Monday, July 13, 2009


England! The land of Shakespeare!

"Give me my robe, put on my crown;

I have / Immortal longings in me!"

This is how I felt then. Tis England started for me when London ended. And I saw it precisely... on a window display in Gloucester... MY RED robe, please. JEEVES!It is not quite true that our English story started on a train London Paddington- Malvern Links. It all started a year ago, when we met this special couple: Laurie & Jan, in Wales!It must mean something when you meet special people on a beautiful dance floor in a ... church! Active churchwas lended for tango workshops and a milonga by a very progressive prist of Swansea, who thought that GOD WOULD DEFINITELY LIKE TO HAVE SOME DANCING IN HIS HOLY HOUSE! And we thought He did! He blessed us with meeting many great people, but especially this unusual couple. " The brain" of this couple is Lauri. This is probably the most true portrait I have of him. With his inseparable pipe ( that he was kind enough to share with me, as one shares mate) and an English ( posh) smile..

When mentioned ' the brain ' it was for a reason: Sir Moseley is an Oxford University proffessor, teaching nothing less but an ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, among other! How about the combination of this and tango? For Laurie & Jan who are crazy about tango themselves, share their knowledge ( and the knowledge to ' pass' this knowledge) with their students.

Jan is a perfect complement of Laurie and not just a pretty face( and legs!): a teacher herself and very much of a LADY. A lady of ACTION. When I think about an English lady, I think about Jan. She has another great ability which makes me laugh to tears with enjoyment- she can act anything. And her best role is being an UPPER CLASS LADY( she puts this Oxford accent on). She is the one who introduced " Jeeves" in our lives! Well, the real princesses need English tradition ' gentelman's gentelman' , thus...We took a train London-Malvern and were double lucky to get it: London traffic made us arrive to the Paddington station 10 min before the departure of the train( we did it, Sasha!). Then,I was quick enough to ask/force a stranger to help us with the express quick purchase of the tickets in the ticket machine ( yes, yes, we are still very beginners about it. Constantly spoiled by our Guardian Angels) And rush to the platform, where... they were just replacing our broken train! AN ENGLISH TRAIN left late!A whole notion of perfect British Railway Reality collapsed for us ( if you only knew that railway in Argentina was introduced and produced by the British...) Not only that: we had over 1 hour delay and the train terminated not, as planned, in Malvern, but in... WORCESTER! The only joy of it was that we visited ( the station) of a town where the famous Worcester souce is produced! No way to phone our Claire to inform her about our troublesome situation. We got off the train and... there is a pretty lady in a green dress, looking like a happy teenager. CLAIRE!
Luckily enough, Claire found out about the irregularity of the train and ventured to our rescue. Her feminine intuition- she claimed she got no specific help from the railway officer(???!!)-led her to Worcester. Confirmed!
WE had our well deserved snack at her beautiful country house ( how many hudreds of years old?!Victor's question)Claire's scones with cream and jam will always be remembered by our paletes! Her garden has a fig tree with real figs you could eat, probably a couple of weeks after we left... No idea that fig trees could grow in England!And then- only half an hour for a shower and off we go.... to the CHURCH AGAIN! Actually, we grew to love tango in the church halls! The first shock: Malvern, a place we hardly heard about, and definitely not associated with tango-there were about 60 people attending each class! It virtually means CROWDS! Those crowds stayed for our performance and the evening, being such a massive success, deserved to be repeated. Both Claire and us decided that we should ' pop in ' on our way back from Wales for a special MALVERN TANGO NIGHT. And so it happened. But before...
Next day, Claire would not let us go without showing us the famous MALVERN HILLS, she was very proud of. But...not before the FAMOUS ENGLISH BREAKFAST, which Clare prepared with a care of detail on her Aga stove ( very very ENGLISH). After London Victor claimed for everything English. Typical English. Real English. English English. I do not think it's healthy, but it was a DELICIOUS EXPERIENCE! Sausages, bacon, eggs & backed tomatos! Live & enjoy!Add to it an expresso coffe and the delicious bread streight from the bakery and the FAMILY was HAPPY ( the ceremony of breakfast was actively assisted by Nick, Claire's husband, and two of Claire' s grown up childeren: Lara & Josh.) Only now were we ready to conquer Malvern' Hills!That's Claire's every morning walk with a dog ( English setter), but it's for something they are called MALVERN BEACONS!The walk was actually a hike! It all started beautifully sunny. But when we arrived at the foot of the mountain it started to rain! HOW DAMN ENGLISH! Poor Victor, trusting the morning sun, left house with his sandals and a T-shirt. How very Argentinean! You should never take sun for granted- we were continuously preached in England ( and Wales). Victor decided to stay in the car and wait for us. I would not leave MALVERN without hill walking on the Beacon, the rain would not put me off! Neither would Claire! Perfectly equiped for the English weather ( famous!), looking smashing with her walking boots, a hat and a raincot, she started to sing:Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun

