Today Mr. Henry finds himself in London where the sun is shining. In Dickensian London, the sun did not shine. But in post-millennium London, the sun shines through clear skies. Streets are clean. The Thames is not malodorous. People are tall and apple-cheeked. Men show tattoos. Women show cleavage and leg. No one wears a hat.
Sea breezes refresh foot-weary tourists rambling along the South Bank. In front of the old power station, now the Tate Modern, freshly planted aspens rustle musically. Street mimes strike frozen positions as standing statues. Their principal artistic achievement seems to lie in the heavy application of spray paint, all of a single color – a blue guitarist, a silver Merlin, a golden Mary Queen of Scots.
A sinuous, undulating woman with blond dredlocks danced erotically with a shiny hula hoop. Propriety prevented Mr. Henry from enjoying the full performance, however, propriety and a glance from Mrs. Henry.
Unwittingly the Henrys became caught up in a march for colitis and Crohn’s disease. Shortly Mr. Henry’s vitals began to rumble in sympathy. It was time for lunch.
At Terence Conran’s Skylon cafe, Mr. Henry ate a bowel-friendly sandwich of grilled courgette and minted hummous, a fresh and delightful pairing of flavors. In a spirit of adventure he bought a muffin of green peas, mint, and feta cheese. It was perfectly horrible. Indeed, the English are a courageous nation. The highlight of the meal was a bag of black pepper and sea salt crisps. The English genuinely appreciate the crisp.
“Mind the gap!” exhorted the Underground conductor. Inside the car, a placard quoted John Milton’s description of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden:
They hand in hand, with wand’ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way
Paradise Lost. Book xii. Line 645
“Way Out” read the exit sign.
For dinner their hostess, My Phuong, poached a beautiful clear-eyed Scottish salmon, a special treat after this year’s shocking absence of Pacific salmon. Tangy and bright baby arugula earned its English sobriquet, “rocket.”
Is it the unexpected turns of phrase, the long days, or the driving on the left that so subtly disorients and pleases? Perhaps it’s the wicked high prices. Whatever the reasons, Mr. Henry is delighted to be here in this temporary Eden. Milton understood that all Edens are temporary, so find one for yourself and take your solitary way.