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The English Are Different

Eric Loehwing | Published on 10/7/2023


   Our daughter and her family live in Upminster, about an hour east of London, where she works from home for a multi-national tech company as a data analyst.  Visiting her offers photo opportunities, but they are a bit different from the more typical tourist photos of churches and monuments.  It’s more a contrast in cultures: things are the same, only they are different.

   One is immediately struck by how close together the houses are (1), and how different the front yards are.  There are often walls or fences, but they are more often brick or metal.  One sees few wood fences, and I didn’t see any plastic white picket fences so popular here.  Just about all the houses with a single attached garage have converted the garage to an additional room, and they park their car in front.


   The young man (2) walking home from school is wearing his school uniform, which for high school students is a white shirt, tie, sport jacket and dress pants.  Just about all the students throughout the country wear school uniforms, including my grandson in 1st grade (not as formal as the high school students, of course.)  One can’t help but speculate on how these uniforms influence school comportment.


The walk from our daughter’s house to the local park for swings and slides is a bit of a trek, but the public paths (3) that cut between the houses can make the route shorter.  Behind the green fence on the left is a field of “allotments”, where local residents can cultivate a very small plot with vegetables and/or flowers.  Gardening, as you probably know, is a very popular hobby in England.


Since a large yard is not the norm in England (at least not in the suburbs of London), there is often plentiful access to parks and open areas for walking (4).  The Ingrebourne Valley Nature Preserve is easily within walking distance from our daughter’s house.


There are also more traditional parks and playgrounds (5).  This English couple overheard my son-in-law’s Irish accent and struck up a conversation with us, recalling memories from their trips to Ireland.


   This beautiful old bridge (6) is part of another public area behind streets of houses with a trail for walking .  Many of the fences behind the houses had gates for access to this public walk, and I suspect those houses were among the most desirable in town.


We followed the trail, which eventually ended at a field (7) that was about a quarter mile from our daughter’s house.


My last photo (8) is not particularly artistic, but I think it is striking in that you would not expect to find an agricultural field across the street from a fairly densely populated row of houses.  (All photos taken with an iPhone 11 Pro.)