The Japanese don't care to, the Chinese wouldn't dare to,

Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one,

But Englishmen detest a siesta

It's funny how often I learn a new ( and useful) song! The view from the top was very rewarding! We were walking up on a sort of an humangous lizard's tail: on one side we had Englad ( Glaucestershire), on the other- Wales. Glaucester was a patchwork of fields and Wales was a hilly landscape with Black Mountains in the distance...I absolutely recommend the hike to all the inhabitants of the area who has never done it yet ( I heard there are quite a few of them..)This was our first ' taste of Malvern' and we had to rush back home, for were were ' handed' over to Glaucester. Our Guardian Angel was waiting for us.Pete was our driver and a guide. But WHAT a GUIDE! First, we had a ' scenic drive' through the most beautiful and interesting places. Victor learnt about the reasons of floods of the river Severn and the correct pronounciation of Tewkesbury. I wish I had a recorder with me! Pete's way of sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with us, made us listen to him with open mouth! And his great ( English) sense of humour! And the faces he makes: after Jan, my favourite tango actress in England, I declare Pete my best male tango actor!But the " boccato di Cardenale" was, literally, the GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL. Before we passed through the Beatrix Potter' s shop (I love my Peter Rabbit ceramic collection!).But the GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL TOOK OUR BREATH AWAY...Victor,the arquitect, either helt long conversations with our guide, or reverential silence... Or took.... fotos ( it does not happen to him frequently!)
Or... was touching and examining the art of building cathedrals in the XII century...
I was looking at the scary details...
Or funny details...I love my gargoyles!We learnt that it was there where " Harry Potter" was filmed. Pete, our guide, showed us even the very door to his dormitory...Then I thought I was having halucinations, for I could see... Harry Potter running through the long corridor...He was dancing and singing! Nobody would believe me but I managed to take this picture:Then, I whispered to Pete: Look, if he is really Harry Poter, I will call him and he should look back. " Do it" , Pete said. I did it. And guess what happened???????

And this is a yard Harry Potter crosses every day:

The whole cathedral complex is full or surprises: inner courtyards with places to meditate,and the labyrinths of the corridors you can get lost in... But it all looks so IMPOSING, simply majestic! MAGIC! As we were in the main part, a choir was practising, and I would gladly stay there for a whole day, listening. It was completely otherworldly... Pete promised us a concert in a cathedral when we are back next year. WE ARE GOING TO BE BACK!

Pete decided we need to ' digest' our spiritual experience in the OLDEST PUB IN TOWN:

