22 August, 2017

Letter from the UK: 2017 (1)

A beautiful Day by the Dee River.

Letter from the UK: 2017 (1)

Article finished in NYC. Click pics to enlarge.

During times of stress, everyone copes in a different way. For me, a two week stay in Chester, UK (my third visit; previous ones reported here) had a soothing effect. For the classical music fan, the UK is great for LP hunting, which continues to be the best relaxation I can think of.

L: By the Canal, Outside the New Waitrose; R: Roman Remnants and Clock in Town Center.

Going Somewhere?
My visit was not long after the Manchester Terror Attack, and heavy security was apparent at the Manchester Airport. Chester is an important retail center of Cheshire (think the Cat), equidistant from Manchester and Liverpool and is steeped in history. As the Royalty sometimes visit its famous racetrack, the historic town center is well preserved. As is usual for a smaller town, the locals are a lot friendlier than their big city counterparts. It is also apparent the city has seen some urban renewal in the past years (like the nice new central Bus Exchange), all of which look good to me.

It was my luck that it neither rained much nor got too hot during the two-week stay. I was able to make frequent forays into City Center. Walking (and biking) along the Canal has always been a pleasure, indeed the local's preferred way of getting around. About midway is the new Waitrose Supermarket, which rose from the ashes of a drab old shopping mall and is a worthwhile example of urban renewal and solid architecture (more pics here) that beautifies our lives. Incredibly, with a Waitrose card one can get a free coffee (good) each day, which one can enjoy in its cafe or on the outside steps. For Happy Hour, I'd have a Sierra Nevada Ale, surprisingly not only available in the UK, but at a cheaper price than stateside! One employee actually told me it's his favorite, and the English know their beers!

The Canal goes everywhere and connects with the beautiful Dee River. On a sunny day, one wants for nothing to just sit by its banks and watch people of all races and faith mingle under the sun (top pic); it is enough to restore one's faith in humanity.

Wales. R: On the bus to Wrexham; L: Wreham; Bottom, Llandudno.

One Country, Two Systems?
This time I did some research and decided to do a day trip to nearby Wales towns. I decided on Wrexham, and was pleasantly surprised by the new double-decker bus, with facilities like a sun roof, tables (fixed or fold-down) and WiFi. It was like traveling on a bullet train, at a slower speed. Between cities one sees huge swarths of grazing pastures. It almost makes me want to sing the old Chinese communist propaganda song 南泥灣, which extolls the bright future of a land of riches, with herds everywhere (遍地是牛羊). And the land is laden with historic semi-ruined castles.

Being a resident of Hong Kong, I am painfully aware of the slogan "One Country, Two Systems". So it is fascinating to travel to Wales. Once one enters, signage is bilingual, with Welsh everywhere. I understand - a pacifying gesture, since, as per what I was told by a record shop proprietor, less than 10% speak the language. Surely politically weighted, Wales gets higher social security benefits than the rest of the UK. I am not sure that is enough to suppress their separatist desires (think Scotland, Ireland).

Wrexham is a much more blue-collar town than Chester, and the contrast is stark, not something one can gleam from wikipedia. It is certainly less pristine and falling apart at the seams a little more, yet I find it quaintly fascinating.

I wanted to have a pint, but unusually felt estranged from many of the local pubs, sprawling Welsh speaking spaces laden with Rubenesque figures. It was not that I felt intimidation, no; it was that I felt I should not have intruded into their space.

I was also taken to seaside Llandudno again. It was a very nice day, and the place reminds me a little of Brittany.

Vinyl Hunting
In the Chester town center there are numerous charity thrift shops where one may try one's luck at vinyl hunting. On Brook Street there is a great rock and pop vinyl shop called Grey & Pink. It is pricey but I bit the bullet and paid GBP 20 for a Led Zep IV in good condition. In wrexham, in a narrow alley I found a great record shop and bought a few LPs. The owner was quite friendly and we chatted quite a bit. No luck this time in Llandudno.

Gears There is not much around, but in a shop close to the Chester train station I scored a mint condition NAD 3020 (my third). I paid GBP 100, which is a fair price. Better than Ebay.

No comments:

Post a Comment