It was a drizzly morning in Oxford today. One of those “gotcha” days: the kind that leads you to believe, when you look out the window, that it is not yet raining. Then you depart with your toddler in her buggy and your shopping bag on your shoulder and discover that what you took for gray air out of your window is in reality tiny droplets of rain. To go or not to go? It’s three-quarters of a mile to the shops. We go.
I’ve often wondered lately if the people around here can tell at a glance that we are Americans. In most other nations I’ve visited this fact has seemed mysteriously evident to everyone I encounter. It’s as though there’s an American flag tattooed on our foreheads, visible to all but ourselves. Oxford is a community quite accustomed to people from all over the world. Can they read our origin in our faces? If so, what gives us away? Our lack of an umbrella? On the way to the shops, I was gratified when a little mini-car pulled over so the man inside could call, “I say, could you direct me to Something Close please?” I’m sorry, I’m new in town myself. (And I’m rather glad you couldn’t tell.)
After filling our basket with things for dinner, Norah and I were cold and tired. I have often noticed that although it is three-quarters of a mile to the shops, it is roughly double that to reach home again. On the journey, however, one passes nine different places where it is possible to order a cup of tea. So we did. It came, “Tea for One” in a darling little pot with a jug of milk and a biscuit on the side. Norah ate the biscuit and drank the milk, I had the tea, and we took ourselves home again. We may not have an umbrella yet, but I bet that sitting there and having our tea we looked as English as the rest of them.
It was so good that I made some more when we reached home.