Victor had his IPA and me and Pete were faithful to a good old guiness( even if they say English Guiness is different from the Irish. My time for the Irish will come!) It was exactly when it started to rain. What a precision in planning! Our Guardian Angel fulfilled his duty to the utmost:for this very pub was also a meeting place with our next Guardian Angels, or, should I say, Archangels?: Laurie & Jan. They took us to our NEXT STATION:
The very evening we had an invitation for a welcome dinner. IN A PUB restaurant, more English- impossible!
The pub's ceiling was forged with all the wine bottles drunk there. We had our VERY ENGLISH DINNER, recommended by Laurie & Jan. Nothing less than:

steak and Ale pie
Gloucester old spot sausages
gammon & pineapple

We also add one more emply bottle to the ceiling collection...
And spiritual food consisted of conversations on the highest ( English) levels and with THE BEST OF THE BRITISH ACCENTS! Victor's comment: " excellent listening comprehension!".
Afterwards we had a stroll through the emply streets of Glaucester....
An arquitect and a professor seemed to get along very well!
That night we spent in our new English residence. This is how our ' castle' looked like in the morning( relative) with ( relative) sun on...
NEXT DAY was our DAY WITHOUT TANGO, a free day! After a ceremonious breakfast we ventured to explore the FOREST OF DEAN area. Lovely green shallow country roads with high hedges on both sides and stone walls ( with moss on) made us feel like in an English fairy tale story.And the sheep! I tried not to ask the driver to stop a car avery time we saw a picturesque flock of them to take a picture. Sometimes, however, we were forced to stop! English sheep are claiming for attention in many different ways!The first excursion was to the heart of DEAN FOREST. This is actually how I imagine Nottingham forest of Robin Hood!Laurie gave us a detailed explanation about the geological history of the region and mine activity, which stopped with industrial revolution. Here is a geo map, made of local stones indicating the location. The valley between the river Severn and Waye has everything, including gold! The view on the valley of the river Severn making a curve was magnificent.There is always a chance for a chat with an English gentelman walking his dog. We had a chat ( about the wheather) with the gentelman and Victor with the dog.Next day our tango mission took place. We were astonished by the dignified historic building with a huge performance room for our workshops!Later we were equally astonished by the number of the students! It looks like Gloucester tangueros outnumber the London ones! Here is a photo we took for Tangauta magazine in BsAs.The workshops were a total success and the dance floor one of the best we danced in UK!

Next day there was a ' tango dinner' and a milonga in a pub, in ROSS on Wye.

We chose tipically English dishes. Then, independently of our satisfied and full stomachs, we climbed up to the dance room ( with the magnificent view on the river Waye through the numerous windows) where Victor inaugurated our milonga with a tanda with Jan.

Needless to say, there was a whiskey ritual when we got home, as every night...I found our Oxford professor an excellent companion for a shot or two. Keep being a lucky girl! This time double lucky, for Laurie had a collection of very fine whiskeys! Victor had all the reasons to worry about me if we had stayed there longer. But one has her weaknesses...

Next day Jan came up with another special tour: PUZZLEWOOD. This very weird and mysterious creation of nature inspired talkien to write a a part of his " Lord of the rings" series called " Hobbit" :

The Puzzlewood is RELLY A LABIRYNTH. When we saw a robbin, who would not fly away when we approached him at the entrance, we new we were entering an enchanged kingdom...

The old, abandoned mines were overgrown by the nature. Deep and shallow wholes covered by moss and ferns, tree roots entertwines with branches... SIMPLY MYSTERIOUS!

Various times we lost sight of one another and were alone in the deepest of the silences...Thank's God all of us were wearing bright' recognition' colours: Victor- red&blue, me-metalic blue, Jan-light green.Sometimes if seemed as dark as in the night...Sometimes, I thought I saw a hobbit....It was great to have Jan with us. She is a wanderful story-teller and she knows a lot about everything. Very versatile knowledge. WHY? A GEMINI, like me!

AND WE DID GET LOST....We realized we are going in circles...Going back, we recognized, or thought we recognized the places we had just left...
Only then did we understand a happy exclamations of a little group of people when they saw us a couple of hundrets of meters after we entered: " Is the entrance there? Are we near? THANKS GOD!" Victor, the first one who decided to guide us back to the exit, failed. Too much rational thinking, darling!
It was only when the feminine intuition was let to guide us ( apparently irrationally) did we succeed!

The whole adventure was like in a fantasy film, and it had a happy end!

