It had the chunky chips and mushy peas. The price has changed somewhat from what I remember though! :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Lorac,
I guess I am by nature a worrier...... and a bit nostalgic for a simpler time. Sometimes it seems the world changes so fast. Let's not forget that when I was in UK last, the way to communicate home to Malaysia was by aerogramme which took 2-3 weeks. Today it is by email or sms and is almost instantaneous. The world is picking up pace.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Molly,
I think British humor is the tops. I enjoyed Black Adder but I am more a fan of Fawlty Towers with John Cleese. Baldrick though was superb as the representative of the long-suffering downtrodden lower classes.

Jo,
They still have the double deckers but they also have the long buses that bend in the middle. As an aside, I just learned that the son-in-law of a friend is currently working with Stephen Fry. Why it is almost as if we were related!!! :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

jmb,
Funny. I had the same feeling about London as you did. I enjoyed my stay in London and yet I had little compulsion or desire to return for a visit. Still, I am currently learning that London can be fun to visit.

Ruth,
Haha! History will not change. Very witty. Well, London certainly has a lot of history.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Marja,
Thanks for the tip but NZ is a long way to go for soggy British fish and chips and mushy peas. I will make do with Indian takeaway. (Actually, I have already found some chippies. They are almost as I remember them except for the price.)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Grace,
Oh, dear. I did not mean to rile anyone up. I was not really implying that I disliked Hugh Laurie speaking with an American accent and being in an American show. I merely wanted to illustrate that things have changed. Many of his current fans know him only as House and enjoy his portrayal of the caustic doctor. However, for many of us who were fans of his older work, we miss those old persona's.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Mark,
Wise words but I wonder if I will be wise enough to follow them. Sadly, probably not. I fully expect to be reduced to a blubbering idiot by these reunions.

Mago,
I think you are spot on. After two days, that is exactly what I am sensing. All has changed but yet at a deeper level, nothing has. Very perceptive of you.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

geewits,
Like Mago, you are very perceptive. Indeed it is exciting, like exploring a new place but there is enough of the familiar that makes it feel very comfortable too.

secret agent woman said...

Actually, Hugh Laurie is totally recognizable.

Good luck on your adventure!

Owen said...

If you haven't left yet, I shall wish you luck, may you have a fine and enlightening time back in your old haunts.

Shades of Orwell, down and out in London...

I too lived in London as a student over 20 years ago, and would not trade those memories for anything. It was a vibrant place then. I haven't been back much since, either... I wonder what it has become... will look forward to hearing your reports.

Gina said...

London calling? How FUN is your life!? Hope you have/had a wonderful time with your old buddies. Long live the Queen, and her fish and chippies! Bring back some of that Somerset Cider! And have a bloomin' blast! (bloody well, but hold the blood)

squirrelmama said...

Friendships almost always endure, LGS, if they are good friendships. They survive time and place, landscape and even social and political change. I wish you luck. You may be surprised, pleasantly. I hope so.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I can't wait to hear about all of it when you return. Have a good and safe trip.

When I was a college student traveling around Europe one summer, I went into a Chinese restaurant in London and ordered plain white rice because I had little money. The waiters brought 4 or 5 different dishes to my table, asking me to please try them as a favor to the chef. I don't remember much about the museums and monuments I visited, but I have never forgotten their kindness to a young American.

mago said...

How are you?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

secret agent woman,
Thanks. I shall spy out the land and report.

Owen,
In a nutshell, London has improved and become more in line with its role as a cosmopolitan and international city but at the same time some of the comfortable and familiar has disappeared or is disappearing. For example, the food in restaurants and pubs have improved but home cooking is disappearing.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Gina,
Why you almost sound like a Limey! The cider is still great. My consumption of it in copious amounts has contributed to my happy state of mind.

squirrelmama,
I was indeed pleasantly surprised by the strength of the friendships which seem as fresh as ever. But not all my friends have had an easy passage in life and that is sad.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

hearts,
What a great story. Perhaps even then, they recognised the beauty of your spirit. I am glad you fed on more than plain steamed rice. (which by the way, today, can cost as much as 2.50 pound sterling at one of the department shop food courts).

Mago,
The Brits are treating me well but they are emptying my wallet.

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