I got back from one of my every-2-months-or-so trips to Oxford last night and I have to say I was relieved to return. Whilst I enjoy the shopping, the copious amounts of M&S biscuits and the occasional chance to see old friends and I can't deny Oxford is a beautiful city, in general I cant wait to get back and get away from the land of carpets in bathrooms, non-mixer taps, grey skies, saying 'sorry' all the time and rules, rules, rules EVERYWHERE, both written;
Polite notice: please wash your hands
Please do not use the milk; it belongs to the cleaner(??)
Please ensure that the shower curtain stays inside the bath so as to avoid flooding
No stong-smelling foods on the bus
.... and recorded;
Toiletries not meeting the 100ml maximum will be confiscated and destroyed (yes, destroyed! Airport workers would never ever feel tempted to take a brand new bottle of Chanel Nº5 for their own use)
Please face forwards and keep clothing away from the conveyor belt
G4 vehicle moving backwards, please stand clear
The law requires you to wear a seatbelt on coaches .... arrrghhhh!
I think I have got to used to Spain, where there are (plentiful) rules but they are mainly unwritten and you find them out for yourself - or usually some old lady makes you aware of them. I have always been anti-id-cards on principle as 'we brits value our freedom', but honestly I don't know why? In reality there's about as much freedom in Britain as in (dare I say it?) Sudan.... Ok, ok, that's a terrible thing to say, to compare the UK to a country where human rights and dignity are violated on a daily basis by evil islamist dictators... but still, my point is that in Britain you can't move without being told what to do (be quiet, stand in line, wait here), herded like a sheep or cajoled into buying something you don't need on buy-now-pay-never terms...
So, back to last night; I was smugly returning to my beloved Madrid... the land of freedom, I was looking forward to shouting without being told to shut up, dropping my used toothpicks on the floor without feeling guilty and breathing cigarette smoke over everyone around me without them being able to do a damn thing about it... (of course I don't really indulge in these activities, but the sheer act of being in the UK and being told that I can't even yawn without asking permission made me want to).
Well 16 hours later and I'm not feeling so smug; I've been kept awake all night by my mature neighbour 'making love' to (or perhaps killing?) her even more mature boyfriend incredibly loudly and expressively all night - houses in my neighbourhood have walls made purely of toothpicks, scraps of cloth and rubble (I have seen this with my own eyes) so you can hear absolutely everything. I have also woken up to a giant dead cockroach on my bedroom floor, which no doubt had been using my body as a trampoline/theme park all night - for all its shortcoming, in Oxford there are no cockroaches (the rules do not permit them; they are not allowed in the city or to attend the university) and although I can't prove this, I'm sure people make love very quietly, always respecting the sensitivity and need for sleep of their neighbours, and they especially do not make love after the age of 45.
In short, nowhere is perfect.