The rest of that day was equally exciting: running in space and time. The action was wanderfully arranged by Laurie & Jan:
we were brought by Jan's in a car to Newport, where we were collected by Mike waiting for us with his car ( Victor said he felt like in " Godfather" kind of films-when the hostages were exchanged for other material in a car park..). With our suitcases we were brought by Mike to Cardiff, where half an hour later we started our workshops.... and about midnight, without unpacking, we were taken further on into the interior of Wales, to Swansea, by Janette, a massenger of our host & friend Heather, whose fear of driving a motorway is greater than her desire to see us immediately when we are in Wales....And that's HOW OUR WELSH CHAPTER BEGAN.

FOR the practical reason, as the Welsh & English chapters entwine and the characters of Laurie & Jan accompany us in both, I leave SWANSEA & Breacon Becons for the separate WELSH CHAPTER.
Surprisingly enough, we had a pleasure to be invited AGAIN to all of the places we had been on our way to Wales, due to the enormosu tango success ( whatever this word means).... Therefore our way back was, the other way round: Gloucester 2, Malvern 2 and London 2.This IMMEDIATE come back is the best reward an artist can ever get! And we appreciate it with our whole heart! Not only for professional reasons. Also, to revisit our new frienships...

Thus, Jan, who was crazy and great enough to come to Swansea with her car, pick us up and give us an unforgettable ride through the Breacon Beacons, back to England, Gloucester, visiting the ruines of the EMPIRE...

England and Wales are full of ruines of the castles, and because of the weather, we had to postpone visiting CAERPHILLY CASTLE for the next year ( the list for the next year is growing long) and we changed it for this ' small' one in Chepstow:

More dinner celebrations and whiskey rituals by the chimney in our ' castle ' in Gloucester. And more SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES ( a man shall not live on whiskey alone, as sb famous says) were prepared for us by Jan. It was our time for TINTERN ABBEY!
The Cistercian abbey of Tintern is one of the greatest monastic ruins of Wales. It was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales, and was founded on 9 May 1131 by Walter de Clare, lord of Chepstow. It soon prospered, until its dissolution in 1536. . Its position well away from the Welsh heartland meant that, unlike Margam, Neath and Llanthony, it suffered little in the periodic Welsh uprisings of the medieval period.
I cannot belive that Wordsworth in his " Tintern Abbey" speaks of everything else in nature but about those MOST ROMANTIC RUINS!But the sublime,romantic sight of the ruins will always remain connected with the Welsh Cakes we bought in Tintern Abby's shop....
Everything has a happy end in our different chapters, this year we said good bye to Gloucester with a " See you Next Year" dinner at Laurie & Jan's place. Obviously, Pete and his Grizelda (once you tell a story about a misterious big German spouse called Grizelda, it's hard to get rid of her... name, Pete!) were invited too! The fun was had, lots of Monthy Python jokes were recalled and laughed about, the wine was drunk and the invitation for the next year was assured...

.... one more puff of pipe for the road,
one more puff of pipe before I go....

1 comment:

Milonga Man said...

Hi Aisha & Victor

Thank you for your wonderful comments on “my much loved Gloucester Cathedral”, it is a very special & magical place. Perhaps next time we will be able to take in a music recital there, which I can assure you is sublime, with it’s built in acoustics, or perhaps take in a play by Shakespeare in the theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Also thank you for being such wonderful people to be around, and also such Great Tango teachers. I thought your teachings and philosophies of Tango complimented the way we are trying to teach this wonderful dance to the people of Gloucester, I for one found your Tango teaching inspiring. I know everyone you came in contact with here felt the same.

We really hope we can make your visits an annual event, so we can all benefit from your teachings. So we look forward to your next visit (and hopefully improving our Tango for you) with anticipation.

So when you come next remember, whilst boarding your train at London Paddington, a little known quote by Mark Allington an English novelist and actor.

“If any one of them deserves to be a shrine, it's Paddington. [Its] departure board reads like a romantic novel, as it flicks its way through Oxford, Bath, and the Cotswolds into the very heart of England.”

Be safe on all your travels.